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Former National Guard leader shares pride in Tennessee's 'Citizen Soldiers'

This week WBIR is marking 20 years since the start of the Iraq War. Among those who served were members of the Tennessee National Guard.

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — For Major General Max Haston, who is now retired, the Iraq War meant adapting to ever-changing tactics.

"At first, nobody knew exactly what to expect," General Haston said. "You had the Sunnis, which was Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath party, and the Shiites. That's where the Civil War truly was. But, you could not look on the street and say, 'This person is a Sunni,' and, 'This person is a Shiite.'"

General Haston oversaw reserve units in both Iraq and Afghanistan. The biggest threats turned out to be homemade bombs, otherwise known as improvised explosive devices or IEDs.

"The remote detonated explosive devices — that was tough," said General Haston.

Even though the war started in 2003, the peak of deployment came in 2007.

"My dad did 44 years in the guard, and this is not the guard that he served in," Haston said. "I mean, we've all deployed multiple times to Afghanistan, to Iraq, to Kosovo."

One of the biggest impressions the Iraq War made on the General was country's the first open election in September 2005.

"There are people who walked for days and for miles," he said. "That was a huge security threat and the people that walked in brought their families and dipped their finger in the oil well."

Twenty years after the start of the Iraq War, Saddam Hussein's regime is now over. That includes those "Citizen Soldiers" of the National Guard.

"We have a volunteer army. It's not a conscript army. And so everybody that was there, was there because they wanted to be," General Haston said. "So when you look at a guardsman, now you double down on that because now you've got a guy or girl that doesn't do it every day, but now they are. And they've left a job, they've left a civilian home to pick up arms, and drop the plow and pick up the weapon."

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