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Iraqi air base renamed in honor of revered NCO leader


Release Date: 3/26/2004

By Cpl Benjamin Cossel, 122nd MPAD

TAJI, Iraq (March 26, 2004) - The memory of a 1st Armored Division senior noncommissioned officers' service and sacrifice will live on at one of the U.S. Army's enduring base camps in Iraq.

The former Iraqi air force base in Taji was officially renamed Camp Cooke March 23 during a dedication ceremony in honor of Command Sgt. Maj. Eric F. Cooke, 1st Brigade Combat Team command sergeant major.

Cooke was killed Dec. 24 during a combat patrol in Baghdad when his vehicle struck an improvised explosive device.

Camp Cooke is one of several enduring forward operating bases and is located in northern outskirts of Baghdad. Most U.S. military personnel serving in Iraq for Operation Iraqi Freedom will live on one of these bases.

"It is because he left such a permanent mark on those he came in contact with, that it was decided to name this permanent facility after him," said Col. Peter R. Mansoor, 1st BCT commander.

Born in Phoenix, Ariz. Sept. 23, 1960, Cooke attended basic and advanced individual training at Fort Knox, Ky., after enlisting in the Army in April 1978.

"He was the type of NCO that set the example for all those around him," said Maj. Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, 1st Armored Division commanding general, during the keynote address.

While known as a consummate NCO, it was Cooke's compassion and ability to mentor that endeared him to so many Soldiers, he said.

"He was the type of person that cared about all Soldiers, not just those in his brigade," said Cooke's former driver, Sgt. Dustin J. Tomecko, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st BCT. "We would go out to the Ministry of Oil just to visit Soldiers standing guard.

The guard posts were spread throughout the building, each requiring a 14-story walk up stairs to where the Soldiers were located, Tomecko said.

"He climbed each of those stairs and talked with each of the Soldiers as long as they needed him to," he said. "That was the type of person he was. He always had time for his Soldiers. Everybody loved him."

"He would be honored that this base camp will play a central role in Operation Iraqi Freedom," said Sgt. Maj. David Davenport, division operations sergeant major (G3), who served with Cooke in 1 AD's 1st Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regt. "But, he would say to you that 'I was just doing my job. I was out with my Soldiers.' He would prefer that others be recognized for their contributions."

Davenport said Cooke cared for all of his Soldiers, no matter their rank. Soldiers would seek out Cooke just to talk. The command sergeant major would always have time to talk and would know their names, jobs and nicknames.

"Soldiers loved him and he thought the world of them. He was one of those leaders who truly loved his Soldiers and always demanded the very best for his Soldiers."

Cooke was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star Medal and the Purple Heart.

"Command Sgt. Maj. Cooke and his wife never had children," Mansoor said. "You would ask him why and invariably the answer was always something along the lines of 'all of my kids are right here,' referring to his Soldiers."

Command Sgt. Maj. Eric F. Cooke's memory will live on at the Enduring Forward Operating Base, Camp Cooke, Iraq, Mansoor said.

"He will be deeply missed by all those whose lives he touched."

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