Teacher emerges from retirement to help out
KIRKUK, Iraq — For 26 years, Lt. Col. Ed Erickson had been there, done that and thought he’d gotten it all out of his system.
He was wrong. And now he’s back.
When the United States began talk for an invasion of Iraq to oust Saddam Hussein, Erickson — a high school social studies teacher in Norwich, N.Y. — drafted a handwritten letter to Maj. Gen. Raymond Odierno, commander of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division based in Texas.
The 4th ID had plans to go through Turkey and invade Iraq from the north.
Erickson, who teaches at Norwich High School (the same school from which he graduated in 1968), knew they’d have trouble. Erickson wrote Odierno offering his help.
Erickson, who has written three books on the Turkish government, had nothing to do with negotiations for use of their land. Instead, the man with three degrees and working on his Ph.D. instead has been instrumental in setting up democracy in Iraq.
“I just wanted to do something for my country,” said Erickson, 52.
Erickson now serves as the political adviser to Odierno, who also serves as commander of Coalition Forces Northeast Iraq and oversaw Saturday’s election of the first interim provincial government in Kirkuk. Odierno now will work with the 30 newly elected officials in the first stages of democracy in the Iraqi city.
Before moving to Kirkuk, Erickson worked with the 101st Airborne Division to do the same in the city of Mosul.
“My job as adviser is not tell the generals what to do. … They’re very smart. … My job is to tweak the system, to give them a nudge here and there,” said Erickson.
The interim governments will focus on three areas at first: resettling Kurds and Arabs who have suffered from displacement from their homes for years; ridding the nation of the former ruling Baath Party; and designing local, regional and national governments to run the country, he said.
“We had to show the world that this is better than what it was before, and that it can be done.”