Segment Synopsis: David Kitchen was born in London, Ohio in 1988. He went to college and trained as an EMT, but wanted to do something new so he enlisted in the Ohio Air National Guard in 2009. In his interview Kitchen talks about his family's history of military service, his decision to enlist, his time during basic training, and an experience with an attempted suicide. He explains his original Military Occupational Specialty, how he transferred to the Air Transportation specialty, and preparing to deploy to Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan.
Keywords: Camp Perry (Ohio); Color blindness; FedEx Corporation; Fort Lee (Va.); London (Ohio); Mount Sterling (Ohio); Quartermaster School (U.S.); San Antonio (Tex.); United States. Air Force. Medical Service Corps; United States. Air Force. Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron, 819th.
Map Coordinates: 37.248661,-77.3372726
Segment Synopsis: Kitchen describes the deployment process, his mission in Afghanistan, what Bagram Airfield was like, and the details of his job. He discusses being on Alpha shift, volunteerism in the Armed Forces, what being in a combat zone was like, and being on the base as opposed to the frontline. He recounts some accidents around the base, a major incident involving a 747, working with contractors of different nationalities, some examples of Medevac flights to Ramstein Air Base, and transporting caskets. He tells of the secrecy around prisons and prisoners, the kind of contraband he would find on flights, what it was like getting ready to come home.
Keywords: Bagram Airfield (Afghanistan); Balad Air Base (Iraq); Columbus (Ohio); Kyrgyzstan; Mansfield Lahm Air National Guard Base (Mansfield, Ohio); Ohio. Air National Guard. Airlift Wing, 179th; Turkey; United States. Air Force. Air Expeditionary Wing, 455th
Map Coordinates: 40.8123932,-82.5154448
GPS: Bagram Airfield (Afghanistan)
Map Coordinates: 34.946111, 69.265
Segment Synopsis: Being on the road a lot is hard on David, mostly being away from his daughter and pregnant wife. Kitchen talks about his homecoming experience, how being at war changed him, and his Air Transportation work stateside. He concludes by speaking about leaving his friends, how he feels about his military service, what he brought back from Afghanistan, tattoos, and what he'll tell people about his service.
Keywords: September 11 Terrorist Attacks, 2001.; tattoos
TP: Today is November 2nd, 2015. My name is Ty Pierce. I'm here with JessHoller. We are interviewing David Kitchen about his service in the Ohio International Guard and in particular, his deployment to Afghanistan as part of the Global War on Terror. This interview is being conducted at the Ohio History Center in Columbus, Ohio. Mr. Kitchen, would you please say and spell your full name.
DK: David Kitchen, D-A-V-I-D K-I-T-C-H-E-N.
JH: To begin, could you tell us a little bit about when and where you were born?
DK: I was born in London, Ohio which is a very, very small city in Ohio. I grewup in Mount Sterling which is probably 15 minutes away. Farm town, one mile long, one mile wide, not even Walmart, no fast-food, nothing.
JH: What was your childhood and early school experience like?
DK: Oh my God, I was the, I guess, the class clown. I was the person who didn'treally pay attention, all of this other stuff, but yeah, I went to college, everything. It was exciting. I enjoyed my childhood a lot. A lot of friends, everything.
JH: What year did you end up graduating high school?
JH: Growing up, what did your parents do for a living?
DK: My mother worked at ADS Pipeline in London, Ohio. Actually, when I was realyoung, she was a waitress. We were poor. My dad worked at a fence factory in Mount Sterling up to a certain point. Then he got injured and was on disability.
JH: Did you have siblings?
DK: Yes, younger sister, Darren Kitchen who I paved the way for the high school.Whenever she went into the school, the teachers -- She's smarter than me, she's completely different, but everybody expected her to be a class clown which she's not. 00:02:00
JH: Was there a prior tradition of military service in your family?
DK: Yes, army. My entire mom and dad side have always been army. My uncle isactually the first one to switch over to the International Guard. My grandfather fought in the Korean War. After my uncle left the army, he went to Ohio National Guard. He's actually the reason I'm in.
JH: Can you say a little bit more about how that family legacy has affected yougrowing up and impacted your ideas on what you do with your own career?
DK: Structured, it was very structured. I actually lived with my uncle for awhile. It was very disciplined, very structured. I just -- I don't know, it was just something that clicked with me. I couldn't imagine myself doing anything different. Originally, I was going to be in the army, but I think I smartened up a little bit, went to the Ohio National Guard, International Guard.
TP: What do you mean by that? Talk about what timeline are we talking.
DK: Let's see, this was 2008 when I actually decided. 2007, I was going to go inthe army, then I decided against it and went to college for firefighting and EMT. After I got out of college, I was actually in the middle working at FedEx and didn't like what I was doing. It was just dead end, didn't enjoy it.
That's when I started talking to my uncle who I knew was in the InternationalGuard. He pretty much talked me into the Ohio Air because the Air Force is a lot -- They treat their people -- I think they treat their people a lot better, personally.
TP: What did he say that really impressed you about Ohio International Guard?
DK: I'm trying to think. It was such a long conversation. Basically, my wholething about joining was not only was it a family tradition, but I wanted to make 00:04:00him proud. He's always been my mentor. He's a Columbus firefighter, Columbus paramedic. Always, always, ever since I remember, I've always wanted to be like him. After talking to him, he told me where he's been, what he's done, how they get to travel, I was like, "That's definitely something I want to do."
JH: Once you had this conversation, what did your enlistment process look like?
DK: I called a recruiter, Efferent Swoop, at the Mansfield Lahm [regionalairport]. Actually, the entire process was done via email. I never went up to Base and looked around, never talked to him until the date I enlisted, but I've never even gone to MEPS here in Columbus, it was all email, just sat there in email, back and forth, my information, did everything. Then finally when it came down to time, I actually drove up to Mansfield and that's when I enlisted.
TP: How did you -- Let's talk a little bit about you want to go and impress youruncle, make him proud, how else did you feel about this as you're going through this process and making this decision?
DK: It was a lot. If course, mom and dad didn't agree on it, especially dad.Nobody wanted me to join because they didn't want me to leave. Anyway, it was a huge step, a huge step because it was just something I never thought I would actually pursue into doing. It was pretty exhilarating, actually.
JH: What was the official date of your enlistment?
DK: February 7th, 2009.
TP: You said that your parents weren't maybe thrilled with your enlistment, atthis point in the Global War on Terror, early on, 2002, 2003, a lot of people were returning to Guard didn't have the expectation that they would ever deploy 00:06:00overseas, certainly. By the time you're enlisting, that's a different scenario. How did that factor into your decision to enlist? How did that factor into their feelings about you enlisting?
DK: That was actually one of the main reasons they didn't want me to join, butthat was one of the reasons I wanted to join. I wanted to, I guess this sounds horrible, but I wanted to do my duty. I want to serve my country and do what I could. I wanted to deploy really, really bad. It was one of the main reasons.
DK: Something new, see a different part of the world. You can hop in a car anddrive 18 hours down to Texas which I've done and see that, but you'll never meet someone from a different culture like you would in Afghanistan or Ireland or Ramstein or Kurdistan, anything like that.
You might run into people, but you'll never actually talk to them like you wouldwhen you deploy. It's a totally different atmosphere. That's something that I've always wanted to do. I've always wanted to meet different people from different cultures and understand it.
JH: At the moment when you decided to enlist, how did this decision factor in towhat you were thinking for your career?
DK: I was actually hoping to work fulltime at Base because I didn't like workingat FedEx. You go in there, you stack boxes. You go home, you're like, "Well, now what do I do?" I knew that if I enlisted, I would have something to do on the weekends besides family or friends, you'd go up there and do your weekend thing. You get to move around a lot. That's what I was more focused on. I was tired of being in a rut. I like change. I like doing something different.
JH: Will you tell us a little bit about what your basic training experience were like?00:08:00
DK: Basic training, everybody has their own stories about that. That's the bestpart. I can remember, honest truth, I can remember lying in bed, I think it's the 3rd day, looking, staring up at the ceiling when it was lights out, I remember saying to myself, "What am I doing? Why am I here?"
I understand their whole process. Air Force is different than army, army isdifferent than Marines and everybody has their own basic. Air Force's basic is more of a mentality. They break you down mentally, then rebuild you. God, the plane ride down to San Antonio, Texas, this is my first plane ride ever. I remember just sitting in the airport regretting what I did.
At that time, I was like, "Why am I doing this?" Then you get into basic, theypull up and your drill instruction is sitting there and they tell you to drop the bag. Then everybody drops it, then they say, "Put down your bag" and people will drop it. Then they're like, "Pick them up." You do this for 15 minutes until someone finally catches on like, "Set down your bag, don't drop it."
Then they rush you upstairs, you go to bed. Next morning, you take the march todo your haircut. That's when you're issued your uniform. The amount of stuff that you see during basic that you experience is amazing. I made friends there. You see things.
I had one guy actually, it's not really bad, I had one guy attempt suicide therein my flight, swallowed a handful of Ibuprofen because he didn't want to be there. The crazy thing is they make everything in this Basic to try to prevent you from committing suicide like the hand sanitizer's non-toxic, the cleaners, everything is non-toxic because people do it.
I don't understand why, Basic's the easiest part of your military career. Afterthat you get -- You're brain dead because you have so many responsibilities and everything after that. You're responsible for people's lives too. Basic's the 00:10:00easiest part of your military experience ever.
Another funny story, we have what's called CQ duty which is basically you juststay up part of the night, everybody has shifts, you stay up part of the night, if anybody knocks on the door, you have to check their ID to see if they're part of your flight or whatever.
This one time, I looked down the bay. I can't remember the guy's name, but heslept walked a little bit, but what he did is he grabbed his bed and scooted his bed all the way next to another guy then climbed the bed. He woke up and I'm staring at him, I don't know what to do. What do you even do at that point? He woke up 5 seconds later, looks at me and he goes, "Don't you tell anybody" and scoot his bed back in place. It was the funniest thing in the world.
Another funny story is I actually walked upstairs with my buddy, Patrick Green,who I enlisted with. Him and I were in the same flight, we're bunkmates the entire time. We walked upstairs and he never told me that I had my hat on. You're not allowed to have your hat on indoors, ever.
I walked upstairs with my hat on, not even realizing, walked inside the bay andour drill instructor was like, "What are you doing?" I'm like, "Nothing, sir." You had to do reporting statement, "Sir, trainee David Kitchen reports as ordered." Anytime you talk to the drill instructor, you had to say that.
He saw my hat, then everybody had to do push-ups and say, "Look at me my hat isso tall, it's low in the front, high in the back, I'm so cool" and everybody had to push-ups with that. Not very fun, but that happened all the time. Now, you would find random stuff.
The drill instructor would go in there and be like, "Hey, your socks aren't inorder." Rip out your drawer and just throw it on the ground. You'd have to redo everything, but it was a good bond. I probably will never, ever, ever, ever see most of these people again in my entire life, but those 8 weeks that you're in 00:12:00basic, you just develop a brother-like bond and you don't realize until at the end when you graduated. Everybody is from different spots, a few from Tennessee, then they go on with their lives, their military careers and you have no idea what they're doing or what they've done, but you remember them, you remember their faces, you remember the times that you had together.
JH: How did you react to the process, some of the more difficult parts of thebasic training experience, especially the struggles that some of your fellow trainees were having?
DK: What do you mean?
JH: I mean, you said that they were for example suicide attempts.
DK: That was probably the first time ever that I've actually had to deal with --I was a firefighter and everything, you're trained, but you don't really expect anything to happen, but I remember that story because he did it right in front of me. I was in the restroom just getting ready to walk home. Monk was his name.
He pops around the corner, he goes, "Hey, Kitchen." I'm like, "What's up, Monk?"He's like, "You see these pills?" I'm like, "Yeah." He just swallows them. It was a handful of Ibuprofen which now -- Ibuprofen's not going to kill you. It'll give you a bad stomachache, nothing too bad, but I didn't know at that time.
He swallows them, tranqs on me, like, "I don't want to be here. I'm tired ofmessing up, tired of getting yelled at." I froze. I'm like, "Oh, my God." I don't know what to do. Then I walk up to our CQ monitor, I can't remember the guy's name, but I was like, "Hey, Monk just swallowed a handful of pills." He kind of laughed like I was joking. I'm like, "I'm serious." He's like, "Really?" I'm like, "Yeah."
Then we went to our Dorm Chief and we were like, "Hey, Monk just swallowed ahandful of pills." He does the same thing, he's like, "Ahhh." We're like, "We're serious." He's like, "Really?" I was like, "Yeah." He ran across the hall where 00:14:00the brother flight instructor was, drill instructor, and told her. Then they had to take him out. A couple of hours passed, Monk's gone.
They come over to the loudspeaker and they're like -- I had to report to themain hall where all the drill instructors are and I'm freaking out. This is 2 weeks in the basic. I'm still just trying to get a hold of things.
I go downstairs and every dorm, there's one side where only trainees can go inand there's one side that you're not allowed to go in, ever, ever. I forgot about it, I walked right in that door. There's 2 drill instructors. I had to stand in attention and they came up to me and they're like -- They're yelling at me about why I went through that door and they're yelling at me about telling -- I'm trying to tell the story, I'm stuttering and everything.
I finally got the story out and they're like, "Go upstairs," so I went backupstairs, but I just -- Oh my God, I was so scared. You get so scared of these people and they're just normal people. It's so funny, if I could see my drill instructor, Staff Sergeant Derrick Smith, if I could see him, I would shake his hand. He was amazing. He said some really bad stuff to me, but he was an amazing guy.
They make fun of you constantly, but you take it with a grain of salt. It's veryphysically challenging too. You had to do this one obstacle course where you had to go over a rope that's across the water and watch people fall in. You had to balance on a beam, you had to climb up a wall, you had to help other people. You're all in uniform boots the entire time. By the time you get done with that, you're just drenched in sweat through the uniform. Those uniforms are thick. You're just covered in sweat and it was fun. I had a blast.
JH: At what point did you receive your military occupational specialty? Did you00:16:00have a say in it?
DK: I did. There were -- I'm actually colorblind. It's the sad thing, so I onlyhave limited opportunities in the Air Force. I was originally going to go in as a firefighter, but they won't let firefighters -- Military won't let firefighters be colorblind, so that option was out.
The next thing was, I was like, "Well, worst come to worst, I'll pick a job. IfI don't like it 3 years, I'll change it." I picked Knowledge Operations Management which is a desk job, which, it's not me. I did that for Red Horse, it was a 3DOX1 was the AFSC. I did that, went to Keesler, Mississippi for technical school same base, went down there, did that, came back and did that for 3 years. Excuse me, Red Horse. Then after 3 years is when I switched to air trans.
JH: To back up a little bit, can you tell us what Red Horse is?
DK: I don't remember the definition, but I know it's a rapidly deploying unit.They still do deploy, they're actually doing rotations in Israel right now. It's a big construction company, it's the best way I could say it. That's where the electricians are, that's where the engineers are, that's where plumbing and all that other stuff. It's a giant construction company.
They are the guys that go over and they build the runways, the buildings andeverything. They'll be there before bases are even setup and help setup everything, then leave. There's numerous ones, but the only ones that I know of, there's only 2 National Guard ones and that's here at Ohio which is the 200th Red Horse in Camp Perry and the 200th Detachment 1, up there in Mansfield, Ohio. 00:18:00
TP: How did your MOS fit into that? Can you give examples?
DK: I was just an administrator. That's the best way I could put it, I was anadministrator for the Commander, Lt. Col. Tack. Yeah, it was a fun job, I got to know people. My buddy, Patrick Green that I was in basic with, he was a vehicle maintenance guy, so a majority of time, if I wasn't doing anything, I would go and hang out with the vehicle maintenance guys.
The best part about being Red Horse is, I may have been an administrator, butthey still train me on all the vehicles. I was able to drive a dump truck and all that other stuff and learn how to do stuff on the cars from the vehicle -- They train you to do their job in case of their absence. Yeah, I did push papers, but at the same time, I was able to drive a dump truck or drive vehicles around or do anything which was nice.
JH: This time, from 2009 on, how was your service in this administrative role atRed Horse? How was it synching up with what you were doing civilian side and your career?
DK: Nothing. That's the best part, even my uncle, you always do the job in theAir Force that you don't do on the outside because it gets old. Say, I'm -- I know people, they're state highway patrols during their civilian life, but on drill, they're security forces which is like the military cops in the Air Force. It's boring. You do the same things, so you want to do something different, something you've never done.
My uncle, he works HVAC for the Red Horse now, completely off the wall fromfirefighting, something you never thought you'd do. He actually volunteers his service for deployed member's spouses in case their heating or cooling go out and he goes over and works on them.
JH: What were you doing in your civilian career at this time?
DK: I was working for UPS, trying to get a job as a firefighter and working UPSin that job for the longest time which is extremely hard. 00:20:00
TP: Where are we talking, like where are we trying to get fire --?
DK: Anywhere. I was volunteering at Range Township with another buddy of minewho I went to college with, but I was trying to get a fulltime -- I went for Grove City, Circleville. Columbus, you have to take a Civil Service test which I did. Anywhere I could. I was pretty desperate. I had my firefighting, but I didn't have my EMT at that time. That wasn't until later when I met my wife and I went to St. Clare for my EMT license.
JH: You've mentioned that at some point in time, you became dissatisfied withthe administrative work and were looking for something else and decided to request [crosstalk 00:20:55].
DK: Um-hum (affirmative).
JH: How did that process work for you and when was that?
DK: I'm trying to think, 2009, '10, '11 -- it was 2012 when I went to adifferent AFSC. I knew my uncle was doing air trans which wasn't an option for me at that time, but I went over to talk to him and his supervisor if there's any openings because I would've waited for another opening. I went over, I talked to him about what they did and everything. I talked to his supervisor, Chad Shiflet about an opening.
They knew my uncle, my uncle and all his old army buddies joined the unit.Everybody knew him, so I told him I'm his nephew, blah, blah, blah. From there, I talked to their commander of LRS. After, it was within a matter of days, they had an opening. I had to go retake the ASVAB and I had my, Lt. Col. at that time, sign the papers saying that I could re-class over there. It was the best choice I've ever made.
JH: What did that procedure look like from that point on?00:22:00
DK: You mean, the steps and what I did? Nothing too bad. I just got a piece ofpaper saying that I'm able to do a different job, make sure I didn't have a sign-on bonus or anything like that. Once the paperwork was done and said, left Red Horse, went over to air trans, kind of went on my job before they sent me to school and everything.
Then after that, they sent me to school for 6 weeks over in Fort Lee, Virginia.When I came back, you're on what's called seasonal days which are days that you're on active duty orders and it was like 30 days where they train you on your actual job, you drive all the vehicles and everything. After that, then I went to get my job at Medcor, actually.
TP: What was it in talking with your uncle and his colleagues there, what was itabout air trans that made you say, "Yeah, I'm going to re-class to that?
DK: It was the hands-on outside. That's one thing that I made sure that I was --Working administrative, I'm just not a person that sits down on a computer all day and can sit, stare and do forms and everything. I want to be outside, moving stuff, driving vehicles.
Once they told me what our job is and the different ways to do our job, Iinstantly knew I'd fall in love with it and I wanted to work close to my uncle because I don't get to see him that often which sucks, but it's still nice to see him when I came.
JH: Can you say a little bit more about what that dynamic is like? You know youruncle, obviously, from a larger family context and yet you're suddenly you're in this role where you get to work really closely together through your military service, what was that like?
DK: It was awesome. I'd like to say, while he was in the army, he was in thearmy National Guard as a firefighter. When he left or actually, I'm sorry, when 00:24:00Bartley left and joined the International Guard, Bartley brought my uncle and all his friends over and they all joined.
It was awesome because when I came in, I was treated like the new guy,obviously, but it was more of an 'arms wide open' kind of new guy. They're like, "Oh, Comer's your uncle --" I had big shoes to fill. They expected me to do the same as he did and he was an excellent worker. It was nice.
TP: Had you already got your EMT then landed your job or was this -- Whereaboutsin --?
DK: This was, let's see, this was 2012. After I had gotten out of school, I wentback for my EMT license to ST. Clare, when I was working at Volunteers of America as a security guard at that time. Did that. Then I got my license. Then that's when I actually got a job at Medcor, 2012. I was working at Medcor up until I deployed.
It was shortly after, like I got back from Tech school, it was shortly afterwhen they actually told me that I got tasked to deploy. I could still remember working on a job. I had just dropped the patient off at a hospital and my chief called me, he was like, "Hey, we got a tasking for you.
JH: [Inaudible 00:25:35] this deployment tasking with your family life and thisnew career that just started off right where you want it to be civilian side?
DK: I don't know, it was -- I didn't know what to do. I had to talk to my uncle.I was like, "I don't know what to do." I'd just started to settle down, get to 00:26:00where I wanted in life. Erin and I weren't married at that time, but I was with my girlfriend, living with her. Just had a baby. Had a job working as the EMT at Medcor. Working in air trans then you get this tasking and you're like, "What do you do?"
JH: Where were you mobilized and what did the pre-mobilization process lookedlike stateside before you actually went overseas?
DK: I was in Bagram Afghanistan. The process was fast because that tasking wason and off. Yeah, they told me I was going to deploy, then they called me and told me about it, but they're like, "Well, maybe not." Then they told me yes.
With that feeling mixed into the bunch, then finally when they told that I wasgoing to do it, I was going to deploy in February and this was January. I had to go -- I'd work out of base and qualified in the M4 to do a bunch of computer training and get all this gear issued to me.
I had to get setup which, again, sucked because I was away from my family. I'mup here in Mansfield and I'm getting ready to deploy, but I'm not spending time down there. I knew Erin wasn't excited because I'd told her that I was deploying, which was rough because I told my mother-in-law beforehand. I told her, I was like, "I need you to be there when this happens." It was a long process of getting deployed.
Yet, again, I was going to people that had deployed and I'm like, "Hey, whatshould I take, what should I do, is there anything that --" They give you a list of what you should take like an alarm clock and stuff. I'm like, "What do I not need out of this list? I don't want to carry all this extra weight," because you had to carry all the bags, I'm like, "I don't want to carry all this." I talked 00:28:00to my uncle again and he gave just a basic list of what he took when he deployed, it was just all I needed.
JH: How early on in the process you get a sense of the mission you'd be workingtowards and what you'd specifically be doing?
DK: Pretty early. Usually -- That runs into another funny story. In the taskingletter, they tell you basically what your job is supposed to be, what you're going to be doing because active duty Air Force, they work in different sections. We have, probably, 5 different sections in our job as air trans.
When you deploy, you're only going to do that one section for 6 months. Theytold me I was going to be doing ramp, which is the people that drive the vehicles to the plane. They chain down everything, the whole different thing, so the entire time, I'm not even a 5 level, I'm fresh out of Tech school. I don't know everything about the job so they're training me about that job. What's funny about it is I'm training, I'm training to do ramp, then I get there and I do passenger service which is completely different than cargo.
TP: How? What are these differences?
DK: The main differences is passenger cargo is basically, how do I explain, isyou you're going to an air terminal. You have to go through TSA, you have to turn in your bags and stuff like that. That's what passenger service is. We're the people that build up the baggage pallet. We're the people that take the people to the plane, we have manifest, we have to head count, we have to process people like we have to look through the bags because some people like to take home war trophies that are aren't allowed here in the U.S. You find that stuff and you meet -- That's why I said you meet new people because I met so many people doing that. French, English, New Zealand people, the Canadians, Jordanians, Russian, Polish, so many, so many people which is awesome. 00:30:00
JH: You found out about that different job once you arrived in --?
DK: Yeah, once I actually arrived there, I told myself, I'm like, "Okay, I don'twant to work night shifts and I don't want to work passenger service." I kept telling myself that. I get there and -- I can't remember the guy's name, the guy that met up who was in-charge of us in processing, he's like, "Senior [Inaudible 00:30:30] David Kitchen." I'm like, "Yeah." He's like, "Are these your bags?" I'm like, "Yeah." He goes, "Well, you're going to be working nights." I'm like, "Damn."
He's like, "You're going to be working packs." I'm like, "Oh my God, it'severything I didn't want," and I had to work that night. He's like, "Well --" You had to do a bunch of things before you actually went to your dorm or whatever. I had to do all that stuff. I think I had 3 hours of sleep, then I had to go to work.
JH: Let's back up a little bit, what was your deployment process like? How didyou get from Ohio?
DK: I left -- I'll say there's a lot of funny stories. I was originally going toleave from Mansfield, Ohio to Norfolk, Virginia. It was in the middle of February and there was an ice storm right then and there. I remember going -- My whole family is with me, we came up the night before, went out, had dinner. I had my daughter and this ice storm just rolled through, a layer of ice all over the place.
We get there -- I remember because I got in the backseat, I went to grab mydaughter, she was still in the car seat, I grabbed her and I actually almost slipped. I was like, "Agghh." We walked in there, then they kept saying, they're like, "I don't think we can get you out of here."
It was supposed to be a private plane situation thing that they could do.00:32:00They're like, "I don't think we can do this." All of a sudden, it cancelled. I'm like, "What am I going to do?" Then I had to walk down the LRS and they had to give me a ticket from Columbus airport to Norfolk. They did that, I got my ticket. Then we had to drive from Mansfield down to Columbus. That's when I boarded the plane which is actually one of the most emotional things I've ever been through, saying goodbye to everybody.
I've never seen my dad cry, 27 years I've known him and he cried. Bawled hiseyes out. Yeah, everybody was crying. The baby was crying, everyone was getting stressed and crying. Oh man, it was very emotional. Went and got on the plane. From there, went to Norfolk where I was there for a day.
They put me in a room that was a mile away from any kind of grocery store, gasstation, anything like that. I woke up the next morning, I'm like, "Well, I'm hungry." I had to walk all the way down to the gas station and grab some food. Then walking back, it started to pouring down rain. I had one pair of clothes, one pair of clothes and it just poured. At first, I thought of running and I just gave up. I'm like, "I'm not doing this. I'll just embrace the suck, just let it rain on me." I walked back to my room, stripped down, let my clothes dry and I just lay there and just hung out.
The next day, I had to be at the airport at 3 am or something, in some weirdhour. I get up there and there's everybody in the camouflage uniform. That's how you know you're going to deploy is when people are in this different camouflage. 00:34:00Everybody was up there. I went up there and I sat for hours and hours.
I started talking to this younger kid, A1C, I can't remember his name, he'sloadmaster, I started talking to him. We got on the flight together and we flew from Norfolk to Ireland. We stopped in Ireland for 3 or 4 hours. He actually let me use his phone. I can't remember what service he had, but he was able to call from Ireland back to the States. I was actually able to call, talk to my wife, tell her where I was, everything.
Then I went inside of the airport and they opened the bar just for us. I hadquite a few beers of Guinness. Then from there, we boarded the plane and we went from Ireland to Kurdistan where we staged for 3 days. It was cold there. I'd packed away all my winter gear because they give you winter gear and you'd be like, "I'm going to Afghanistan, I don't need that stuff," so I packed it away. I didn't have any kind of winter gear at all. The camouflage uniform is actually really, really thin.
We get to Kurdistan, I don't have a fleece or I don't have a jacket, nothing.I'm walking around. I actually met up some other people who were 2T2s like me, more air trans. I was like the lost puppy, I was just followed them around, "Hey, what are we doing?"
We were there for about 3 days. Then from there is when we boarded on a C17 fromKurdistan to Bagram, Afghanistan. I remember walking off the plane and immediately seeing a giant block of snow. I just shook my head, I'm like, "You've got to be kidding me, we're in Afghanistan."
I knew it was in the mountains, so it was cooler and everything like that, but Ididn't realize that there's still snow there. I just remember seeing that, I'm 00:36:00like, "Life is going to suck for 6 months." Went and got my stuff, then that's where we looped to the part where the guy told me where I was going to be working.
I had to go and get my M16 issued to me and I had to drag all these bags aroundand get up, then unpack a little bit and get my bearing straight about where I'm at, where everything is, what am I going to do, how can I get a hold of my wife, tell her that I'm here, all that other stuff. I had 3 hours of sleep and went to work.
JH: After that epic journey into Bagram, in the days to follow, what were yourinitial impressions of where you'd landed?
DK: It was different, completely, like Kurdistan, when we landed there, Iremember getting off the plane and looking around, I'm like, "Are we in Chernobyl?" It was just bad. I'm like, "Where are we?" Then we actually, all E4s and below, which I was an E4 at that time, had to unload the airplane. We all had to unload everybody -- Everybody had 2 or 3 bags.
I remember getting on the bus and they bussed us from where we landed to thelittle base that they had setup. There was broken down buildings everywhere, you're just like, "Holy crap." Then I remember going to Bagram and that was different. It was surrounded, 360, by mountains.
No, you didn't see any clouds really, ever. Just completely and utterlydifferent. It took me a few days to actually realize, get my bearing straight about where I'm at, what I'm doing, the culture. You have to take a culture class before you go in there, about when you shake their hands, you have to shake with the right hand because they use their left hand to wipe. You have to 00:38:00learn that stuff. Then you just completely forget it when you get there. That's why you talk to the people that you're replacing and they tell about where everything's at, they show you and then they leave.
I can remember, there is this one tree right outside of Base. Every single time-- We had what's called a burn pit where that's where you take all your trash to burn. It's just this giant machines, they throw the paper and everything and they burn it.
I remember always volunteering, Benjamin Davis and I. Benjamin Davis and I werealways volunteering because the way we went, there's this one tree right there. That's the only green you'd ever see. There's just sand everywhere, sand and rocks. You break your ankle, sprain your ankle all the time walking across those rocks.
Every day, I would just -- Every time we go there, I'd like, "Okay, well herecomes the tree." You're really excited over a tree, one tree, you get really excited about. I remember one time, it was after shift and there was this random flower that grew through the rocks. I got really excited about that. It was like some random purple flower. Didn't even know if it was poisonous, but I got excited about it because you don't see anything. You see mountains and rocks.
TP: You had said a lot of your reasons then and on your list was this idea oftravelling, this idea of other cultures. You said you land there, you're trying to get your bearings, you're trying to figure out how to contact back home. Can you describe this initial getting to know your way around, getting assimilated into what's going on, keeping connected with home, how are you figuring all that out?
DK: It was mainly on a day-by-day basis. The good thing about technologynowadays, compared to when I deployed, to when someone else was deployed to Bagram is there was actually Wi-Fi, built-in Wi-Fi that COM had in the passenger service. 00:40:00
They would have 1 or 2 spots throughout the entire Base where you could get alittle bit of Wi-Fi and contact back home. I found this app called Boxer which you can send text messages, picture mail and you can even send voice messages back and forth, all you need was Wi-Fi. That's how I kept in constant contact with my wife.
Then every so often, like once every couple of weeks, I would call my mom orcall my dad. My dad -- The worst part about calling him is he would get emotional like, "You don't need to call me, you don't need to talk to me, talk to your wife." I'm like, "Dad, I talked to her." I'm like, "This is modern technology, I'm able to talk to her every day. You, however, don't even know how to operate a computer, I need to call you."
Yeah, [inaudible 00:40:52] back at home how I'm doing, everything like that.That's the only way, I guess, I can see my daughter grow up is just there's random pictures I would get about how she was, but once she got chicken pox. She got chicken pox at 6 months old. I would see that, I'm like, "Oh, that sucks."
It was unique, different. Then the people that you're replacing, they would tellyou, "Here's the defac which is the cafeteria. Here is the --" I can't think of the proper term, "The haji shops. Here's where this is. Here's COM." COM was actually setup in an old Russian tower, like an airplane tower which was really, really cool.
That's where I learned where the mine -- There's still minefields inside theBase. They showed me where the active mines, the fire pits. Yeah, people that were there that you're replacing, they were nice. They took you under their 00:42:00wing, they showed the ins and outs, they showed you all the air field, everything like that. Then what was cool was I took that process that they did. When new people come in, I'd do the same thing, just over and over and over.
JH: One of the things I wanted to ask you about, you'd mentioned in ourpre-interview and just a moment ago to your friend Davis. It seems like there was quite a tight network of camaraderie with those you serve with.
DK: Oh man, him and Anthony Pepizo. Benjamin Davis he's from the MississippiGuard. Anthony Pepizo he's active duty, he was stationed in Japan. Us, three, we were inseparable. We literally -- I would spend, out of 24 hours a day, I would probably spend 16 hours or more with all 3 of us guys.
We wake up, come to work. After work, we'd go eat out or on our days that wedidn't work out, we'd go to the haji shops, eat, sleep, just repeat. You do this 7 days a week. I saw these people 7 days a week and you develop a bond with them that you can't really develop with other people, especially when we go through the same stuff. The best part was, Pepizo was colorblind too. Him and I had something to talk about all the time.
TP: What's your job like as you're getting into that? Can you describe a littlebit about -- I know you said that you were trained and went over thinking you were doing ramp, then you show up and surprise, you're doing nights and passenger service. Can you describe what that job is like in an Air Force or on airbase like Bagram?
DK: Busy, really, really, really busy because we worked with Indians in the00:44:00warehouse and they would actually help us build up people's bags. People would turn in their bags and there were contractors that worked out front that would do the processing with the computer, they put them on a waiting list or setup the flights and everything like that, then they would turn their bags in.
We worked with the Indians and help build up the cargo. We'd take the cargo outto the plane or we'd go to a plane, unload the passengers and put them inside the passenger service where [inaudible 00:44:38] go which is the people that are in-charge of accountability, they do the briefings, "Welcome to Bagram. This is where this is, this is the danger level," blah, blah, blah. We just turn them into PERSCO, then repeat.
You would process their bags and everything. Sometimes, you'd have to go throughthe bags, like contractors, we have to go to their bags so they didn't take war trophies home or even bring alcohol in because general order 1 bravo at that time, "No alcohol." You would catch people that would try and smuggle alcohol in all the time or try and smuggle PKNs which are light machines guns out. It's just insane.
JH: What was it like having a role that you're the gatekeeper between peoplecoming and going?
DK: It was different because people treat you the same as -- Say, you work in anactual civilian air terminal and there's that angry customer that comes up and starts yelling at you, well, there's that. Then you get the people who are higher ranks that have brass on who think that they should be higher on the list than this person who's injured and needs to be sent to Ramstein.
You can't yell at them because you can get in trouble even though you're right,00:46:00but you have to have patience and you have to explain things. Sometimes they don't understand the process and sometimes they do. Basically, the most I can compare is working to a civilian airport. There's a whole process to everything. Of course, you get those people who think they're better than you or better than anyone else in society, that they should be treated better.
JH: Were there any unique or really challenging parts of your working passengerservice that had been really informative for your experience?
DK: Just the training, really. There's a lot of people in my unit that joinedwhen I left that won't experience the same kind of process that I did, in-processing people, going up to C17 and there's been 117 people that you have to unload, take them from here and keep them in order, in a straight line from straying off and taking then over here or driving a K loader across on to the hot ramp which that's the only way you can download and upload ammunition and everything.
I hope they do experience because we go -- They actually just went on an annualtraining over to McGuire and you experienced a little McGuire, but not the same. It's not same as any average one.
TP: There you just kind of described a couple of very different things, so whatis your day-to-day like? Describe the rinse, wash, repeat of it, but right there you've got your passenger details very different than an MO load. You're doing all of those--
DK: Yeah, we helped out ramp a lot because ramp would help us out. Say, we go upto a plane, same with the AirEvac missions where they put injured soldiers and transport them to Ramstein. You would pull up to a plane with passengers and 00:48:00there's obviously a lot of times like cargo has be uploaded. You tell everybody, it'll be a few minutes. You get out and you go up there, you help them push the cargo on to the plane and help them chain it down.
Not only -- Sometimes, not only were you doing your job which is your job, butyou'd be helping out people or same with ATOC. ATOC is Air Terminal something, I can't remember. It's basically the people that meet the aircraft. They are the ones that have the forms and like, "Okay, this is what you're getting. This is what we're taking off. This is where everything's going" blah, blah, blah, blah and they take the forms.
They would do that to you. We'd just help out each other. Everybody is a 2T2.Sure, you have different jobs, but everybody is a 2T2. This guy may have more knowledge than I am, then I'm going to watch him. That way I can learn what he's doing.
JH: You had mentioned to me in the phone interview that your particular shiftwas called the Alpha shift.
JH: Can you tell us a little bit more?
DK: Yeah, this is the part where I say that me working passenger service onnight was probably what made my deployment the best deployment I've ever heard of. Working nights was awesome because when I would get on shift, my wife would be getting off work. I'd be able to talk to her up until a certain point, then she'd go to bed.
Our shift is one of the only shifts that actually everybody got along. Therewere no clicks, there was no people doing their own thing. We were a tight group. Everybody, for the most part, got along and understood each other. We understood each other's boundaries and we just had fun. It was awesome.
Sergeant Ecker, which was our shift supervisor, called us the Alpha shiftbecause we were one of the only shifts that volunteer -- If some random thing 00:50:00came up where they're like, "Hey, we need someone to go do this real fast." Not part of your job, but as like a volunteer, Davis and I would be like, "Hey, we'll do it." Not a lot of people on the other shift would do that. You'd always hear about --
Sad to say, you would always hear about high school drama from the other shift,"This person doesn't like this other person" blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. We weren't like that.
Sure, there were a few people we didn't like or they didn't like us, but we allgot along, we understood that. "I wasn't going to treat this guy any different because I may rely on this guy to save my life at some point during this deployment. I'm not going to treat him different." We always made fun of the other shift and called us the Alpha shift. They really hated it, really hated it, but it was fun.
JH: Can you say a little bit more about the culture of volunteerism on yourshift or why you and Davis, in particular, why you're compelled to take on these --?
DK: it was just fun, something different. Whenever I go somewhere, I don'texpect it to be the same, like I don't want to be in the same rut that passes time, but I want to do different stuff. I volunteered to work at detention center to guard 2 Afghanis that tried to set an IED right outside our fence.
I volunteered to drive a bus and pick-up the EOD guy and some special operationsguy to go outside and retrieve something. We volunteered to drive a bus over there and pick them up. We talked to them and dropped him off somewhere. We volunteered to go to the fire pit just so I could see that one tree all the time. It was just in anything, literally anything.
I would volunteer to go down to the special op side where they had the AC130sand talk to their 2T2s, help them setup something and then comeback. Anything to 00:52:00do something different because it was fun, going there was fun doing my job, but something different is always nice or even be in the person -- Davis and I would always volunteer, the person that goes out --
Say, there's an attack, rocket attack which happened often, you would have theparty which would go out and see if any of the rockets didn't explode, the UXO team, unexploded ordinance. You'd have a team go out there and look in your little zone that you have like a map, looking at the little zone to see if there's any UXOs. Davis and I would always volunteer after an attack.
TP: Describe that a little bit. Can you describe the -- When was the moment thatyou realized, "I'm in a combat zone." Can you describe what this is like[crosstalk 00:52:54]
DK: The first --
TP: That you guys -- That the bases, bases as large as Bagram get attacked on aregular basis.
DK: I guess the first time I realized I was in a combat was the first rocketattack, we were on our shift. You just standing there, everybody's sitting there, talking, we're not really busy then all of a sudden, you hear the big boy voice say, "Incoming, incoming!"
When they say, "Incoming, incoming" you have point 2 seconds to get on theground because the 107 mike-mike rocket doesn't explode outwards, when it hits, it explodes 2 feet up. You have like a 2 foot to where you couldn't get hit with shrapnel.
I remember standing there, it was within the first week I was there. I wastrying to get my bearing straight and everything, realize what's going on. I hear the "Incoming, incoming" and I just see everybody just drop and I just dropped real fast. I'm like, "What?" then you just hear this loud explosion outside.
At first, in my mind, I'm like, "What in the world could that even be?" I'mlike, "What is that?" I asked somebody a stupid question, I'm like, "What was 00:54:00that?" They're like, "It was a rocket." You would hear 2 or 3 explosions. You'd lay there for a minute, then that big boy voice would say, "All clear," then that's when you get up and walk around your grid coordinates to see if there as any UXOs.
Oh yeah, it was, I don't want to say exhilarating, but the adrenalin pump whenyou just -- You're like, "Holy crap," you could die. Granted, it's probably 60 yard, 100 yards away, but I remember doing my intel briefing before I deployed. It was the October before I deployed, one of the rockets actually hit the passenger terminal, went right through the walls. It didn't explode, but went right through the wall into an empty room, just tore it to bits. That could literally happen. That's what goes through your mind that it can literally happen at any point in your entire life.
JH: What was your sense at that time of your deployment of the larger U.S.military mission in Bagram, what was going on in that part of the country and what were you all collectively trying to do?
DK: Basically, just our job is transporting cargo whether it be passengers,whether it be cargo, whether it be caskets, whether it be injured soldiers, sending back to Reinstein. That's what you get a sense of where you're like, "Okay, I'm actually going to do my job because in the guard, it's different than in active duty. We're not as busy as active duty. We get random army movements sometimes or like Red Horse when they deploy their equipment, they have to go through us and we have to inspect it and do everything like that. That's when you're like, "Oh man, I'm actually doing my job."
A couple of weeks ago, Toledo, the fighter wing they actually deployed, but theydon't have any air trans because they're fighter units, so they don't have any 00:56:00cargo ships. They have one air trans guy, so Bartley, Craig, Walts and I, we all went up there and stayed for the week. We're the people that put everything on a C5, chained it up and made sure everything was good.
That's when you get to do your job. When they tell you you're going to deploy,that's the only thing going through your mind like, "Oh my God, I get to do my job, yehey!" Because before I was working at base fulltime, it was traditional. You would go on a typical drill weekend, you do more training than anything. It's like, you go in, you have to do this computer training or they have little training things that you have to just put up cargo or something, it's not the real thing. Until you actually do it, you don't know what you're doing.
JH: I'd like to ask you what life was like on days off-duty [inaudible00:56:58]. What did you do? What was it like?
DK: It was different. Like I said, we would literally be at the gym for 2 hoursa day, just to buy time. Then after, it's the same routine, after the gym, we'd go to the cafeteria, you grab a sandwich, go to sleep, but sometimes when we didn't feel like working out, we would go to the haji shop where they had every known movie ever on DVD, even movies that weren't in the movie theater, they were pirated. You go and get a movie to watch, buy some time or you'd walk down to the big haji mart where they would actually have Afghanistan blankets which I bought, then they would have little antiques and stuff. You'd go there and just buy stuff. Then you go back to sleep.
Sometimes if we're bored during a shift, we'd go to the fire pit, but we'd takea detour and go to different parts of the Base which not a lot of people have been to just to see it, see whatever he's doing, see what's going on. That's 00:58:00where I found the mine field. There's an exploded car in the mine field and everything, it's pretty cool.
TP: How big are we talking about, we didn't get into that, how big is Bagram?
DK: Bagram is huge. They call it MOAB, the Mother Of All Bases because it's thebiggest, I'd have to say, it's the biggest Base in Afghanistan. It's the entry point that people would come into before they would go to Mazar-e Sharif or Kandahar.
Kandahar was a big Base because it was the capital of Afghanistan, but Bagramwas the biggest. We're the in-processing and the out-processing point. People are going to leave out of Afghanistan, they would have to go through to us. Then from us, to Kurdistan or wherever.
TP: You mentioned in your passenger transport that -- It sounds like your timewas mostly spent inside the wire as opposed to a couple driving trips outside maybe because you said you volunteered to do some bus--
DK: Yeah, it was all on base still.
TP: Still on base?
DK: Yeah, like I said, it was a huge Base. All we did was we transported thepeople from one place to another. Actually, the particular time that we had to do that was when an F16 crashed and hit the mountains right outside of Base. Sergeant Ecker came up and he was like, "Hey, I need 2 volunteers."
They would never say what you're going to volunteer for, but my uncle alwaystold me, "Raise your hand, no matter what it is. It could be the best job you could ever get or it could be the worst. You'll never know. Throw all the dice every time," but as soon as he said, he was like, "I need 2 people," Davis and I were like, "Yeah, we got it."
We had to go and pick up an EOD guy and some Special Forces guy and transportthem to the helipad where they went off-base and did their thing. 01:00:00
TP: Even though you're not going outside the wire, obviously you guys aregetting shelled and also attacks are coming in. Then you said you were responsible for transporting or loading or providing ingress and egress for caskets for wounded soldiers. Can you describe what that's like as the person who's --
You're not out there on the "frontlines", even though that's not necessarily aterm that applies anymore. You're in direct contact with these people who are and who have been. What's that like?
DK: It's different. I mean, you can see people's faces, you can tell thatthey've been out there. I made a thing for myself to kind of like, you know these people are probably not going to be the nicest people in the world but they have a reason. They were out there; getting shot at. Small arms fire.
Small arms fire is completely than from a rocket. A rocket's just we'll shoot itand then hope it dings. Small arms fire they're shooting at you and these people are being shot at and I made it a thing for myself where I'm like, "If this guy's being mean and an a-hole to me or whatever, I'm not going lash back at him."
They would come in -- I remember this big infantry unit came in through and theywere processing and they had just got out of the field and I was like, "Hey, you guys want some chips? I'm sure you guys have been eating MRE's this entire time," so I just gave them the whole box of chips, like, "Eat up."
They're the reason why that base hasn't gotten overrun. They're the reason I'mstill standing. I have a job. I load people, load cargo. I load cargo so they 01:02:00can get it but they're the real veterans in my eyes. They're the real people. My job's just as important as another person but they're the reason we have freedom here.
TP: Why is that a delineation in your mind that you make?
DK: I don't know actually. It's just what comes, you know. I know I'm a veteranfor what I do but I've never actually been shot at. I've never killed someone. I've dealt with death through my job. That's fine but I've never actually shot at someone and killed them. I don't know what that's like. I don't ever want to know what it's like.
For them to actually know what it's like, it's completely different. Mybrother-in-law, Erin's brother, army infantry. Four years. Three of the four years, he's in Iraq and Afghanistan. Comes back. He's been shot. I'm sure he's killed people and it changes people.
Erin says he's nothing like he was back in the day. He deals with PTSD on aconstant thing. The VA approved him 100% which was awesome but it was a battle to get that much. It was a battle. They denied him and that's something that he has to deal with for the rest of his life.
JH: You mentioned for example giving chips to the infantry unit men. What weresome other things that you did on the job that honored the service of the other folks who were coming through?
DK: I just treat them with the utmost respect. If they needed water, I'd go getthem water. Pretty much if they needed anything, I was -- We were there to help them. I don't want some guy that was just out in the field and watched a buddy 01:04:00die come back and then still be treated like crap. This isn't the Vietnam War. I'm not going to spit on him call -- Anything like that. I'm going to treat him with the utmost respect because that's what they deserve.
TP: What other notable things were happening on your deployment?
DK: Probably the biggest notable one was that 747 crash. Boeing 747 wanted totake off in the airfield and it got up into the air but from what, actually what I just found out recently, the locking mechanism inside that holds the pallets broke which caused a chain reaction from the first pallet, causing it all the way down.
It caused the 747 to go up partial way and then crash into the airfield whichwas a huge, huge explosion.
TP: What happens then? Are you on duty at this point?
DK: I was off duty. I'd just gotten off duty. Back when I smoked, we were out inthe smoking pit, smoking shack that we built and I saw the plane take off. I remember it went to go up in the air and I heard this weird noise, like a weird engine noise. I'd never heard it before and I was like, "That's weird."
I literally went to step out and just a giant explosion. That's all I heard sowe dove to the ground. We thought it was a rocket attack and we're like, "Whoa." Big boy voice didn't come up," so we got up and just the whole sky was just engulfed in black smoke.
We were just sitting there in awe like what do you do? What can you do? The firedepartment, actually the firehouse was down the runway a little bit and they 01:06:00were actually the ones that responded. I was like you can't do anything. You just sit there like a deer in the headlight. You don't know what to do. 7 people died in that, actually.
JH: How did that event affect morale on the base and what was morale like duringthe overall term?
DK: I don't remember how morale was because we were in and out of it. We got ittaken away all of the time because we were hooligans so we got in trouble a lot. Their morale was taken away was we were not allowed to use our cellphone, which sucked because I wasn't able to talk to my wife during work at all.
After that, you know, everybody's like, "Oh, my god. What just happened?"Al-Qaeda's like, "Hey, we did it." Everybody's trying to figure out what happened? What's going on? Who died? How did it happen? Everything like that and actually the rest I didn't find out anything my entire deployment about what happened.
It was all speculation. People thought they knew what was going on and Iliterally just found out probably a couple of weeks ago that the actual cause was the locking mechanism. The crazier part was that where it crashed was at the end of the runway and that's where you took to go to the fire-pit and when you took it there, it took them a long time to even clear it up.
You would just get there and there would just be like these hunks of metaleverywhere. The whole nose end of the plane was still there and MRAPs or Humvees were still chained to the pallet. Completely still there, just chained to the pallet down on the ground.
It was all contractors that did it. Any time one of the 747's came in, it was01:08:00contractors that loaded it and everything. The air force didn't touch it at all.
JH: Why was that?
DK: I have no idea. It would have to be something with the contracting becausethat's all that's over there right now, pretty much. It's contractors. They've replaced us all. There's a few people actually. I know there's a few 2T2s because one of the guys I was deployed with, he just got sent back and he's got a baby going to be born here soon but he just got sent back.
There's a few of us, not necessarily National Guard but more of active dutybecause active duty gets tasked a lot more than us.
TP: Can you describe even just the idea of contractors? You said you interfacedwith them quite a bit like you were working with Indian contractors for baggage and that sort of thing. Can you talk a little bit more about what your relationships; did you form relationships with these contractors and then also generally what's going on with contractors?
DK: I did. There was -- The contracts that worked up front were obviously UScitizens. There was a woman and her husband had been there for 7 years, just being contractors. You just develop a relationship with them because you have got to work with them.
The Indians that worked in the back, they kind of stayed to themselves but Iwould go back there and talk to them and ate some of their food. They were the nicest people to males. They were the nicest people in the entire world. They smoked so they would be out in the smoke pit and anytime one of us would go out there and they were sitting down, they would get right up and offer you their seat and not even think twice about it.
JH: You mentioned early on that one of your prime motivations for enlisting andone of the reasons for being open to deployment was being excited about cultural exchange, getting to meet people from different parts of the world. What was like, all told, across your deployment? How much did you get to know people from 01:10:00Afghanistan? How much did you get to know cultures of people from lots of different places around?
DK: A lot. Waheed was a Pakistani and he was super nice but the only problem wasyou can't develop a real close bond with them because, you know, 'keep your friends close but your enemies' closer' was the thing you had to do. You can't really trust -- They caught him with mail. US mail from other people. They caught it with him. That's the kind of stuff you've got to look out for.
Granted, I felt bad for him and I would actually give him some of our food butyou develop a bond but not a real close bond. You keep an eye on them.
TP: What was his role? How did you meet him? How did this relationship develop?
DK: They hired him. They contracted him. His only job was to clean, pretty much,around the outside. Pick up random trash and everything like that. There was actually 2 Afghani boys that lived in the village right outside of base that would come in and help him and that was their only job.
He would help us clean up a little bit and everything like that but it wasn't ahuge, significant role but it was still money for him. We would -- The Afghani boys, they didn't get paid very much but we actually collected skids that they could give to their family because during the winter, they don't have any wood.
It sounds bad but the only thing that they used to burn was their own feces. Wewould all of us would collect skids to give to our first sergeant who would distribute to the families in the villages outside.
Another significant thing would be an earthquake. Had an earthquake there. It01:12:00hailed once which was the most bizarre thing in the entire world. In Kurdistan a KC135 fell apart in midair. There's a lot actually. There's so many little stories that I experienced in my 6 months.
TP: What happens when a earthquake happens? How'd this come about?
DK: Well, I had no idea. I live in Ohio so obviously we don't have earthquakes.I had just got out of the shower and I was walking back to my room. As soon as I walked in there I felt a tremble I'm like, "Maybe my eyes are twitching." I looked at the bottle of water. The bottle of water was like doing this. I just stood there and I'm like, "What in god's name is actually happening right now?"
It only lasted for 15 seconds but it was the most random occurrence ever. Wellthat and the hail. The hail was extremely weird by another standard. It just decided to hail one day for about 15 minutes. It just hailed little balls. It wasn't even winter. It was a random hail.
It very rarely rained there too. You could see the clouds above the mountainsthat surrounded you but you would never see the clouds above the base. It was always blue skies which was nice.
JH: Did you ever get a sense of how the US presence at Bagram was received byAfghani's in the community?
DK: Yeah, it's not like they were arms wide open with us. There was tension youcould tell. Maybe I was over observant and imagined it but there was obviously tension. They didn't really talk to us. We didn't really talk to them. They stayed their course. We stayed ours. We watched them obviously but let them do 01:14:00their own thing because they had escorts. Anytime they were around base, they had escorts, military escorts with them at all times.
I can actually remember seeing -- I can't remember what they did, they werefixing something on a roadway and I look up and there was this little S10 pick-up truck with like 30 people in it just driving along and I just started laughing randomly because it was hilarious.
JH: Towards the end of your deployment, how did you conceive of your role andthe role of your fellow Air transport officers in the bigger picture of the US military?
DK: When I left, it was another emotional time. I felt like I did good. It was agood sense. When we talked before, I told you I would help out with the aerial Evac missions. You just get that sense of pride. Maybe I didn't do anything special besides carry a wounded soldier and maybe I was the last person that soldier ever talked to before he passed away. You just get that sense of, "Yeah, I did good. I think I did pretty well."
TP: Describe that a little bit because that's come up a couple of differenttimes. I was looking in my notes. When you have a wounded soldier who's getting Evac'd, give us a little bit of the process but also what did you do in that process? What was your role in that and how did that play out?
DK: The only part that we played was more like a volunteer like I'm going tohelp. You would have passengers or you would hear about an aerial Evac mission on a C17 and Davis and I, we'd volunteer as much as we could. You would go out there and they would just have this giant bus with people in cots. The people 01:16:00that weren't mortally wounded or anything, they could just walk up and get on the plane.
People that were missing limbs and everything, there would be a team of us andwe would take the cot off and they would actually have an entire setup inside the C17 where they had monitors and everything setup to where you could just take that cot and just put it right there.
Sometimes you would talk to the guys, get to know them a little bit. Sometimesyou couldn't talk to them because they were out, unconscious, going to Ramstein. The only thing you could do is just hope they'd stay alive.
JH: About how long would it take for these Medevac planes to get to Ramstein?
DK: To Ramstein, I'm trying to think. It's like a 3 hour flight, 3 to 4 hourflight but they always said, I've always heard the rumor that if you made it to Bagram alive then you're going to stay alive which 9 times out of 10, that was true because we would always keep a tab on people that would go to Ramstein and if they all made it and everything. There was that1% of the time that didn't make it and you would hear about it.
TP: It sounds like you guys would have pretty good communication on how peoplefaired getting to Ramstein but once they got there --
DK: We would just make sure the flight got there and we knew people in Ramsteinthat we would call and see how it was or ask who worked that flight or anything like that and see if anything happened. We would just keep a tab.
JH: Did you have EMT training or firefighting experience although it wasn't yourdetail for this deployment. Did that come into play at all?
DK: yes actually on 2 occurrences it did. One guy went into cardiac arrest in01:18:00the middle of package terminal and everybody knew I was the EMT because everybody knew everybody's job outside of the military. If you were a guard, we knew your job because you would know everybody.
One guy went into cardiac arrest who I had to do CPR on right in the middle ofpackage terminal. I remember it because I was actually studying to be a staff sergeant. The phone rang and he was like, "Kitchen, Kitchen, we need your help." I'm like, "What." He's like, "Someone's laying on the ground unconscious, I don't know." I'm like, "Okay," so I ran in there and had to assist the guy and do as much as I good until the paramedics came and took over with that and then took him away.
Another time, a couple of people fell out due to dehydration so I'd help outwith that. Another guy, a contractor's pacemaker was acting up so I did basic life support to do as much as I could until the paramedics came.
It seems to follow me wherever I go and that's the best part about being guard.Not only do I have my air trans job, I'm a certified EMT and fire-fighter which I can do. I can get a job as EMT and still work. Which is nice to have it on my license. I enjoy doing it not because of the money but it's sort of like a passion of mine.
That's another thing that runs in the family. My uncle, he's a paramedic. Mygrandfather, his dad was one of the first paramedics to ever work in Mount Sterling as a paramedic. It's just something that I've always been passionate about.
TP: How did the -- I know you said if they made it to Bagram alive, they stayedalive but you also had instances where you were transporting caskets. How does impact you as a soldier who's over there serving? 01:20:00
DK: It's airman not soldier, just FYI, just kidding. It was weird because like Isaid, I was working as EMT before I deployed so I was used to death at that point. It was still weird like you would just sit there. I remember it was me and Davis and Pipizo and we were just sitting on the picnic and we saw some army guys with a casket go in a Humvee. They would take a casket and you would just sit there in silence.
You would think to yourself, "What did they die for? What did they die from? Dothey have family? Do they have kids? All these things come in play. Not necessarily I'm going to get shot but what if a rocket comes and hits me? I have a daughter and a wife back at home and family? It's just things that go through your mind constantly.
You just sit there in silence. You don't speak. They have a whole -- They dowhat's called a ramp freeze. Where they see there's no cargo being uplifted and there's no packs mission, the number 1 priority is getting that coffin onto the plane and getting sent home.
There was this one occurrence where a contractor, his son was deployed and diedand he actually got on the plane with the casket and went home with the casket. There was actually 4 soldiers that died from a rocket attack in Bagram. Rocket attack came and they didn't get on the ground because once you're there for so long and you hear that incoming, incoming, you just become numb to it. Like you don't care.
I can remember several times, I'd be laying in bed and you just hear, "Incoming,incoming," and I would just wake up and look around and you would just hear an 01:22:00explosion and you'd go back to bed. If it's going to kill me, it's going to kill me. There is something I can do but you just become numb to it.
TP: You said 4 --
DK: Yeah, 4 soldiers died. Rocket came in and just hit all 4 of them. Killedthem. Those rockets coming in -- It's completely different. You just hear a whistling noise and just an explosion and just to see that explosion off in the distance, I can't even compare it to anything.
Not necessarily your life flashes before your eyes but you're just in awe aboutthe fact that at any point this could have hit. I had one hit that was like 20, 25 yards away from me. It blew up in the road. It was probably one of the roughest times is when the rockets came in.
JH: Amongst your group of close friends that you served on the shift with, didyou guys process these experiences of the danger you were in or what it was like having rockets come in even [cross talk 01:23:13]
DK: We never talked about it. It was just like our own thing. I talked to Davison a daily basis but it's nothing anything that we ever talked about. He could probably have something completely different.
I, myself, I can't be around fireworks. I tried to going to the 4th of July andI just can't do it. Davis, on the other hand, he could probably enjoy it. I enjoy shooting but I don't enjoy fireworks. Everybody has a different reaction to it. Everybody processes things different.
TP: There's something in your phone interview that I wanted to double back onand it was about Zero Dark 30. I was curious to know how did that -- Did that 01:24:00play into the time you were deployed?
DK: No. It was -- I was explaining, the prison from Bagram is in Zero Dark 30and I went to that prison on accident, Davis and I did. It was the time that I volunteered to do the detention and nobody told us where it was, Nobody knew where it was. We were just going and we were like, "I have no idea."
We drove around Bagram, all over Bagram and we come up to this prison lookingthing and we kind of go up and this army guy comes out and he's like, "Hey, can I help you?" We're like, "Hey, yeah, we're here to replace so and so and guard the prisoners." He looked at us like we're stupid.
We're like, "Is so and so there?" and he's like, "I don't know." He's like, "Letme ring up." We waited there for like an hour and he come back and he's like, "I don't know where you guys are from or why you're even here." He's like, "This is the prison." We're like, "We know. We're supposed to be here to replace somebody."
He's like, "We don't take volunteers to do this." We're like, "Okay, we're atthe wrong place. Sorry," and so we went back and actually the detention center was probably like 5 minutes down the road from where we work after we finally figured it out and went there.
We sat in the truck. We're like, "Why are we here? Why are we doing this? Thisis dumb." It was pretty cool. It was very, very secretive. The whole thing because what they would do is, that's the in-processing. That's where they would interrogate the people that would come in on the planes because you would -- Random planes would come in and we wouldn't know about it but we would hear them and be like, "What, are they manifested?" they're like, "No," so you'd go out there and all it is, is a bunch of security forces with a prisoner that they would take there.
We called them Smurfs because they always had a blue bag on their head.
JH: When this kind of stuff was going on, what kind of questions were you01:26:00allowed to ask of someone working in air trans? We're you able to talk with your supervisor and be like, "Hey, what's that group doing? What's happening there?" or was it just like --
DK: Secretive. It's more of a , "We'll tell you if you need to know, kind ofthing." Just like the whole bus incident when we picked up the EOD guy. We had no idea what we were doing but when we picked him up, we asked him, "What are you guys doing?" They were real cool and they told us, "Yeah, we're going after that. Map out the F16, make sure we 'd get the black box or whatever; get all the information and everything."
Especially being an E4; nobody ever tells you anything. You're just there to dowhat they say.
JH: Are there any other formative experiences that made up your deployment thatwe haven't gotten to talk about so far?
DK: I'm trying to think. There was a lot of things. Nothing that I can off thetop of my head.
JH: Well, I guess what was happening back at home in the 6 months with yourfamily in Ohio?
DK: Oh, besides my daughter going through chicken pox at 6 months old; just hergrowing up and Erin being pretty much a single mother for 6 months taking care of her but her mother-in-law, hell of a soul, she'd always come over and help her out because my mother-in-law lives 5 or 10 minutes away so she would always come over and help Erin.
Erin was just keeping her mind busy so she wouldn't worry about me. Any timethere was an attack or when the F16, there'll be what's called 'blackout' where there's no radio transaction and there's no Wi-Fi so I would go 2 or 3 days without talking to Erin and then be able to talk to her and be like, "Hey, How's 01:28:00it going?"
TP: Was she trying to not pay attention to news? Did she pay attention to newsand how did that --
DK: She didn't pay attention to the news. I don't think that she wanted to knowwhat's going on because that would cause more worries than anything.
TP: Be honest, one of your duties involving skinning and searching throughpeople's bags both incoming and outgoing and you mentioned there was some contraband type stuff. Can you describe that experience and what's that duty like and what kind of things are you coming up in these searches?
DK: Random, random. The most random things. The one time there was a big box ofPKM machine guns this one contractor had. You're only allowed to carry so much ammo on a plane. You not allowed to carry any explosives; no grenades or anything.
I remember looking at it and I knew exactly what they were. I looked at him andI'm like, "Why do you have PKM's?" He's like, "Ah, I got to take these with me." I'm like, "You can't. You cannot take these with you."
He's like, "Yeah, I can." He's like, "I even have a letter," and he presented aletter and it didn't say anything about PKMs so I went to my supervisor. I'm like, "Hey, I don't know what to do man. This guy has like 3 light machine guns in this box and he wants to take them." I'm like, "You're going to have to do your supervisor roles and help me out."
Alcohol, that was another one we found quite a few times. Some people would seethat we were doing searches and so they would run to the restroom and throw the alcohol in the trashcan and we'd find it and have to turn it in. Contractors, they were the big ones. They were the main culprits for the alcohol because they would go through Dubai or somewhere and get alcohol and try and bring it back.
Very personal things because we'd have to send things through -- We had bigx-ray machines that very female personal things would come through and you'd very clearly, plain as day see what it is. You're like, "Okay, take your things 01:30:00and go on."
JH: Do you have a memory of what your days were like leading up to your returnto the United States?
DK: I can tell you I was up for 36 hours. We left Bagram and leaving Bagram waspretty memorable because I remember we went through the processing for the military police which, the majority of the time, they're the guys that take the contraband away from people.
Just to roll back a little bit with them, we had a thing going on. I wouldalways call the MP's because we would get the chips and everything and they would always confiscate the cigarettes. You're only allowed to take a 100 cigarettes out of Afghanistan because you could by a pack -- I bought a carton of cigarettes for $10 dollar, Marlboro Reds.
People would do that. They would buy cartons but you're only allowed to take 100cigarettes out so they would confiscate. Every so often, whenever we'd be low on cigarettes, I'd call them up. I'll go like, "Hey, you guys got some cigarettes?" they're like, "Yeah," and I would meet them.
There was a Bridgeway from the military to the MP's processing and then thepassenger service. I would always meet them in the middle and have a box of random potato chips I'd give it to them. They'd have a box of cartons of cigarettes and I'd take that and just divvy it up. It was South Korean cigarettes, Swedish cigarettes, just random things. I'm like, " I don't care. As long as they're not menthol, I'll smoke them."
Cuban cigars actually; that was the big one too. It's one of the best cigars.I'm not much of a cigar person but a Cuban, an actual Cuban cigar is one of the best cigars I've ever had. They confiscated a box of them. Somebody was trying to leave back to the States with a box and they took them and gave them to us. 01:32:00
TP: You said you were getting ready to leave. You were going into being up for36 straight hours going into processing.
DK: The best feeling in the world is when you get to turn in your M16 rifle. Imight still have it with me, hold on. I'm sorry. Hopefully I do. Yep, here it is. Check this out. They give you that slip of paper when you turn in your M16 and that is the best feeling in the world because you don't have to carry it around with you.
You're only allowed to do it, it's like 2 or 3 days prior because anywhere yougo, you'd always have to have a bullet in the chamber and you would have to have your M16 anywhere you went. When I turned that in, it was just awesome.
After that we were -- The good thing about being a 2T2's is we take care of eachother. It was me and Davis and a couple of other people, we were up in passenger terminal after we processed and one of the 2T2's that were on the other shift, just this morning came up and told me, "Hey go grab the other 2T2s." They loaded us first so we got to pick our own seats. Side wall seats which is where you want to go because you can go to the restroom any point in the time. It's the most comfortable. We got loaded first before anybody else.
Then we got to Kurdistan, we were in Kurdistan for about 3 days again. I toldmyself, I remember getting into Kurdistan, because you were so tired, I remember falling asleep on the in processing when I was trying to turn in my armor. I lay down on my armor. I was out cold for 35 minutes. My buddy had to wake me up.
The last day we were in Kurdistan I told myself, Alright I'll] stay up. I won't01:34:00sleep all night. Sleep on the plane home. I tried sleeping. We flew on a 777. Tried sleeping. Couldn't. We landed in Turkey. We were in Turkey for 4 hours because we had a stowaway. A stowaway is someone who's not supposed to be on the plane who is on the plane.
We were in Turkey for 4 hours. The only cafeteria they had didn't take creditcards, or any kind of cards. You had to have cash. None of us had cash. We were sitting on the ground and people would be walking around with food and we were like, "Food please. Food. Food for the poor."
It was so hot. Oh my God. I walked outside. It was humid that was the worstpart. I walked outside to smoke a cigarette one time within that 4 hours, I was drenched in sweat. I'm like, "I'm not doing this."
We got back on the plane and we went from there to Reinstein which's a couple ofhours. Still didn't sleep. We were in Reinstein for 45 minutes. Just enough time to get off the plane, ran outside in Germany smoked a cigarette and then ran back inside. Got back in the air. We flew from Reinstein to Baltimore, the Baltimore airport. We landed there and that's actually when I said good bye to most of the people I knew. They were all from Jersey. If they were from Jersey, they would just get a car ride to Jersey. Everybody had different flights.
Just said your goodbyes. So you'll never see them again. Still didn't sleep.Then I got on the plane from Baltimore to Michigan. Then Michigan to the Columbus airport where I saw everybody.
JH: What was your homecoming experience like?
DK: Well, I can tell you. I remember bits and parts because I'd been up for so01:36:00long, so I was real earthy but I remember walking off the plane, walking down. I don't know if -- It was a real strong feeling. I just remember walking off and I think I saw my mom. Erin was out holding Alice and then my dad. Erin just started crying. She handed Alice off to mom real fast and just came and just hugged me. I just held on to her for 15 minutes. It was so hard.
Both my mom and my dad and everything. But at the same time it was hard becauseI just spent 6 months away from my daughter who was 3 months old and now she's 9. She's no clue who I am. Doesn't want to even be around me. If I held her, instantly started crying. If I was around her, instantly started crying. That was rough.
My wife got a little mad because when I got off, when I walked in my ChiefMaster Sergeant was there and my uncle was there. There was a bunch of people who were saying 'hi' and "welcome and blah, blah, blah," and my Chief just hands me a $100. He's like, "Here take your family out to dinner or for lunch." "Alright" He was like, "Where do you want to eat?" I'm like, "McDonalds." This was right across the-- I was like "I have a $100, I want to go to McDonalds. Sorry." I'm like, "I have been eating just food for 6 months."
The only reason she got mad is because my best friend, my best friend tattooartist Matt was there and I rode from the airport to McDonalds in his car and she got mad and my grandma called me an a-hole because I didn't want to ride with them.
Went there ate and then went to my grandma's house where my sister was and mysister's boyfriend at the time. It was the first time meeting him and I'm 01:38:00completely dead at that point. She's like, "Doll here' Cody. Blah blah blah blah blah." I'm like, "I don't even know what's going on at this point."
Actually, I'm sorry. Let me rewind. I actually had to go up to Mansfield andin-process. I went from Columbus to Mansfield with less than-- 36 hours without any sleep in-process. Then from Mansfield down to Mt Sterling where I grew up at and that's when I met them. They're actually married now, which is awesome.
Then from there I went to my house and I passed out in the truck. I rode with mybrother in law back home and I remember sitting down. He was talking to me I just went -- Out the entire time. Got home and then fell on my bed and just slept for a very long time.
After that I was offered a job working full time. Temporary technician job atbase, I'm doing now. I was still employed by Medcor, but shortly after that is when I talked to my friend, because I still wanted to work at Medcor, part time. I wanted to go from full time to part time and that's when my buddy told me the Medcor just shut down. Filed bankruptcy. Technically I was jobless at that point.
Coming home to my EMT job that just completely shut down. Not bad for himbecause they didn't pay people. He was broke. Luckily there was another EMT company that worked around us and they, arms wide open to any EMTs that lost their jobs in MedCor, "Come in. We have a job for you."
Then, started my new job up in Mansfield. From that point until this day I'vebeen driving up to Mansfield, back down the end of the day twice a week.
JH: There's some questions based on that but there's some questions I'd like to01:40:00ask. In the first couple of weeks back home, looking back at your deployment, have you changed that? Had it changed you? Had the life you came back to changed?
DK: Yeah. I didn't notice it because it was me, but my wife would honestly saydifferently. I guess I was angry. I had a lot of anger from my deployment. It stayed inside. One very very particular incident about that just to rewind a little bit was, there was a C17 that was waiting that had a coffin on it. It was a fallen soldier and the coffin had a flag draped delivery, which is what we're supposed to do.
This general did not want his soldiers seeing the coffin. He want us to put atarp over it, which is big no no. It's already draped with a flag. Why would you put a tarp over a coffin of a fallen solider? We argued with him. Oh man we argued with him. He, "I'm a general. Blah blah blah blah blah. You got to listen to me." We got out supervisors, we got our majors and eventually they agreed that they would just put their baggage around it so you couldn't see the coffin.
I actually walked off that plane. Didn't even want anything to do with it. Itold my supervisor, "I'm done. I'm out. Going back." I would lose my entire career, job if say anything, so I just left.
I would lash out on Erin, if not purposely, but when I was over there, if youwant something done you kind of got to be an a-hole. The truth is someone with 01:42:00lower ranking, you got to lash out a little bit. I guess, I didn't transition -- My transition wasn't the way I wanted it. I would immediately regret it but I would yell at her. Raise my voice. She's like holding Alice and Alice will start crying.
Even today, it's a little different. I'm not the same person I was back then.Maybe not completely in a bad way but in good way. Before I deployed, I never worked out. I was 180 pounds of, I guess, fat. I wasn't fat but I was chunky, I was out of shape completely. I had little bit of high blood pressure and everything like that and then I come home and blood pressure's normal. I'm in shape. I actually know my job a little bit better. With discipline, everything like that. But at the same time.
Nobody can actually say that they deploy and come back the exact same. No matterwhat your job is. Especially being outside even being inside it's a whole different atmosphere. Everybody that has actually deployed overseas and come back is different.
My uncle, he actually had to go to therapy for PTSD when he came back. One ofthe stories -- I've never actually talked to him about the stuff but he did tell me this story about one of the times 32 insurgents broke through the fence when he was there. I respect him for it. He's a good man. Really, really good man. He's got a wife and daughter, everything. No one, no one's the same ever.
JH: Were you aware of services through the VA or other organizations.01:44:00
DK: Absolutely. It's more of a personal goal. Yes I could get help. Anybodycould get help. But I wanted to do it myself. I didn't want them prescribing me any drugs or anything like that. It was a personal goal of mine to transition myself my own way. I didn't want help, I guess. Probably needed it but I didn't want it.
TP: How do you feel that's working. How much was your wife involved in thatprocess and also how do you feel about that tears and all that.
DK: She's taken care of me, a lot. Especially with the whole fireworks thing.4th of July, I don't know why, it just scares the hell out of me but she takes care of me. She helped me through it. Like I said, I lashed out on her which was -- I immediately regretted it and she understood. I completely explained it to her, why I did it, why I raised my voice. I'm like, "It's because I'm trying to transition back into the civilian world from over here. It's not -- I'm not doing it on purpose. I am but I'm not."
She's a big, big, big help. It's funny when you talk to other people who'vedeployed. One of my really good friends T Garden, who I live with up north. He was a marine. Deployed as a marine. We would trade our stories or Barkley. He's a full timer, one my uncle's best friends. He was a tank operator in the gulf war. Just the time, exchange stories. Obviously his is a little bit more detailed and graphic than mine but when you talk to other people who've 01:46:00deployed, everybody clicks, than rather than talking to another person who's in your unit that hasn't deployed.
People ask you, "What was your experience?" You can't say it was good. You can'tit was bad. You're just like "It's Afghanistan what do you expect. You're in hostile territory where people want to kill you but at the same time you have friends that I can call my brothers that are there for me whenever I want." It's a deployment
JH: Do deployments shape your thoughts on your future service and career?
DK: It did. It's actually what made me want to stay in longer. It was like, Ifeel like I'm being useful. Yeah, working as an EMT. I absolutely love it. I love working as an EMT. It's my passion, but I can keep my EMT license and still volunteer and still help on occasions like this morning, I can still help. I can still do my Air Trans job.
I love doing both actually. So why not.
JH: I want to ask little bit more specifically about Air Trans work, statesideversus at Bagram. How did your job and what you were doing day to day change once you transitioned in.
DK: Slow. Oh so slow. When you're traditional you don't see what the full timersdo during the week so you're, "Oh yeah they're going to be constantly-- They're probably constantly busy through the week. Then you're deployed and you're busy for 12 hours. I worked 12 hours a day, 6 days a week because you would technically get a day off but you wouldn't have anything to do on your day off so you'd probably go back to work and work on your day off.
You would do that for 7 days and then you would come home and they're not super01:48:00busy. Mansfield, they aren't busy as far as rigging. They rig parachutes to put on cargos. They're a cargo mission not a passenger mission. We do passengers sometimes but it's night and day between what I did there and what I do now. It's completely different as far as working wise. They were a lot more lenient the way you did things overseas. As long as you got the job done nobody got hurt, nobody really cared.
Here you have people that stare at you, that watch you do what you do. "Ah wait,you picked up that piece of wood without gloves. I'm going to have to write you up." It's completely and utterly different. But it's something that you have to adapt. You have to be able to transition into that.
TP: You mentioned having to say good bye to the people you deployed with inBaltimore. The people you became close to during the deployment, have you kept in contact?
DK: There's really only one guy I got to keep in contact with, on a daily basis,which is Benjamin Davis. I keep trying to con him into coming to Ohio but a couple of years ago I went out to -- We went to annual training to Jersey McGuire. Actually I met up with two other people I was deployed with. Active duty people. I was hanging out with them for a little bit. There's another guy Daniel Gomez, who I know him, kind of Facebook friends. He sent me a message. He was, "Man, I just want to tell you that you actually changed my opinion of National Guard."
Because active duty thinks National Guard like, lazy, don't want to do anything.01:50:00Everything like that. That was actually a really, really good feeling, knowing the fact that, there's obviously that bunch that are lazy and everything but there's people like me and everyone that I've worked with who are busy bees. We constantly get stuff done. Just to change one mind or even several minds is awesome about people's views, active duty's views of the National Guard.
Our chief always tells us every day, "Don't give them a reason. Don't giveactive duty a reason to hate the National Guard. Don't give anybody a reason to hate who you are. Be a worker. Make yourself useful," which is another reason why I always volunteered for stuff, but it was so fun.
JH: You mentioned earlier you were doing combat work outside the wire, youthought of your service differently. After you returned from your deployment did you or do you now think of yourself as a veteran?
DK: Yes and No. Yeah I'm a veteran because I did my time in Afghanistan butcomparatively to those guys, no. Those guys are the true heroes. Actually I met navy seals when I was deployed in Afghanistan. Some of the nicest people I've ever met in my entire life. The stuff that they knew and the stuff that they go through, they have every reason to hate the world but they don't, the people I met.
It's same stateside. Barkley, he has every reason to hate everything but he's01:52:00one of the nicest people I know. The amount of stuff that he's seen. Any day, I consider myself a veteran for what I did but not comparatively to them, not comparatively to my brother in law. He's done so much more than I'll ever do in my entire life.
JH: What's next for you in terms of your service career, your work on the basein Mansfield? What do you see--
DK: Well, it helps. Fingers crossed. I've always wanted to work full time ofdays. I'm a temp tech so my job can end at any point. They could be, "Hey, we don't have the resources, you're done." I would love, love, love, love. to be a full time aerial porter there and I don't see it happening but my dream is to be a chief. Like my Chief Dyer who is awesome. Everybody loves him. He's a very lovable person. I base what I do off him. I would love to become chief.
At the same time, I'm going to pursue and get my nursing license. That's mygoal, even if I have to work part time or volunteer at a hospital. It's more of a personal goal of mine. I still want to work in the medical field but be an air trans person, no matter what it takes.
TP: Looking back on your service, how has it affected you and also how has itaffected your family.
DK: Family is the big thing. I've been away from my wife and child so much,weeks at a time. When I went to AOS I went to Texas for 6 weeks or I'd go to New 01:54:00Jersey for 2 or Toledo for a week. Even during the week now, I 'm away from her so much and I feel bad because I want to be there.
Alice knows who I am. She loves me. She's obsessed with me. We play all thetime. But, growing up is she really going to know who I am. Am I just that guy that shows up during the weekend, hangs out with mom and her? It's rough. I know it's really rough on Erin because she has to take care of the dog too and Alice and now she's pregnant and everything like that. That's what sucks.
The bad part is she understands my passion for what I do for my air trans joband I understand her passion for what she does. If I could, oh my God, I would let her be a full time mom, that would be awesome but with the economy today, it's not a choice we have.
Long terms goals probably, we talked about it, throwing up in the air about herquitting her job and us moving up to Mansfield. That way I could work at base and if anything she can get a part time job or something.
JH: Are there certain values or aspect of your service both before and afterAfghanistan that continue to have a strong meaning for your life?
DK: Yes. You just appreciate life more. Like I said, I've dealt with a lot of01:56:00death. Had a friend die. Not overseas but here in the states. By a drunk driver. Literally right after him and I talked face to face. Seeing, those coffins and those injured people and seeing the stuff that I did as an EMT you appreciate life.
Yeah, life's a roller-coaster you have your ups and downs but comparatively isit really down that low or like Monk, trying to commit suicide. My life really that bad? No it's not. I have a wife. I've a kid. I work at base. I've good friends. Not bad
JH: How is the service that you're getting and hoping to get through the EMTwork and your medical career and your military career, how do you see those two things sharing certain values or certain principles?
DK: I don't know.
JH: Maybe they're not transferring.
DK: Probably not. I'm just passionate about both. The thing is people have seenme act as an EMT on base. Like I've told you before, it's not -- It's an occurring thing that accidents happen and I've been there luckily. I've been there to help. Saw a dude get on a motorcycle right outside the base. Me as an EMT I'm going to be a first responder and help out as much as I can. Do as much as I can to save that guy's life. People have seen that and people know it.
People have seen the article. I got an article written on me in Bagram aboutthose people that I helped. People know that I'm an EMT. Waltz another part 01:58:00timer, he works at the Columbus fire department, and he works at air trans with us as part time. Warner says he gets 24 on 48 off. One of those days he comes up and works with us. He's a paramedic. Everybody knows he's a paramedic.
I'm going to say they don't coincide together but in my book they do becauseit's just an extra skill that I have that I can help, not necessarily for glory or to be a hero but I'm just a very compassionate person. I feel for people. I understand. I want to be there to help people when I can whether it be military, whether it be in the civilian world. I enjoy helping people. Always have and always will.
JH: I wanted to talk a little bit, asking about dual career nature that you'reworking with the Ohio Air National Guard. What's it like for you to have this two simultaneous tracks? Most people often have to pick one career and that's the one thing they can do. Career with the Guard service you can have 2.
DK: It's awesome. I don't know exactly what you're looking for with that. Areyou talking about me changing careers or talking about me working as the EMT and --
JH: Well, I was just curious because you'd mentioned your future goals, they'reclear wanting to become a nurse and also carry on your service work through the National Guards so I was just curious. Do you think you'll be able to hold on to both of those things.
DK: It's challenging because I know nursing is a very hard job but the goodthing about being in the military is they pay for your schooling. So, yeah, I'm going to go, I'm going to use that to go get my nursing license. If I really, really wanted to I could change my career from air trans to medical, though I'm going to. That's the best part.
When I enlisted. I didn't enlist for a sign on bonus. Probably majority of the02:00:00people -- I'm not going to say, the majority of people. There are a lot of people that I know that enlisted because there was a $ 20,000 sign on bonus. They enlisted for that. When I went to my job in the Red Horse, I didn't get one. I'm actually re enlisting here in January and I'm not going to get one. I don't do it for the money, I do it for me. For my personal goals. To make my family and everyone around me proud by what I do.
TP: I don't know, have you spoken, I'm assuming you've spoken with your uncleabout your service and your time. How is your relationship with him now?
DK: It's a little different only because he doesn't work with me anymore. Heactually transferred to Red Horse when I deployed. When I left Red Horse he went there. But it's good. We have stories. Everybody has their own stories that we can swap, we can compare.
The same with being in the medical field, he gave up his paramedic card so he'sjust a straight fire fighter. We can swap stories with that. Being in the military itself we can relate and me working with his friends Barkley and Waltz and all those guys, we can talk and everything like that. We have a stronger bond than we did because when I grew up I always knew him. Him and I we've always enjoyed -- He actually got me kicked out of preschool teaching me Karate.
Him and I, have always had a bond. Then, when I joined the military and when Ideployed, that bond got stronger because we have more to relate to, we have more things to talk about. Every family has their issues but he's the person that I can count on the most out of anybody in my entire family, to be there when I 02:02:00absolutely need it.
JH: Can I ask you about how you remember your service in Afghanistan. Are thereparticular items that you brought back with you when you remember your service?
DK: Knowledge. I brought back a lot of items, lot of souvenirs I guess but theknowledge that I brought back I can actually pass on to my younger airmen like Cree, the other guy I stay with up north. When we do things, random thoughts will pop to my mind. Random stories. I'll be like, "Oh yeah. I remember doing this in Afghanistan. This is how we did it. It's more efficient than doing it by the book. It's a little quicker than doing it by the book" It's just random things. Everybody has that. Barkley he can show you how to do different things. Everybody has their own thing that they can bring to the table to make everybody useful.
Everybody tells their story to the younger kids about, not kids, younger airmen,about their experience and when we're doing training, that's the best thing you can compare it to. If you haven't deployed you can't really be like, "Oh well, in New Jersey when I was there for 2 weeks we did it this way." You'd be like, "When I was in the Afghanistan for 6 months this is how we did it." That's when they listen to you. They have a little bit more respect for you because you did it for 12 hours a day 6 months.
TP: We understand that you got tattoos as a result of-- as a way to remember you02:04:00told us it was something involving --
DK: The MLK. I got a portrait of Martin Luther King Jr. for numerous reasons butone of the main reasons was, I like the equalness between people. For, what he actually stood for is by far the most amazing. He stood up to the government to the whole economy, he was like, "This isn't right. Yeah, sure slavery is abolished but we need everything to be equal. I don't --" It's insane to have 2 separate bathrooms for people with two different colors or religion. There is no reason for it.
For him to actually stand up and lead these people and to tell the governmenthow it is, it astonishes me. It blows my mind and I respect him for it a lot and I've always been a fan. Even in high school, I always did my reports and everything, were always about him and the things that he did and everything that he stood for. Equal rights is what America is based on, is why we go over and we help people.
People say, it's because of money or oil or anything like that but America, weknow that we have the money and we have resources to help people. Doesn't matter about their race, color, religion. We're going to help you because you need help. That's what he did. He helped, equal. He helped everybody to be equal and I admire him so much for it. So I got a tattoo on my wrist.
JH: As your daughter Alice grows up, and you've got another daughter on the way,what do you tell Alice now and what do anticipate telling her as she gets older about the service and what it means?
DK: I'll tell her when she asks, it's nothing like -- I'm not going to push her02:06:00into it. I was never pushed into it. Like I said, my parents were completely against it. My dad called me an idiot for it. I know when she grows up she'll be curious and will be like, "Yeah your dad deployed." She'll ask for it and I'll tell her but it's nothing that I'll push her to.
If she ever decides that she wants to be in the Guard I'll tell her that it wasone of the best choices I've ever made in my entire life is to be in the Guard, to pursue what I wanted to and it'll help pay for college so I won't have to.
TP: One thing we've been asking people is given that, I believe, less than 1percent of the US population servers in the armed forces in some capacity. What do you think people should know about service, about combat, about people who serve?
DK: I think, today's modern society people are since it's post war people aren't-- People do respect soldiers and everything which I love but I don't think the younger society appreciates it, the people who are still in school who aren't enlisted and everything. Modern society has just grown a part of the military way.
It's nothing like the Vietnam War where vets would come back and be spit on andeverything like that, but it's also not being paid attention to as much now because, we're post war. Nobody really cares about the vets anymore. It's what we're going to do next. That's the only thing I can say, is just to appreciate 02:08:00because the war vets you have no idea what they've gone through.
Some people can come out and have a smile on their face but deep inside they'rethe most depressed people in the entire world. That's something that people need to pay attention to.
JH: One thing we're asking servicemen and women as a part of this project couldyou tell us a little bit about what you remember of 9/11 and how it impacted or didn't impact your life and your decision to serve. Do you remember where you were on 9/11?
DK: Yeah, I was in 7th grade math class. I remember because I was sitting thereand somebody, one of the teachers came and she was like, "The twin towers got attacked." I had no idea what it was. I'm like, "What are these twin towers?"
We each had I remember it was like the TVs that were hanging off the wall in thecorner and they turned it on and one of the towers was on fire. At that point in your life you have no idea. I never lived through a war or an attack or anything. I'm like, "Oh my God. How did this happen?" Then we went into -- I remember going into English class next and that's when the 2nd tower got hit.
Then right afterwards you don't know what to think. That young, you're all gungho., "Yeah, I want to be in the military. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah." As you get older and then you realize the amount of casualties that we have in war and the amount of things that are going on, people. The things that it does, at first I kind of shied away.
Originally I was going to be in the army. Gung ho about being in the army. ThenI just shied away from it. I'm like, "Ah, I want to be a fire fighter." Like I said before when I worked at FedEx, I just got tired of it. Just got tired of being in that rut, not doing anything. I didn't feel like I was serving the way 02:10:00I should have. I felt useless.
Funny thing is that, I remember, when I was thinking about that, I remembersitting in math class when 9/11 and the jet hit the tower. That's when I called up my uncle and asked him. I was like, "I don't know what to do. What should I do?" He was like, "Don't get in the army whatever you do." He told me about the Ohio Guard and everything.
Back then I didn't even know the Airforce had a Ohio Guard at all. I thought itwas just army. Once he told me about it that's when I got a hold of my recruiter, so on and so forth.
JH: Is there anything else you'd like to add that we haven't got a chance totalk about?
DK: Nothing off the top of my head. Like I said, I have numerous, numerousstories, some sad, some happy, some funny. Military is different. It's a lot different than in the regular world. The things you experience is not even comparable to anything. The death, the happiness, the fun times I've been out, you know, when you become like that brotherly bond like in Jersey, you go out, you drink and you have fun and it's just different. I enjoyed it. I wouldn't, going on 7 years, and I wouldn't change for the world, never.
TP: Do you feel that something at the core of people who serve in the military,have you found in your experiences, did you feel that there was something common to all people that chose this path.
DK: Yeah. Everybody thinks alike. If I go up and I talk to someone military and02:12:00I smart off about something, say you guys ever hear it you're like, "What is he even talking about?" I could smart off about a drill instructor to some marine guy like T Garden and he would laugh and say something back.