Despite dangerous job, a soldier roots for his Rams
Posted: Monday August 8, 2005 9:39AM; Updated: Monday August 8, 2005 11:23AM
Peter King and Army Sgt. First Class Mike McGuire at Busch Stadium during a Cards-Marlins game last week.
Peter King will answer your questions each week in Monday Morning Quarterback: Tuesday Edition.
ST. LOUIS -- We interrupt this tour of NFL training camps to bring you reality. I want to take you into Mike McGuire's world.
Last Monday night, as I occasionally do on my tour of NFL camps, I took in a ballgame. I walked up to the ticket window at Busch Stadium and bought an infield box seat for Marlins-Cards. Next to me sat a 30ish man in an Albert Pujols T-shirt and St. Louis cap. We didn't say much to each other. There was a family in front of us, though, with a couple of young boys intensely interested in the game. After each starting pitcher got a hit in his first at-bat, I turned to my seat-mate and said, "When's the last time you ever saw the two starting pitchers get hits their first time up?" And the 10-year-old kid in front of us turned around and said: "And they got 'em off each other!"
Kids say the darndest things. We both laughed.
I noticed my neighbor was a great fan and very polite. We started talking football, because he's a huge Rams fan. He lived in Germany with his wife and five kids and was back in the States at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri for two months to be trained in leadership-building for his Army job.
His name was Mike McGuire. He's an Army Sgt. First Class, having recently been promoted to command a platoon of 30 men. Kids, really. He's 34. Most of his troops are between 18 and 20.
He told me he'll take his platoon to Iraq in early November.
"What will you do there?" I said.
"IED-hunting," he said. "Improvised Explosive Devices. Our job is to find them and neutralize them so they don't kill people."
Whoa now. I keep score at baseball games. I always have. But now I have to stop and stare at Mike McGuire.
"You mean you're the guys who search for those huge bombs planted on the side of the road? Those bombs that kill people over there every day?"
"Yes sir," he said.
"My God. I can't imagine that. The danger ..." My voice trailed off.
"There are dangers," he said. "We know that. But the job has to be done. We're doing what has to be done."
"How do you do it?"
"Well, we drive along and look for anything that looks out of place. Maybe some gravel that looks too neat. Maybe a sign in Arabic that tells the locals to stay away from a spot. We're trained in what to look for, but it's not an exact science."
I tried to think of how to put this nicely. But there was no way.
"I read about people dying every day because of these devices. Aren't you scared?"