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David Kitchen

Ohio History Connection
Jess HollerTy Pierce, Interviewer |
Standing Together: Ohio Veterans and the War on Terror |

0:00 - Introduction

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0:42 - Early Life and Childhood

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  • Mother was a waitress; younger sister

  • Family history of service: uncle was in Army and switched over to Air Guard

  • Kitchen grew up seeing military life as structured, with discipline; "couldn't imagine doing anything different"

  • Went to college and trained as an EMT; worked at Fed-Ex

  • Joined up with the Air National Guard: family tradition; wanted to make his uncle proud

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4:30 - Enlistment

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Subjects: - Talking with a recruiter also to see other parts of the world, meet new people - Eventually hoped to get a job working full-time at the base enlisted on February 7th, 2009 - Excited to serve the country entire process transpired over email - Drove up to Mansfield

8:02 - Basic Training and MOS Assignment

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  • Trained in San Antonio, Texas

  • Less of a process, more of a mentality

  • Endured many different experiences

  • Trainees enjoyed a "brotherly bond," despite the hazing

  • Physically challenging experiences

  • In his MOS assignment process, Kitchen found out he was color blind; limited opportunities in the Air Force

  • Finally assigned to administrative work -- further training in Gulfport, Mississippi with the Red Horse Rapid-Deploying Unit

  • Red Horse as a "giant construction company," working to set up the base

  • Served with the 200th, stationed out of Camp Perry

  • Served as administrator for the commander, alongside a friend

  • Ultimately became a vehicle maintenance guy; trained on all equipment

  • Volunteered to do all different sorts of work

  • Civilian-side: still trying to get job as a firefighter; working as a volunteer firefighter at

Range Township; didn't yet have his EMT license at the time

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20:57 - Reclassification

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  • 2012: Kitchen asked for an opening where his uncle worked

  • Had to retake his ACFAB test; able to do a different job

  • Sent to school at Ft. Lee, Virginia

  • Received active duty orders; got a job in the MedCorps as an EMT

  • New job was a hands-on, outside position moving stuff; working closely with his uncle

  • Kitchen had to live up to tough expectations working around his uncle

  • Civilian-side: got EMT license; worked at volunteers of America; 2012 -- employed by MedCorps

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25:13 - Mobilization and Deployment

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  • Process was fast: set to deploy in February of 2012; undertook computer training

  • Assigned to work in PACS: Passenger Processing

  • Traveled from Mansfield to Norfolk, Virginia; ice storm delayed the process -- supposed to take a plane

out of Mansfield, but ultimately had to get a ticket from Columbus

  • Stuck at Norfolk; had to walk almost a mile to the hotel in the rain

  • Stopover in Ireland

  • Then: travel to Kyrgyzstan: around 3 days; didn't have access to winter gear

  • Then: proceeded to Bagram, Afghanistan

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36:47 - Bagram AFB in Afghanistan

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  • Surrounded by mountains on all sides; looked "totally different" than what Kitchen was used to

  • Took a culture class beforehand

  • Not many trees and flowers; volunteered for "burn pit" duty to be able to see a favorite tree

  • Built in wi-fi on base; could use an app called VOXR to send texts through wi-fi; phones available

  • Two close friends: Ben Davis, Anthony Peppizo (spent almost 16 hours together at a time on shifts)

  • Life on the job: contractors dot he processing

  • Going to a plane and unloading contractors; processing the bags

  • Working to mediate between people; "gatekeeper" role

  • Formative experiences: training opportunities; unloading 100 people from a C-17

  • Everybody did the same sort of work; tight group

  • Kitchen volunteered regularly for "extra jobs"; took on extra shifts

  • Lots of avoiding rocket explosion; trying to go a job

  • Off-duty life: going to the gym, cafeteria; going to local markets on-site to buy wares; exploring different parts of the base

  • Worked to load wounded soldiers; helping soldiers out by giving them extra bags of chips, etc.

  • Kitchen views these combat soldiers who served outside of the wire as the "real" veterans"

  • Experienced a 747 crashing onto the airfield

  • Developed a relationship with contractors on base (some U.S. citizens, some international)

  • Experienced a sense of pride, esp. in helping with air-evacuations of wounded soldiers

  • Others knew about Kitchen's EMT training; had a few opportunities to help in medical emergencies

  • Experience with transporting caskets: weighing who the fallen soldiers were; "ramp freeze"

  • Some soldiers killed in nearby rocket attacks; difficult to process together

  • Didn't always know details about the mission

  • Communication blackouts with family when events happened at Balad; Kitchen's daughter was growing up in the

meantime, and wife was bus at home

  • Another part of the job was doing contraband searches: confiscating guns, ammo, cigarettes, cigars

(Normal exit process entailed soldiers handing over their weapons and ammunition before leaving country)

  • Left through Kyrgyzstan, then to Turkey, to the Rammstein and to Michigan; then back to Columbus

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95:57 - Homecoming; Transition to Civilian Life

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  • Family and all gathered in Columbus; Kitchens' 3-month old daughter was now 9-months old

  • Chief Master Sgt. and uncle were there; first meal home at McDonald's

  • Headed back to Mansfield for in-processing; then home to Mt. Sterling

  • Came home, and MedCorps had gone out of business

  • Offered a temporary technician job at the base in Mansfield

  • Kitchen dealt with alot of anger from the deployment, including one particular incidient surrounding

a casket transport; "over there," appropriate response was to lash out in order to get stuff done

  • "Nobody can say they come back from deployment the ame"

  • Family members had undergone therapy and sought services for PTSD; Kitchen worked through this

by sharing stories with fellow servicemen

  • Deployment was extremely busy: occupied 7 days/week; post-deployment: not super busy

  • Day-to-day work was very different from Balad to Mansfield; slower pace of work

  • Kept in touch with battle buddies

  • Next goal: to work as a full-time aerial porter at Mansfield; to become a chief on base -- Kitchen is

currently structuring his work around his

  • Nonetheless, Kitchen still wants to work in the medical profession; aims to pursue his nursing license

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113:43 - How Service has Affected Family

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  • Difficult to be away from family for weeks at a time

  • Another baby on the way; family is considering a move to Mansfield

  • EMT work and military service work share similar core values

  • Kitchen could switch to a medical career if he wanted to; but he is serving for his own personal goals

  • Uncle ultimately transffered to Red Horse; Kitchen enjoys swapping stories

  • Bond with uncle was strengthened by Kitchen's deployment

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122:20 - Reflections on Service

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  • Deployment to Balad has also shaped Kitchen's work: knows his work by experience, not just by the book;

enjoys sharing stories and experiences with younger airmen

  • Received an Martin Luther King, Jr. tattoo to commemorate his service experiences

  • Kitchen hopes to talk to his daughter Alice about the service

  • Feels that millennials don't respect soldiers enough and "don't get it"

  • Experience of 9/11

-Military service is "different than the real world"

  • In military service, the "brains all work together"; people understand what they've all gone through

  • Discipline and structure still a guiding force in Kitchen's service experience

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