West art teacher back from Iraq

       West Middle School's art teacher is back from the war.
       James Logan, a National Guardsman who was called to service in Iraq in March 2006, has rejoined the West faculty for the 2007-08 school year.
       He returned in July, unscathed, from his assignment with the Colorado National Guard's 169th Brigade. He plans to be a teacher permanently now. His retirement from the Guard, ending a 21-year military career, is set for October.
       “I'm looking forward to school and the kids coming in,” Logan said this week. “I love being back at West.”
       He laughed about people who ask him if he is having any trouble adjusting. “Any place that's not 126 degrees and getting mortared on is a plus,” he said. “This is like coming into paradise. I've got a great wife and two kids and District 11 has treated me well. How can I have trouble adjusting when this is so much better?”
       At the same time, Logan does not look back on his last 18 months as a dangerous waste of time.”You can have no greater pride than to serve your country,” he summarized. More specifically, he believes he was part of an effort in Iraq that is taking the war to America's enemies and saving lives in the bargain. “By us being over there getting them we're keeping the insurgents from coming over here and getting us,” he said.
       But he understands the trickiness of the situation. Nobody wants the U.S. to be in Iraq indefinitely, yet simply leaving is not an option. “We're trying to get out, but we don't want to jump out,” he said.
       The 169th consisted of 115 soldiers stationed in the Mosul and Tikrit areas, with occasional forays south to Baghdad. Logan was their first sergeant - a job that meant average workdays of 14 to 16 hours. He is happy to report that none of his contingent was killed or injured, despite dozens of enemy rockets and four roadside bombs that exploded ineffectively.
       This was partly good fortune, partly the result of “constant vigilance,” he said. He and his fellow Guardsmen, whose standards he described as “very high,” studied the tactics of the insurgents so they could anticipate what might happen. He described one incident where his unit was driving down a road and noticed a lack of traffic. A peek ahead revealed clear signs that the enemy had laid down an ambush for them.
       Former West Principal Joe Torrez had pledged to keep Logan's job open for him, and new Principal Clay Gomez (starting this year) is carrying that out. During Logan's time in Iraq, many on the West staff had contributed to “care” packages to him and his soldiers.
       That fits with the “family atmosphere” Logan said he values at West.
       He just needs to catch up a bit on his art. An accomplished painter, he hasn't had much opportunity since he left West. “The only art I've done was a logo for my command post,” he said.

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