A surprise mission for one East Tennessee soldier meant he would go from his home here, to living on the grounds of one of Saddam Hussein's palaces in Iraq within a matter of weeks.
"Never in my wildest dreams did I think we would go to Baghdad," said Mr. Gregg.
In the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Duane Gregg expected he would play a supportive role from a base in Kuwait. He ended up with troops leading the lightening fast charge into the Iraqi capitol.
His expertise as a water purification specialist made then Sergeant Gregg as valuable to the assault as ammunition, fuel, and food.
"We were set up to support about twenty-thousand troops and we ended up supporting about eighty-thousand troops," said the former Tennessee Army National Guard soldier.
He walked us through some of the challenges his unit faced along the attack route. From the beginning they felt venerable in the desert landscape given his unit was outfitted with only Army-issue green camouflage. They did not rest for the first three to four days and started the war with a stark warning from their commanders.
"We were told during training that sixty to seventy, or eighty percent of us would probably get hit with (chemical or biological weapons) while we were there and not make it back," said Mr. Gregg.
After reaching Baghdad, Mr. Gregg's unit set up camp on the grounds of Saddam Hussein's palaces and started draining man-made lakes to provide water for the growing number of U.S. troops entering the city.
In all Mr. Gregg's deployment lasted close to seven months.
"We were not just the first purification unit that came into Iraq and came into Baghdad. We were the only water purification unit there, probably another month before any other unit came in," said Mr. Gregg.