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The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Want your voice to be heard? Submit a letter to the editor, send us an op-ed pitch or check out our open positions for the chance to be published by the Daily Utah Chronicle.
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Student deployed with Utah Guard in Iraq

By Carlos Mayorga

Everything seemed to be going according to plan for Mike Steck.

He had recently graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science and planned to start law school at the U in the fall.

Then one afternoon in early May, Steck received a phone call that changed everything–he had a month before he would be deployed for duty in Iraq. Steck left Salt Lake City for Iraq on June 12.

Steck, who has been with the Utah Army National Guard for seven years, always knew that he could be deployed at any time. The news, however, didn’t come as any less of a shock.

“It hit me like a ton of bricks,” he said. “I couldn’t believe it. It wasn’t real.”

His wife, Hailey, a senior majoring in human development and family studies at the U, waited anxiously as more details of her husband’s mission were released.

“I was worried about his safety over there,” she said.

Steck’s unit will operate as military police at Camp Bucca, the largest detention facility in Iraq, located in the south part of the country near the Persian Gulf.

While most guard members are given at least six months’ notice before their deployment, Steck was needed sooner.

As the chaplain assistant in his unit, Steck works as a counselor to help soldiers deal with depression and fatigue. Under the Geneva Convention, the chaplain must be a non-combatant soldier, meaning that Steck is not only responsible for protecting himself but must also act as a bodyguard for the chaplain.

As the day of his deployment neared, Steck thought more about the harm he could face in Iraq. But the thought of being away from his wife was most difficult.

“It’s something that a lot of people don’t have to deal with,” he said. “It’s a growing experience for both of us.”

When he gets back, Steck wants to focus on law school and pursue a career in politics, a field he became passionate about as an intern in Washington, D.C., for Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah.

Steck said he plans to use his experience in Iraq to learn about the war firsthand. He is scheduled to serve a yearlong tour of duty, but his tour length could be extended.

Officials at the law school told Steck they will allow him to return to the school without reapplying within the next year.

Steck said that while in Iraq, he wants to help to keep morale high with the troops.

Though most Americans no longer support the war in Iraq, Steck said that “we’re just doing what we’re told,” and hopes that the public will continue to show support for the troops.

“People may be critical of the war, but they are supporting us,” he said. “I’m grateful for that.”

[email protected]

Lennie Mahler

Mike Steck, pictured with wife Hailey, is going to war

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