Local man aids Bush's surprise Iraq visit - WECT TV6-WECT.com:News, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

11.28.03

Local man aids Bush's surprise Iraq visit

The turkey wasn't the biggest Thanksgiving draw for some 600 soldiers in Iraq.

They got a surprise visit from President Bush, who thanked them for their service to the country. One master sergeant who shook the president's hand called it "a pleasant surprise."

The President's parents, daughters and many secret service agents didn't know of this visit to Iraq until the last minute. The White House says danger made deception and secrecy necessary. One aide warned the trip would be called off if the story broke while Air Force One was airborne.

The plane landed with its lights off at a darkened Baghdad International Airport. It's still a dangerous place. Just ask Wilmington Native R.C. Shackelford, the director of Baghdad International.

He once ran Wilmington International Airport and Raleigh-Durham.

In June, he was chosen for his new assignment.

The presidential trip was so top-secret, Shackelford tells News Six from Baghdad that he can't say a single word other than "no comment."

But like his president, he has said in the past he's not afraid.

"My dad used to say, if you're not living on the edge, you're taking up too much room," Shackelford told us in June. "And I've done that all my life."

Reported by Aaron Saykin asaykin@wect.com

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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