SYKESVILLE - Jeff Hash, a 29-year-old physical education teacher and field medical technician in the U.S. Navy Reserve, was ready to start another phase of his career this week.
Little more than a week had passed since Glenelg High School Athletic Director Chuck Struhar had decided the South Carroll resident was the man to take over the Howard County school's wrestling program.
Then, three days after his first meeting with the team as he prepared to begin coaching, Hash discovered his plans had changed.
"I was just about finished my weekend duty (last Sunday) at the Marine Corps Reserve Center (near Towson in Baltimore County) when I was called in and told I was one of the 29 being activated," Hash said.
Hash, a second class petty officer, is headed to a new job -- in Saudi Arabia, as part of the massive U.S. military buildup in the Persian Gulf.
"I was stunned," he said. "At the same time, I was also thinking about Glenelg High School and the wrestling team. This wasn't going to be a one-year stint. If I had done a nice job, I'm almost positive I would have been back. I felt like I was going to be there for quite a few years.
"I never actually expected to be put in this situation," said Hash, who is one of eight Carroll County teachers who could be called to active duty.
"Nobody who ever joins the military expects this to happen. But it has happened and I have to deal with it."
The Glenelg position would have been the first head coaching job for Hash, who has taught for two years at Carrolltowne Elementary School in Eldersburg. Before settling on Hash, Struhar spent two months searching for a successor to Joe Thomas, who coached the Gladiators last year but told Struhar in September he wouldn't be returning.
Hash, who grew up in Cary, a town near Raleigh, N.C. -- where he wrestled in junior high and high school -- enlisted in the Navy as a corpsman after graduating from Slippery Rock University (Pa.) in 1985.
He served three years on active duty and has reported to the reserve for monthly weekend duty while teaching at Carrolltowne. He also has been an assistant wrestling coach at Westminster High School for the past two seasons.
"We were patient, and we got the coach we wanted," said Struhar, who had to conduct a hasty one-week search for Hash's replacement.
Struhar chose Brian Chadwick, a 27-year-old electrician who was a successful wrestler at Oakland Mills High, to take over the Gladiators coaching position. Wrestling practice begins tomorrow.
Chadwick, a 1981 graduate of Oakland Mills, wrestled for four years under former Scorpions coach Steve Carnahan. He finished second in the county and the region at 105 pounds as a junior, before winning both 105-pound titles as a senior.
"I feel bad for Jeff. I feel bad for the kids. They had a good first meeting," Struhar said. "Finding people who match up with the school and the community is tough. We all felt comfortable."
Hash, who lives in Sykesville with his wife, Melissa, left yesterday with the Fourth Marine Division for Camp Pendleton in Oceanside, Calif.
After approximately three weeks of training, Hash, will sail to Saudi Arabia to reinforce the Fifth Marine Expeditionary Brigade. He expects to arrive around Christmas. Adjusting to the heat there will be eased by training in California and by Hash's own personal training, mostly running, which began last summer when he was given initial notice.
"My wife was pretty devastated," said Hash, who spent last week tying up personal and financial ends. One of his chores involved meeting with the Glenelg team Thursday to inform them of his reassignment.
"Their reaction was one of discouragement and disappointment," Hash said. "The first time we met it was only for an hour and I felt a real bond. I think they had their sights set on a positive and rewarding season.
"But I told them I had a job to do and I intended to do it," he said. "I also told them I'd write them, because I'd be wondering how they're doing.
I'll be back. It won't be this year, but it will be next year."
Then he said, "Hopefully, I'll be back with all of the pieces. My job is critical, and if war breaks out, it's going to be bloody. There will be a lot of casualties."
Contributing writer Staff writer Greg Tasker contributed to this article.