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G.I. Joe and his commanding officer, Army Maj. Terrance Pearson, a signal officer with a corps support group, are now hanging their respective Kelvars at a former MiG fighter jet base in Balad, Iraq.
G.I. Joe and his commanding officer, Army Maj. Terrance Pearson, a signal officer with a corps support group, are now hanging their respective Kelvars at a former MiG fighter jet base in Balad, Iraq. (Marni McEntee / Stars and Stripes)

BAGHDAD, Iraq — Joe packs a pistol and has an M-16 rifle slung over his shoulder. His crisply pressed desert camouflage uniform still looks sharp, though a bit dusty from a run that started in the sands of Kuwait.

On this day, he’s at a presidential palace on the outskirts of Baghdad, where Air Force Gen. Richard D. Myers is visiting with servicemembers. Joe got lucky: His bunkmate snapped a photo of him seemingly standing next to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“His hair is getting kind of long now,” Army Maj. Terrance Pearson says with a grin as he holds his G.I. Joe in his left hand.

Pearson took possession of G.I. Joe from his son on a cold night in mid-February. The next day, the communication unit he commands — with one very special addition — left Bamberg, Germany, for the Middle East and a date with Saddam Hussein.

Timothy Pearson, 12, a sixth-grader at Bamberg Middle School, “is a typical kid,” Pearson said. “He loves to play G.I. Joe.”

And Pearson has grown attached to the icon of American machismo, too, keeping it and a picture of his wife next to his slumbering body. G.I. Joe, of course, sets his rifle aside during the lull in action.

For Pearson and members of his unit, the 7th Corps Support Group, the real action got rolling at Camp Virginia in Kuwait. When the unit headed north as part of the invasion force, he hit upon the idea to snap pictures of Joe in different locations and situations.

The Myers visit was just the latest.

As the chairman mingled with soldiers, there was Pearson in a corner of the ornate room, his left arm outstretched with Joe in hand as he shot pictures with the other.

“I started to superimpose him on everything we came across — tanks, anti-aircraft artillery pieces, unexploded ordnance,” Pearson said as he reviewed his latest photo coming to life on the display screen of his digital camera.

“See here,” he continued, pointing to the screen. “You got G.I. Joe and the chairman. When you zoom in, it looks like he’s there. Well, he was there.”

Capt. Mark Mitcham, 12th Aviation Brigade, Würzburg, Germany, and Pearson’s driver, Sgt. Nathan Muncy, have been there, too.

Muncy recalled a few instances when he and Pearson pulled over to the side of the road to add to Timothy’s portfolio.

“Check it out,” Mitcham said to no one in particular as he glanced at the picture of Joe and Myers.

“I’ll bet you,” Pearson said, holding the man of plastic, “it’s the only G.I. Joe to make it through the war.”

Actually, it’s not. There’s at least one other earning his campaign medal. Word has it that an Army staff sergeant in the northern city of Mosul enlisted the help of a G.I. Joe — shall we say it — doll.

Doll or dapper dude, the experience has provided Pearson with a wonderful way to stay connected to his family back home.

Pearson plans to present his son with a memento of his — and Joe’s — service, but the details are classified, sealed in a notebook.

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