Nick Berg...

Date: Wed, 12 May 2004 12:35:16 -0400
From: "Mark Humphrey"
To: broadcast@broadcast.net
Subject: [BC] [BC]Remembering Nick (was Why was Nick in Iraq?)
Reply-To: broadcast@broadcast.net

The tragic news about Nick Berg's murder hit very close to home, as I had known him for about two years and we hired him for several recent projects -- in fact, he installed an auxiliary antenna for WPLY in February, just before heading back to Iraq. Perhaps I can shed some light on this situation.

First, let me say that Nick impressed me as a very bright, resourceful and dedicated individual who cared a great deal about improving our quality of life by applying his skills and knowledge. Nick not only possessed the necessary physical ability and stamina to do the job, but had also studied engineering at Drexel, Penn, and Cornell, so I felt very comfortable letting him handle our work. I knew that he wanted to grow his own business, and I felt obligated to give him that opportunity.

He had all sorts of ideas to bring technology to less-developed parts of the world, including a concrete tower which could be fabricated in remote parts of the world using locally- available materials, thus avoiding the problems of shipping steel in the absence of a good transportation network.

In fact, at last year's PAB Engineering Conference in Hershey, he and his father (who served as business manager of the company) displayed a prototype modular structure called "Bovl Blocks", made of interlocking concrete blocks that could be cast on site, then stacked to the desired height. He thought this product would be particularly useful in the African interior, where cellular networks are just beginning to be built out.

Why did he go to Iraq?

He was aware that some towers were damaged last year during bombing missions, and many more had been looted... copper lines removed, diagonal members taken out, etc. Few obstruction lighting systems were functional -- he mentioned an 800 foot tower two miles from an airport (used by our military) that was totally dark. So he first went over in December to see if he could help to assist in the reconstruction, restore Iraq's broadcast services, and repair the serious structural damage that endangered the lives of their citizens.

I received the following email message from Nick in early January:

About Iraq-

I am taking photos - where allowed. It's actually pretty sad - I just got off one of two 320 meter monster towers in Abu Gharib (also home to the main political prison) which use to support most of Baghdad area's VHF and UHF. Both have been badly looted, including 4000 feet or more of flexible 6- 1/8" heliax, two full 12X4 panel TV antennas, and even some structural members. I was also in the North as I mentioned, but here there wasn't as much damage. I'll definitely share some of these pix with you and others next time I'm in the area - I'd love to put together a little presentation for SBE or PAB in about six monthes after I've been on every site and fixed some of them.

He returned to Philadelphia in late January to catch up on some domestic business -- then in early February, tackled an antenna replacement job at our aux site, which he had quoted last summer.

This proved to be more complicated than either of us had first assumed (a three-bay DA with two vertical and four horizontal parasites per bay) but he honored his original quote. The work took place in sub- zero windchills... my feet were getting plenty cold just standing out in the cornfield as we aligned the azimuth, it must have been brutal up on the tower, but he took it in stride.

After Nick completed assembly and we purged the system, I ran the pressure up to 5 PSI and closed the valve on the nitrogen tank. I came out at 4:30 AM the next morning to run some power into the new antenna, and as the transmitter ramped up to full output, I saw *zero* reflected. (I tapped the meter to make sure it wasn't stuck!)

We had a perfect installation, no split or missing bullets, etc. And I haven't seen *any* pressure loss since then (actually, the gage reads between 7 and 8 now, due to the warmer weather.)

I knew that Nick was planning to return to Irag in March, but hadn't heard any word from him over the past two months, which had me concerned. Then I received the message from his parents (which Stu Engelke posted here last week) and my heart sunk. I was at lunch yesterday when the news broke about his brutal murder, and I was devastated.

If you've been following all sides of this story, you may have read that his parents did not receive much cooperation from OUR Federal Government when trying to learn his whereabouts, which is very disturbing. He had reportedly booked a March 30 flight back to New York, but missed it because he had been detained by our military. Today's "spin" on the story is that they told him to get out, but I'm not buying that.

Let's keep his family in our thoughts and prayers. Our industry (and humanity) has lost a very fine person.