Mesa gas division director Gerald Paulus wore earplugs at home last week as he and his wife Elizabeth settled as many of his affairs as possible before he heads out for 18 months in the Middle East.
Minor hearing loss is common after years of military service, he explained, and plugging his ears would make them more sensitive while being tested later in the week.
"You don’t want to get knocked out of deployment," he said.
Paulus, 49 and a lieutenant colonel in the Arizona National Guard, said he likely would have received a waiver even if he had flunked his hearing test, but he still would not want to be derailed from a tour that might take him to Iraq and Afghanistan.
"You don’t really question whether this is a just war, you make an assumption or have a hope your senior leaders have made the decision to go to war based on hours and hours of contemplation, and that they are taking their jobs seriously," he said.
Paulus has been in charge of the city’s gas utility for 13 years, minus tours of duty to help victims of Hurricane Andrew and the Bosnian conflict in the 1990s. Today he leaves for Fort Carson near Colorado Springs, and will reach Theater Support Command Headquarters in Kuwait in about a week.
Paulus said he was activated because his specialty is civil military operations, or helping to stabilize and rebuild societies torn by war or calamities. This includes setting up government and legal institutions, monitoring elections and providing utilities and infrastructure.
"This kind of warfare, I hate to use a cliché, but it is right up my alley," Paulus said.
He naturally feels some fear, he said, as he contemplates the future, but experience has taught him that once he gets into the thick of things, much of that will dissipate once he’s absorbed in his work.
Paulus is one of eight city employees on military leave, and is thought to be the highest ranked one to be deployed, said city utilities spokeswoman Stacy Damp.