On Sept. 11, a little more than three hours after the first hijacked airliner slammed into the World Trade Center, Dave Hecht called the Pentagon to offer his services.
The WNWO-TV, Channel 24, anchor/reporter was between live shots at the Red Cross blood donation center in Toledo when he left this message for Adm. Craig Quigley: “If you need me, I'm ready to go.”
Four months later, he got the call. As an officer in the U.S. Naval Reserve, he reports this week for two weeks of active duty aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln.
The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier will not be near any areas that the U.S. has targeted in the war on terrorism, Hecht said. Instead, the San Diego-based ship will head out into the Pacific Ocean for training exercises.
Hecht's military job - public affairs officer - is very similar to what he does as a civilian. One of his main duties will be putting together a daily television newscast for his 6,100 shipmates. The daily half-hour broadcast will focus on the happenings onboard the aircraft carrier, Hecht said.
Hecht's rank is ensign. He joined the Navy as part of the Direct Commission Program and was commissioned as an officer in November, 2000.
The versatile Hecht, 33, co-anchors the news and does the weathercasts on WNWO's morning newscast. He also does reporting for the station's evening newscasts. Richard Sharp will fill Hecht's news shoes during his absence; WNWO news director Lou Hebert isn't sure who will handle the weather duties.
Hecht is expected to return in time for the next month-long ratings period, which begins Jan. 31.
Hebert said viewers will be able to share Hecht's experience. Sometime in February, Hebert said, the station will run a “five-part series on life aboard an aircraft carrier. We'll also try to do [telephone interviews] with Dave from the carrier while they are deployed at sea.”
Hecht said he expects to be called up for another two-week stint in March. Normally, military reservists serve one weekend per month and two weeks each year.
“It looks like this year I'm going to be doing a minimum of six weeks,” Hecht said.
Hecht did not join the military until age 31. He said he put it off because he was trying to get his television career established. The stability of working in Toledo since August, 1997, afforded him the opportunity to enlist. “I think ev-eryone needs to do something for the country,” he said. “This is just my way of giving back.”
Hebert said: “This is something Dave loves. We knew that ever since Sept. 11, this was a possibility.”