NHC Welcomes Back Stacy Stewart
Navy Reservist served in Iraq as part of troop surge
By Dennis Feltgen, NOAA NHC Public Affairs Officer
After nearly 20 months of active duty, Commander Stacy Stewart has returned to his civilian job as a Senior Hurricane Specialist at NOAA's National Hurricane Center in Miami.
His biggest adjustment is returning to South Florida traffic. "I was used to driving down the middle of the road in a 15,000 pound Hummer with a .50 caliber machine gun and avoiding any kind of debris," he said.
A 35-year Navy reservist, Stewart was recalled to active duty in January 2007 to aid in the troop surge in Iraq. He was part of the Coalition Army Advisory Training Team, providing advice and mentorship to three Iraqi Army divisions at An Neumaniyah Military Base. That's 20,000 Iraqi soldiers. He also assisted in the training of three Iraqi brigades.
Stewart says his greatest challenge in Iraq was just staying alive during any of the 160 end to end convoy movements in which he participated. "Once you left the base, you were no longer safe, even for just a few miles." During a mission on March 27, 2008, with Stewart serving as the forward machine gunner behind ballistic glass on top of a Hummer vehicle, an IED (improvised explosive device) detonated alongside the vehicle. No one was killed, but Stewart's left leg and knee were injured in the blast. Fortunately, he only required four months of physical therapy and rehabilitation.
Stewart is very adamant about his tour in Iraq. "I was honored to be able to go to Iraq as part of the surge. I saw it from the inside and I am proud of what my four teams accomplished. Iraq is a much better place now."
What he missed most while away was his family and co-workers. Being on an Iraqi base, there was no Post Exchange, post office, or chaplain. A food convoy had to be picked up and escorted 80 kilometers to his base every two weeks. The weather was rather dull, too. "There is not much weather in Iraq, just a lot of sand, dust and 125 degree heat. Sometimes, the sea breeze arrived and knocked it down to 115 in southern Iraq."
Back at the National Hurricane Center, Stewart is rapidly catching up on some of the revised operational procedures used to distribute the routine hurricane products, as well as working with some of the new computer models. He is already back at work with his NHC colleagues and issuing tropical cyclone advisories.