Operation Buckeye Pride Published April 9, 2009 By Staff Sgt. Jorn Gordinier 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq -- A staff sergeant is busy doing electrical work in a building at Joint Base Balad, Iraq, when he notices a throw blanket that looks like it has an Ohio State emblem on it. The sergeant walks into the room for a better look when it dawns on him that he is standing in a really nice office. "I turned around to see Col. Sal Nodjomian, 332nd Expeditionary Mission Support Group commander, looking at me with an expression that said, 'Sergeant, why are you in my office?' It would have been a little uncomfortable if not for the Ohio State pennant hanging behind his desk," said Staff Sgt. Brandon Boos, a member of the 178th Communications Flight and deployed and 332nd Expeditionary Communications Squadron network infrastructure technician. "I said, 'O-H!' and he replied, 'I-O!,' and we started talking from there." "We talked about our mutual admiration for Ohio State University, our shared alma mater, and how much our time there meant to us," Colonel Nodjomian said. "We decided it would be fun to have a flag flown here and send it to OSU to have re-flown at the university. The idea picked up steam from there and mushroomed into a fantastic production." "The colonel termed the phrase Operation Buckeye Pride," Sergeant Boos said. "We thought it might be a good way to help people back home feel a connection to what we are doing here, and to show them there is a lot more to our world than what they see on the news," added Sergeant Boos, a Columbus, Ohio, native and 2007 OSU graduate. Brig. Gen. Brian Bishop, 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing commander, flew the flag on an F-16 Fighting Falcon combat mission March 10. Then the flag was flown in front of the wing headquarters building followed by a flag-folding ceremony March 14. "We will send the flag to OSU along with coins, certificates and photographs," Sergeant Boos said. Once the U.S. flag is shipped to OSU, it will be flown over University Hall, said Libby Eckhardt, OSU director of marketing and communications. Then there will be a retreat ceremony with approximately 100 cadets from ROTC in attendance along with Col. Curtiss Petrek, OSU Air Force ROTC commander. After that, the flag will be retired and put on permanent display at the university. Nodjomian is not an Ohio native, but is extremely proud of his alma mater and has the fondest memories of his time there from 1992 to 1994. "It is an institution that supports the armed forces, whether through ROTC programs, honoring veterans at sporting events or simply working with us on this endeavor," added the colonel, who's deployed here from the Pentagon. "At Ohio State University, the spirit of alma mater is known as a 'firm friendship,' and is something that lasts through the years and around the world," Sergeant Boos said. "It is an understanding, a sense of camaraderie and a connection that can instantly provide people a foundation upon which to build - regardless of any other factor. Operation Buckeye Pride is a testament to that. "Colonel Nodjomian and I are very honored by this, and hope the display will serve as a reminder to current and future students that the knowledge, pride and character they develop at Ohio State will remain a part of them no matter where they go or what they do," Sergeant Boos concluded.