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ST GEORGE — St. George morning radio host Jon Smith is taking his show on the road next week, and it's a bigger deal than a remote broadcast from across town.
Jon Smith's show regularly revolves around off-the-wall humor, funny impressions, and plenty of laughs with his listeners on 95.9 KZHK "The Hawk." Next week he be broadcasting a similar routine live from the streets of Baghdad with Utah National Guard troops.
"(It's) bullet-proof, hopefully," he said with a grin as he wrapped on the Kevlar helmet he'll wear all week.
Smith will broadcast live from the streets of Baghdad with Utah National Guard troops. He doesn't plan to eliminate the laughs next week, but his assignment takes him a long way from his southern Utah studio.
"We'll do our entire show live from the satellite phone," he said, showing off the high-tech equipment and other gear packed tightly into a camouflaged bag.
Smith boarded a plane in Las Vegas Friday morning, bound for Baghdad, to imbed with troops of the Utah Army National Guard's 213th Forward Support Group and the 222nd Field Artillery.
"I'm taking some time to give them a slice of home," he said, "and at the same time, give families back home a little taste of what life is like over there."
Smith comes from a military family. He says his father was in the Army and the Air Force, and he's always had a lot of respect for our troops.
"With this war in particular, people forget that our troops are sacrificing — not just putting their lives on the line, but time with their families and time with their jobs," he said.
Whether they're kicking in doors, or fixing trucks, or flying helicopters, these guys are extremely proud and capable of what they're doing.
–Jon Smith, radio host
Smith visited with Utah troops once before, in Iraq in 2008, and was impressed with their dedication and professionalism.
"Whether they're kicking in doors, or fixing trucks, or flying helicopters, these guys are extremely proud and capable of what they're doing," he said.
He's also taking along some tokens of thanks for the troops. He'll give them a large banner with colorful messages from his listeners scrawled across it, and he'll present them an American flag that flew over the nation's Capitol. That's a gift to the Utah troops from Congressman Jim Matheson.
Smith is scheduled to land in Kuwait following what will be a 29-hour trip. Then he'll head to Baghdad to begin his live broadcasts Monday morning at 6 a.m. MDT.
He knows it's still a dangerous city, and he'll wear body armor for his work, but Smith feels safe in the company of the guardsmen.
"As far as what I'm going to see personally, I've learned to expect the unexpected," he said.
If you don't live in the St. George area, you can listen to "The John Smith Show" from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m., Monday through Friday, on the station's website www.959thehawk.com.