Raleigh-Durham International Airport
staff will give Operation Iraqi Freedom its wings.
On Friday, the airport will be losing a 16-year employee. Deputy Director Rudolph Shackelford, 56, will take off for an international flight that will put him the pilot's seat of an historical event.
While the country watched U.S. forces take control of Baghdad's International Airport during Operation Iraqi Freedom, Shackelford pursued what he calls a golden opportunity.
"I've had a personal desire to be involved in the international venue for some time," he said.
In early June, that desire became a reality. That is when Shackelford officially announced was leaving RDU International to become the director of Baghdad International Airport.
He said he had to convince his family, first.
"After they got over the initial shock, they all were very supportive. My kids would say,'Dad, go for this opportunity, you will be unhappy with yourself for the rest of your life if you pass it by,'" he said.
Once Shackelford arrives in Iraq he will work on everything from turning on the power to establishing customs and immigrations clearing services. He will also train an Iraqi citizen for up to 16 months who will eventually take over as airport director.
"I do believe I was in the right place at the right time to accept this challenge," he said.
When asked about any concerns about his safety, Shackelford said more than likely he is more at a greater risk driving along Interstate 40 in the morning.
After his 16-month assignment, Shackelford plans to return to his hometown of Wrightsville Beach.
He was hired by Serco, a private British company contracted bythe United States to restart operations at the airport.
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