By Mr. Chris Graygarcia (USACE)February 25, 2008
CHICAGO - More than 250 Naperville, Illinois high school students addressed their questions about the war in Iraq to U.S. Army Lt. Gen. James Dubik and Iraq Gen. Nasier Abadi during a live video teleconference broadcast from Baghdad to Naperville Central High School Thursday, February 21.
Lt. Gen. Dubik is the Commanding General of the Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq. Gen. Abadi is the Vice Chief of Staff of the Iraqi Joint Forces. The participating students are enrolled in military history courses at Naperville Central and Naperville North high schools.
Lt. Col. John Amberg, Director of U.S. Army Public Affairs-Midwest, coordinated the teleconference together with Naperville Central High School military history teacher Tom Henneberry.
"War, well, it's history, it's a fact of life," Henneberry says. "Why do people fight' How do people fight' That's what we're studying. (The students) see things on the computer, they'll look at a newspaper maybe, or hear something on TV. But this is something else. This was a chance for them to ask their own questions, and the generals did a fantastic job of answering them as adults. I know none of them would ever have had this experience otherwise. So it was just a great opportunity."
Naperville North High School student Sara Kerfoot, 18, said she gained a better understanding of the security situation in Iraq from the teleconference.
"I think it's better than I thought it was," she says. "Very often we only get the negative part of it, the part that will attract America's attention. But today I think we were able to see that there has been success in Iraq, and that things have been going better over there maybe than what the big news groups show us."
U.S. Rep. Judy Biggert, R-Ill., also attended the teleconference. "It's so important when the Armed Services have the opportunity to communicate with students and with the American people," Biggert said. "Students need to understand what a war is today, versus what they might be reading in history books, and how committed the military is to helping them. That they could talk to someone directly - rather than what they hear from reporters, which may not be as accurate as what they might hear from someone who is over there running the war - I think that's fabulous."
For Lt. Col. Amberg, the value of the teleconference was education. "I think that motivating high school kids to educate themselves on the issues they will have to deal with is critical to the future of our country," he explains. "When a high school kid realizes they are no longer a high school kid, but a citizen, with responsibilities for their own future and the future of this nation, then it is a great day."
Lt. Col. Amberg also said he was impressed by the questions the students asked, and that he hoped other organizations would be interested in hosting similar exchanges.