Communications alum
serves in War in Iraq


John Kirchgessner, a 2002 School of Communications grad, was known in his Elon days as a hard-working member of the WSOE Radio staff and an ROTC student. He would sometimes be seen at class in a military uniform, and he would rise early in the day to attend physical training sessions at North Carolina A&T in Greensboro before attending courses at Elon.

It comes as no surprise that Johnny K, who was commissioned as a U.S. Army lieutenant on graduation day 2002, wound up in Iraq during Gulf War II.

Kirchgessner was deployed with a task force of 800 soldiers in the recent war with Iraq. He left for Kuwait on Valentine's Day, arriving at what is known as Camp Champion, where he worked as a logistics and supply officer. He entered Iraq about a month later with troops from the 82nd Airborne division.

"It never occurred to me that bombs would be dropping near me and that bullets would be flying by," he said. "It didn't become real until I went over there." He had prepared for war on and off in ROTC training during his years at Elon, which included intense sessions during the summer months.

Just after graduation, he spent six months at Ft. Bliss, Texas, where he trained to be an Air Defense Platoon Leader. He had been stationed at Ft. Bragg since December 2002 when his group was assigned to deployment in Iraq.

While engaged in the war, Kirchgessner's job was to see to it that his men had enough ammunition, food and water and he also had to coordinate the transportation to get their jobs done - a job called "battle tracking," which he likens to "air traffic control for soldiers on the ground." He also worked with the casualty evacuation team and the enemy-prisoner-of-war recovery team.

He and his troops ate MREs (meals ready to eat - pre-packaged food), and often went 48 hours without sleep.

"Every night, we took sniper fire," he said. "I'm very proud of all the guys I worked with. I have a deeper appreciation for what I have here - running water and electricity and the ability to communicate."

After the main combat phase of the war, Kirchgessner's unit headed toward Baghdad, checking cities along the way. They were seeking supporters of Saddam Hussein and searching for weapons. They encountered a chemical facility at which they found evidence of a nerve agent.

The unit returned to the United States May 8.

"It was a crazy experience that I hope to never repeat," he said. "If it needs to be done, I would never turn my back. I'm a firm believer that everyone should be in some sort of service to their country."

If you would like to contact Kirchgessner, his e-mail address is



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Last Modified:  7/21/03
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