One of Baylor+s own sent to serve Air Force in Middle EastSept. 11, 1996
One of Baylor's own sent to serve Air Force in Middle East
By Brian Gutowski
The Middle East presents a different command environment for a University ROTC officer.
Yet Col. Gary A. Praesel, former commander of the University ROTC, is scheduled to leave for Saudi Arabia later this month to serve as attaché for the U.S. Air Force. His teaching duties at the University ended last month.
Praesel accepted this assignment as a result of his promotion to colonel in November 1995. He will work at the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh, the capital city of Saudi Arabia, for 18 months.
'I am very excited about this opportunity to serve my country,' Praesel said. 'If I was looking for adventure, I've certainly found it.'
As attaché, Praesel will represent the U.S. Air Force in Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Bahrain with full diplomatic status. In preparation for his new assignment, Praesel said he traveled to Washington, D.C. for three months of attaché training school followed by one month of flight training in the military version of the Beech King Air 200 aircraft.
He said that he will miss his family but feels that this is the best time to go.
'Waco is our home,' Praesel said. 'They will have plenty of support from our church, Baylor and the family we have in Waco.'
While he said he knows that he is traveling into a high-risk environment, he also said that he feels he is prepared.
'The Middle East is the hot spot of the world right now and Saddam Hussein is unpredictable, but I don't have any fears of going,' Praesel said.
Praesel graduated from Baylor in 1973 before entering the Air Force.
'I came from a military family,' Prasel said. 'My father was a master sergeant in the Air Force.'
Praesel came to the University four years ago to teach in the ROTC program. He said he loves teaching at Baylor and said that he has had only positive experiences the classroom.
'I truly enjoy being around Baylor students,' Praesel said.
In the classroom, he taught his primarily sophomore students the history of air power as well as communication and leadership skills until his teaching responsibilities ended in August. Lt. Col. Gregory L. Smith has fulfilled Praesel's duties for the 1996 school year.
He said the University has changed over the years. Besides the size of the campus, he sees the University as less conservative than when he was a student.
'When I attended Baylor, the campus was smaller and the girls always wore dresses,' Praesel said, 'Baylor is working hard to balance educational opportunities while maintaining its Christian principles.'
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