How does someone go from driving a Bradley Tank in Iraq to pounding a gavel in Huntsville? Just ask Christopher Whitaker, the 2006-2007 Sam Houston State University Student Government Association President.
Attracted to the small town simplicity of Huntsville, Whitaker always desired to attend SHSU. However, after he finished high school in Beamont, his parents could not afford to put him through college. With a desire to get out on his own, and with the 9/11 attack occurring just months before his graduation, Whitaker decided his best option would be to join the Army.
He signed a two-year contract and went through 14 weeks of basic training before he was ready for battle.
Whitaker became “a Casualty Replacement for the 39th Infantry Division HQ Unit and was sent to Iraq in the initial invasion force.”
He trained in Iraq as an XO Driver for the Bradley M2A2 Tracked Armoured Fighting Vehicle, which reaches a top speed of 50 miles per hour and weighs about 4000 pounds, according to Whitaker.
When they arrived in Kuwait, they experienced one of the worst sandstorms for that area in decades. The storm was so thick that Whitaker said, “you couldn’t even see your own hand if you waved it in front of your face.”
Their mission was delayed until after the sandstorm ended, and then they made their way from Kuwait to the Baghdad International Airport, where their biggest battle took place.
Their primary objective was to take control of the airport, and after they won that, they led their tanks and planes into the city of Baghdad to patrol the neighborhoods.
Even though they controlled the area so well that Whitaker estimated, “[they] could go wherever [they] wanted to go,” he remembers the Baghdad Information Administer continuing to tell Iraqi citizens that the American troops were weak, dying and suicidal.
When Whitaker came home from Iraq, he finished out his two-year service at the Fort Bend military base in Georgia.
In June 2004, he moved to Huntsville to attend Sam Houston, which is where he was first introduced into politics.
When Sam Houston Village opened, a traffic jam was created due to the light not allowing enough time for students to cross onto campus.
Whitaker said he took the issue to legislation, fell in love with the politics and stuck around to see if he could make a difference.
“I knew what student government was capable of and I wanted to prove that to people,” said Whitaker.
After being elected SGA President, Whitaker was able to have an even bigger affect on Huntsville politics.
The introduction of public transportation, as well as the upcoming merge of downtown Huntsville with the Sam Houston campus are the two issues that he is most proud of contributing to as president.
Although Whitaker has chosen to further his political career and remain in Huntsville, the Army could recall him any time until the year 2010.
For now he will enjoy watching the live music scene grow, being a Katfan, waving to the mayor as he walks around town and delving deeper into Huntsville’s small town politics.
-If anyone knows of an interesting person making an impact at SHSU, contact The Houstonian.