By SUSAN SCHELL, Pilot Staff Writer

Kelby McCrae will soon be returning from his station in the Middle East.

The third-grade teacher at Kalmiopsis Elementary School deployed to Mount Sinai last spring to serve a tour of duty with the Oregon National Guard. He worked with the Multi-national Force Observers (MFO) on the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula on the Red Sea.

McCrae said his troop observed the Egyptian and Israeli armies to make sure they honored their treaty obligations and did not cross over into a demilitarized zone.

McCrae's wife Tawnya taught his class while he was gone. The national guardsman kept in touch with his students, who were eager to learn about his experiences, by letters and e-mail.

The children received gifts of postcards, money, picture books, photos and videos.

Students Heather Hodgen, Chris Bishop, Kyle Urbach and Derek Chavez shared what they've learned about their teacher's travels abroad.

BISHOP: It gets to 130-degrees by morning. He's been in a tank.

HODGEN: Instead of snow, there's sand. He sent a McDonald's placemat written in Egyptian.

URBACH: I asked him if he shot his gun and he said yes, he was out shooting. I asked if he's been out and exploring. He gets breaks and went in the Red Sea and looked at the fish. He sat on one of the blocks on a pyramid.

BISHOP: The government of Egypt won't let them bring Hummers onto their base.

CHAVEZ: The Egyptian women wear braided bracelets and try to sell them. When he throws something into the Red Sea it floats because of the salt. On the video he told us about mummies.

HODGEN: On the video he was telling about a tour in a museum in Egypt.

CHAVEZ: There was a big mummy. The tour guide said it was somebody's great, great, great, great grandfather.

BISHOP: When they didn't like a mummy they would scrape his name off his tomb so he would go to hell.