Hash assumes new duties as Liberty coach Wrestling

November 20, 1992|By Jeff Seidel | Jeff Seidel,Contributing Writer

Jeff Hash is making his second attempt to begin his first year as a wrestling head coach.

Hash was ready to coach the Glenelg team for the 1990-91 season. Just before the season began, however, his United States Naval Reserve unit was called into active duty in the Persian Gulf conflict, and he wound up serving in Operation Desert Storm.

The Glenelg job went to another coach, so when Hash returned he joined Liberty as an assistant coach. This year, he's the head coach.

Hash, 31, who teaches physical education at Piney Ridge Elementary School, served in the Naval Reserves in medical support of the Marine Corps Reserves. As a paramedic, he worked with Marines during his tour in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

Hash believed he might go to the Gulf after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in August 1990. His unit, the 4th Combat Engineers Battalion, was called up Dec. 2.

That changed Hash's thoughts from takedowns to tanks.

"The fear factor was considered, definitely," said Hash. "Any normal human being would be [scared]."

Hash arrived in Saudi Arabia on Dec. 29, 1990, and stayed in the Gulf region until April 19, 1991. He received seven ribbons for his work in Desert Storm. Hash spent only four days -- the time it took the allied troops to liberate Kuwait with a ground offensive -- in direct action. Training occupied much of the rest of his time.

When Hash was in the Gulf, land mines became a big focus. The mission for Hash's unit was to breach the mine fields. They needed to get rid of the mines to create a lane allowing troops to pass through.

Before seeing action, though, Hash said there was plenty of training. And it got boring.

"You can relate it to a wrestling match," said Hash. "You can go outthere and you can train and you can train. Once that time comes, you're 100 percent and ready to go. That's what it was for me."

The highlight of the war for Hash was the liberation of Kuwait.

"We were able to take the training that we were given and put it to actual use," said Hash. "That's why it's such a rush."

On the first day of the ground offensive, Feb. 24, troops moved into Kuwait at around 4:30 a.m. Hash's unit followed around noon.

Hash treated only a few casualties, mostly the enemy. Only one person in Hash's unit was injured, and that was for a fractured ankle.

Hash brought home many memories from his stay in the Gulf.

Hash said he remembers looking skyward and seeing the thick, black clouds of smoke that repeatedly kept rolling in.

One of his most vivid memories is from his first night inside Kuwait. As the unit set up for the night on top of a berm, or hill, Hash gazed out into the distance and saw the Kuwaiti oil fields burning, seemingly without end.

In fact, Hash said he last saw the sun on Feb. 23. The thick, black clouds that rose from the oil fields blocked out the sun for the next few days.

"The [feeling] I had is that the Americans have arrived," said Hash. "Now it's time for the Iraqis to leave."

Now back home and coaching wrestling, Hash said students occasionally ask about his war-time experiences. He doesn't go out of his way to emphasize what he did.

"I would probably say something during the season," said Hash. "I [would want] to use it [as a] motivational tool to help keep the guys motivated, have a positive attitude and give 100 percent."

Hash, who was in the reserves following a five-year stint in the Navy, has re-enlisted and will stay in the reserves until 1998. He said he takes pride in serving his country.

For now, though, his focus will be on the wrestling mat during the first year of his head coaching career.

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