Segment Synopsis: David R. Thomas was born in Ravenna, Ohio in 1957. He enlisted in the United States Marine Corp in 1976 and in the Ohio National Guard in 1981. In his interview he talks about his early life, joining the United States Marine Corp, his basic training, and his Military Occupational Specialty. Thomas discusses his life as a Marine, medical issues, and choice to leave the Marine Corp in 1978.
Keywords: Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point (N.C.); Parris Island (S.C. : Recruit depot); Ravenna (Ohio); United States. Marine Corps. Platoon 378; University of Akron
Subjects: Childhood; Decision to leave; Enlisting with the Marines
Map Coordinates: 34.9201065,-76.9665698
Segment Synopsis: Thomas enlisted in the Ohio National Guard in 1981 and became full-time Active Guard Reserve in 1986. He explains the numerous positions and stations he served in while he was with the Active Guard Reserve until 1993 when he rejoined the traditional Guard and took a job as a police officer in Brimfield, Ohio.
Keywords: Boise (Idaho); Brimfield (Ohio); Cincinnati (Ohio); Cleveland (Ohio); Columbus (Ohio); Ohio. Army National Guard. Armored Cavalry, 107th; Ohio. Army National Guard. Regiment, 148th; Ohio. National Guard. Brigade Combat Team, 37th; US Army Sergeants Major Academy; Wisconsin
Subjects: Full-time; Joining the Guard; Promotions and assignments
Map Coordinates: 41.1002872,-81.4166508
Segment Synopsis: Thomas was deployed to Iraq in February of 2004 attached to a National Guard unit out of North Carolina. He recounts his memories of 9/11, returning to the Guard full-time, his pre-mobilization at Fort Bragg, and reinforcing Humvees in Kuwait. He speaks about being sent as part of an advance party to Forward Operating Base Cobra in Iraq, rocket attacks on the base, protecting polling places, and the police in Iraq. He speaks Iraqi customs and culture, his feelings about his mission, what daily life was like on base, and some missions of which he was apart. Thomas describes Iraqi towns, several Iraqi acquaintances, and returning home. In 2007 he deploys to Kuwait where he runs a supply depot for other forward operating bases in the area. He discusses the differences between deployments, meeting the real band of brothers, and woodworking.
Keywords: Camp Arifjan (Kuwait); Forward Operating Base Caldwell (Iraq); Forward Operating Base Cobra (Iraq); Jalawla (Iraq); North Carolina. National Guard. Brigade Combat Team, 30th; Sadiyah (Iraq); September 11 Terrorist Attacks, 2001.; Way we were (D-Day Publishing)
Subjects: Armoring Humvees; Coming Home; Meeting the Band of brothers; Memories of 9/11; The mission; Woodworking; Working with Iraqis
Segment Synopsis: 60 days after returning from his last deployment to Iraq Thomas learns that he will be deploying again to Afghanistan. He talks about finally becoming a sergeant major, their pre-deployment training, and his new role. Thomas describes their mission, his first convoy, what Afghanistan was like, and how it was different from his Iraq deployment. He discusses his interest in other cultures, his homecoming, and career since. Thomas concludes by talking about the people he has met in the military, how the Guard has changed over the years, and what people should know about those who serve in the military.
Keywords: Camp Arifjan (Kuwait); Camp Marmal (Afghanistan); Camp Shelby (Miss.); Camp Spann (Afghanistan); Fort Bragg (Calif.); Forward Operating Base Dehdadi II; Forward Operating Base Khilagay (Afghanistan); Ohio. National Guard. Brigade Combat Team, 37th; United States. Army. Brigade Support Battalion, 237th
Subjects: Coming home; Convoys; Deployment to Afghanistan; Leadership; Life on Base; Reflections
Map Coordinates: 36.6685343,67.0081822
JH: Today is October 30. My name is Jess Holler. I am here with James Marsh, andwe're interviewing Sergeant Major David Thomas about his service in the US Marine Corps and the Ohio Army Active Guard.
Sergeant Major Thomas, could we have you say and spell your full name for the record?
DT: It is David Ricky Thomas, D-A-V-I-D R-I-C-K-Y T-H-O-M-A-S.
JH: To begin, could you tell us a little bit about when and where you were born?
DT: I was born in 1957, September the 5th in Ravenna, Ohio.
JH: Where did you grow up?
DT: In Ravenna, Ohio.
JH: Can you tell us a little bit about your childhood and early school experience.
DT: We were relatively, I wouldn't want to say we were really poor, but weweren't middle class. My entire childhood growing up, we had no running water. We had no indoor plumbing, which was kind of, in the early '60s, still a lot of places around the township that didn't have it.
When I went to school it was kind of tough because I didn't really have a lot ofthe parenting mentoring that the other kids had because a lot of the stuff that I got was hand-me-downs and it was kind of a ... It wasn't, I don't want to say a rough childhood, but it was different. My dad, he never worked. It made it kind of rough on us.
When I ended up in high school I decided to make a decision then I wanted to goto college or what I wanted to do because I had two brothers, and I had a sister, but she died when I was very young in a car accident. My oldest brother was in charge of, he was the superintendent of the sewage plant. I decided I was going try to go to school, but the question was how was I ever going to be able to pay for it. 00:02:00
While I was in high school I started doing some looking, and myself and my bestfriend and there was another one, another guy that we hung around with, there was three of us, and we decided to join the Marine Corps. The irony is that I had went to a couple different recruiters, and I had went to one recruiting station to check on the National Guard, and I decided I'm not going to do that, I'm going to go ahead and join the Marines, which I went and joined the Marines, and then another fella that I went to high school with he joined the National Guard.
Then, as I went ... When I joined the Marine Corps I was on what was calledDelay Entry. I signed up in 1975, and then I went to Basic Training in August of 1976, to Parris Island, South Carolina. It was interesting to say the most. When we crossed over, the bus started going across to the island I was kind of thinking to myself what the heck was I thinking when I decided this brainstorm. It took awhile to get adjusted when I first got there because you couldn't understand anything that the Drill Instructors were saying. It was a big adjustment.
Our platoon was 378, and we had about ... As my recollection recalls, I believewe started off with somewhere in the neighborhood of the 70 something in our platoon. We graduated, original, about 26 originals that made it through the platoon. Everybody else was pick ups or drops from other platoons that ended up, where they had gotten in trouble, or they got sent back, they couldn't make it through and they got dumped into our platoon.
I graduated from Basic Training. When I graduated from Basic Training I camehome on leave for about a week, and then I went to Cherry Point, North Carolina. I was an engineer there, 35-31. Basically, in the Marine Corps at that time I 00:04:00was a truck driver, is basically what that all meant. When I got there I reported to the wing engineer squadron, and they asked the question, "Can anybody here type?" I guess it's kind of like the old adage, "Can anybody here drive," and you don't want to raise your hand because you'll be pushing the wheel barrel. A young PFC, I raised my hand and go, "Yeah. I can do a little bit. I did a little bit in high school."
I ended up going up to the operations there, and I was the operations ... I'mtrying to think what the exact title was. It was kind of like ... It was basically a clerk for a Captain and a Master Gunnery Sergeant. During that time that I was there, I started having some problems with very severe acne. I tried to get treated and stuff, and it didn't work. It had gotten to the point where it was becoming really, really bad, and I ended up leaving the Marine Corps in 1978. I was actually in for two years.
JH: I wanted to ask you, back up a little bit about the moment you and yourfriends decided to enlist and pursue military service. At what point in high school was that?
DT: It was our junior year.
JH: When did you graduate?
DT: I graduated in ... I left in 1976.
JH: You had actually enlisted during your senior year or before you graduated?
JH: What was it like being in high school and knowing that you had this path,and a path that might potentially help you go to school and pursue your future, versus what your other peers were doing or thinking at that?
DT: It was king of interesting. It was kind of neat because I had a lot ofpart-time jobs when I was in high school. I worked in a movie theater. In the summer time I worked at a state park. This was kind of interesting to me to be able to support myself because ... Growing up I was always trying to figure out a way that I could get a house and be able to support a family, and not fall 00:06:00into the same path that I was brought up in. It was kind of a challenge to try and get there and figure out the way to do it. I didn't think going in debt was really the answer I wanted to go to.
I knew there was a GI Bill out there. I knew if I joined a branch, any branch ofservice I'm going to get the GI Bill. That will pay for my college.
JH: I forgot to ask you earlier, what was your mother doing at the time growingup? How did she support your family?
DT: She worked at a senior citizens home. She also worked as a caretaker toelderly people. That's pretty much what she did when I was growing up.
JH: Have there other traditions of military service in your family that you know of?
DT: Nope. Just me and my son.
JH: It's a new tradition for you.
JH: You mentioned that interesting moment when one of your friends went aheadand joined the Guard, and you went toward the Marines. What were you thinking about both branches at the time, and what led you to enlist in the Marines?
DT: Being young and stupid because basically what it was when I sat there, andthey had told me what the National Guard did, I kind of thought about it and I'm like do I really want to go and do this? These guys are like one weekend a month and two weeks in the summer. This just doesn't fit what I want to do, and I don't see anybody here saying they're going to pay for any college. There ain't a lot of money here. I'm like, it's not such a good idea. That's what kind of pushed me toward the Marine Corps. It's kind of like that macho thing to go there.
JH: I guess I want to back up again, and look at this initial moment ofenlisting. Do you recall at all taking the oath of service, and how that registered to you at the time when you first joined? 00:08:00
DT: Yes I do because ... It's funny because originally on my first trip to MEPSup in Cleveland, when you went through for the first time you took the oath of service. When I came back, what they don't tell you is that you can tell them good-bye and there's nothing they can do about it. The one that counts is the one that the day you go to ship, and you sign the paperwork. I was in, but I wasn't in. I could've went ahead and said, "Hey, you know what? I'm not going to go," but I didn't know that. I'm kind of glad I didn't because from 1975 to 1976 it was just about a year, and that's a long time because you're constantly thinking about the unknown. You're not sure what you're going to get into when you get into basic training.
I had no idea what to expect except for what I had seen on television. I hadwatched the movie The DI, that kind of ... I'm like, I'm pretty sure I can do that. I had no idea what I was really getting into until I got there.
JH: How did your family react to your enlistment, an initiative of a high schooler?
DT: Not very well. Not very well at all. My oldest brother told me it was thestupidest thing he's ever heard of, "You should go ahead and get out. You don't want to get in there." My mom, she didn't want me to go. It wasn't a real good situations.
JH: Can you tell me what your expectations around boot camp were morespecifically, and a little bit more about any memories you have of the experience itself? What happened once you crossed over and got off that bus?
DT: When I first got there I really wasn't sure what was going to happen becausethey put you in what's called a holding platoon. We were in a holding platoon 00:10:00for about a week, and we really hadn't met our Drill Instructors yet. When we turned around ... Listening to them, we could hear the drill instructors calling cadence and everything out on the field, and couldn't understand what they were saying. That made me a little bit nervous, but once we started going and everything started ... We started getting into what we were doing it wasn't too bad. I began to be able to understand what they were saying, and it definitely made me grow up real quick because I had that bravado that I was pretty tough, I could handle all of this, no big deal. That made me grow up pretty quick because they were just a little bit tougher.
Back then in the Marine Corps, it's not like today's military services whereit's gentler, kindler. Back then, it was a little bit rougher. Things that they weren't supposed to do they did. I seen people get punched in the gut back in the '70s. You got yelled at. You got PT'ed in thistles. It was just different things like that, but it was nothing that was going to hurt anybody. It really weeded out the people that they knew were not fit for military service because the whole idea is in the military service that when you're given an order, you have to be able to obey that order. Sometimes in combat you've got to be able to obey that order without question. You can't sit there and analyze and think about it, and then come up with a decision. If you're told to do something, you need to do it, and you need to do it quickly because if you don't somebody could get hurt or somebody could die. That's what they try to instill in you in the Marine Corps that when you're given that order, you need to follow it.
JH: I'm curious too. Can you talk a little bit about what the political andmilitary climate was like in the country at that point? What were you expecting for your service in terms of US involvement in overseas conflicts, were you expecting-
DT: Actually, I wasn't expecting anything because at that time in 1975, the00:12:00United States had just gotten out of Vietnam. I wasn't expecting a whole lot of anything. That particular ... It's funny because it never dawned on me of going anywhere. It never even crossed my mind.
JH: I also wanted to ask you a little bit more about receiving your MOS,military occupational specialty, you said you became and engineer and were essentially driving a truck, and then transitioned to typist work and that sort of thing later on. Can you talk a little bit about that process? Did you get to pick or was it assigned to you in some way?
DT: Here's what happened. I was in basic training, and my recruiter, believe itor not, kind of didn't exactly tell me the truth. Hard to believe. I had originally wanted to be an MP because I wanted to become a police officer one day. He said all I've got to do when I go there is tell them, "Hey, I want to become an MP," and he goes, "There shouldn't be a problem. They'll find you an opening, and you'll scoot right in." Not so much. They were kind of leaning toward the infantry branch. I was kind of like, "You know what? This isn't going to happen."
I turned around and I had written a letter back home. I got a Congressmaninvolved, and I was brought into my Drill Instructor's office, and I really thought I was going to get my head ripped off, and then kicked back down the hall, but ... This was late at night. He was very understanding. He sat there and explained a lot of things to me, and he told me, "There's a couple choices you can do." I could become a cook. I knew that was out. He said, "or you could become a 35-31." I'm not really sure what that is, and he said, "An engineer." I said, "What do we do?" He said, "You drive trucks. You blow things up." Not so much, we actually just drove trucks. I'm like, "Yeah, I'll go do that."
When I went to Cherry Point, it's not like it is today where you go ... In theArmy, you go to your basic training, and then you go to your AIT, your 00:14:00additional skill identifier. There, I went there and I was taught OJT, I was taught how to drive the trucks by experienced Marines, and then up in the office it was kind of like I learned the job on my own. I was told to type a memo, I got a sample of one, and that's how I learned. Everything was pretty much self taught by others and looking at the manuals.
JH: Can you tell me a little bit more about that first year in the Marines afterboot camp? You had got to training in North Carolina. What's the culture like on base? What's camaraderie like?
DT: Where I was at, it wasn't too bad. It was ... Most everybody ... We were awing engineer squadron. It was kind of like the ... You weren't you typical ground pounding Marines. Everybody there was a lot ... They weren't laid back, laid back, but they were a little bit more laid back than you would have found at Camp Lejeune or Camp Pendleton. We would go ... I worked in a hanger, up on the second floor of a hanger, and we went to work in the morning at about 8 o'clock in the morning, and we had physical fitness before that, and we got done usually in the evening about 1630, 1700.
I ended up also being assigned as the Colonel's driver when I was up there. Thatwas kind of neat. I only drove the man one time. That worked out very well.
JH: What did you all do for fun and entertainment off-duty?
DT: Off-duty, we ran. The Master Gunnery Sergeant, he was training for amarathon, and on the weekends we would go and run from Cherry Point to his house on a designated route he had picked out, and he would go out on a Friday night and place milk jugs there for water, and then we would run that entire distance, 00:16:0026 miles and we had a luncheon at his house. Then he'd bring us back, or in the evenings we'd go to the movies or something. I really didn't do a lot of partying stuff when I was in.
JH: How old were you at this moment in time?
DT: 1976, I was 20. '77 I was 21. '78 I was 22.
JM: Was that camaraderie between your group there, at that time?
DT: Yeah, a little bit. It was a very small group. Our group was real small fromwhen I worked upstairs because I had ... Where I worked at I had the S-1 section, their personnel section, which was four guys. Myself, I was the only junior enlisted in the 3 Shop, and that was the only two shops that were there together. It was a very small group of guys.
JH: At that point, at Cherry Point, what are you thinking about your future interms of military service, career, school ambitions, all of that?
DT: My plan was when I got out, I was going to go to college, and then turnaround and find a civilian job, and live happily every after, but that didn't work out so well.
JH: I thought about that at the beginning too, how long of a term did you signup for?
DT: I signed up, originally, for four years.
JH: What happened next?
DT: I'm sorry.
JH: What happened next?
DT: During that time, like I said, I had ended up with a medical condition withmy acne, which sounds ... Everybody thinks of that like having a pimple or something. Well, in my case it wasn't so much. It was pretty bad. It had gotten to the point where I was going to Camp Lejeune to get treatment. When I went there, I was like the human guinea pig for the United States military. They had tried several experiments, it's a wonder I don't glow in the dark now, but they tried this cream called Retin-A, which I put around my area, that's why I'm so 00:18:00scarred up, it basically just ate my skin. It got to the point to where I was drawing linen everyday from supply. My pillowcases were covered in blood. They gave me some other pills. They were shooting injections into my back like hot poker irons, and I'm like, "You know what?"
Then they gave me a choice and said, "Look, we can't do anything. You can eitherget out, or we can keep on trying." I'm like, "You know what? I'm done." I think one of the driving factors that helped me make that decision was the fact when my father died while I was in there, I had gotten the news he had passed away, and I went back home for the funeral. Well, during that time, we had had an inspection coming up, and I missed the inspections, which infuriated the Master Gunny. Therefore, my proficiency and conduct marks ... My proficiency and conduct marks during my time in the Corps were 4-8 and 4-9's, they went from that down to a 4-1, 4-1, which is pretty much lowlife.
I requested mass to the Colonel, and I was able to get that situation corrected,thank goodness. That pretty much left a bitter taste in my mouth, and I pretty much said, "You know what? This isn't getting any better, and it's not going to get any better. I'm done." I left.
JM: How were you feeling about that military at this point in time?
DT: It was kind of a bittersweet thing. I wanted to stay, but at the same time Ididn't feel that the medical treatment there was real swell. I just said to heck with it, and when I got out and I got civilian treatment, I think within six months I was pretty much cleared up.
JH: Were there any consequences to leaving before you four year term was up?
DT: Yes, I had a code put on me because of the medical, which I believe was anRN or R8, I can't remember what it was, but it prohibited me from reenlisting back into the service again. 00:20:00
JH: What happened to your GI Bill?
DT: I still had that. I had my full GI Bill.
JH: At this juncture, you've got this medical situation going on, you're seekingtreatment, you've made this hard decision to leave, your father has passed away. What are you thinking about what happens next in your life? You've taken this path, obviously to try to get to some goals that were really important for you, how did you accommodate this different reality?
DT: The first thing I wanted to do when I got back was I wanted to get a job. Iended up getting hired, I had a couple kind of mediocre jobs, one was on construction building homes, and then I got a job at a factory where my uncle worked at, and I ended up working there for seven years. During that time, 1979, I got married. When I got married to my wife, her cousin had married the guy who we had both went to the recruiting office for the National Guard together. Him and me, we were talking about that, and he started asking me, "Hey, you know what? Maybe you should give it another look. Do you want to come back in? Why don't you come down and talk to a recruiter?"
I did. I had to get a waiver through NGB, and they waived my code, and I was inthe Guard. In 1981 is when I came in.
JH: What's going through your mind at the time? You had what sounds like a roughexperience with the Marines the first go around, you had your GI Bill, and you had a job and a family that was established, what was telling you to go back into the military?
DT: I think just the fact that I missed the camaraderie. Besides that, I figuredI'd give it a shot. I needed something to do, a little extra money. That was one big thing because I knew I'd get a paycheck every month, they had life insurance, it was real inexpensive. I was a young guy with a young wife and a 00:22:00child. I figured, hey I'm going to take advantage of this, why not.
JH: At that point in time, how did you use your GI Bill, had you gone back to school?
DT: I had. I used my GI Bill, and I was working in the daytime, went back toschool at night. I attended Akron U for approximately two years, and then I dropped out.
JH: What were you studying at the time?
DT: I was studying to be an accountant.
JH: Tell us a little bit about your decision to enlist the second time. What hadyou been told with this friend you had originally talked to recruiters with? What had you been told about the Ohio National Guard, and in 1981 what were you expecting your service to be like?
DT: I wasn't really sure. I knew I was going to be in tanks. I wasn't reallysure what I was going to be doing. It was a lot of unknowns again. When I first got there, my first drill, it was a AMETA 5, which was a Friday night, Saturday and Sunday. I ended up in the tank platoon, and realized I wasn't really crazy about driving a tank. I ended up in maintenance. I ended up being a parts clerk in the maintenance section.
JH: Did you go through a second basic training for the guard?
DT: Negative. I only had to go one time. If you went through Marine Corps basic,you don't have to repeat the Army or Air Force or Navy basic training.
JH: Where were you stationed at with your new unit? Where did you drill out of?
DT: We drilled out of Ravenna, Ohio. At Company M, Third of the 107th, Armored Cav.
JH: Were you living in Ravenna at the time?
JH: Your MOS changed when you entered the Ohio National Guard.
JH: What were you thinking about that new assignment? How did you feel about thework itself and-
DT: I kind of liked it. It kept me buys. It was challenging. When we would go to00:24:00annual training, we would have all of our tanks, and everything would be ... You had broken parts and stuff, so I had to look up the part numbers in the manuals, and order it. It was kind of neat. It was kind of rewarding.
During that time, I also found out that there were full-time jobs in theNational Guard. I'm like, well what a great deal. I can be full-time, get paid, and work right here at the Armory in Ravenna, or an Armory in close proximity. I started applying for the jobs.
JH: What happened at that juncture?
DT: I started applying, and I finally got hired in 1986, and I was hired in HHC,Second of the 107th, Armored Cav out of Canton, Ohio as a Supply Sergeant.
JH: Was that significantly different than your MOS on the weekends and the summer?
DT: Kind of, I had taken over as the M-Day guy, the weekend guy who would dosupply at Company M, and I was there with that new MOS, and I was an E-6 at the time there, and what happened was they had a hardship situation with an officer down state, so they had to move him back. He took a reduction, and he became the Supply Sergeant. That opening they had there, they never bid, so I ended up going over to the HHC over in the Second of the 107th, which was different. It was interesting.
JH: What happened next in your Army career?
DT: Now that I was full-time, and I really thought I was taking a pay cut, butafter I figured out my BAH and all of the other benefits, I realized, I'm making more money doing this than I was working in that sweatshop. I worked at the HHC as the supply sergeant, and an opening came up in G Troop, Second of the 107th 00:26:00in Cleveland, Ohio for a Training NCO, E-7/Master Gunner on tanks. I turned around, and I applied for it, and I got the job. I ended up going to Cleveland to work, and they sent me to the M60A3 Tanker Manager's Course in Wisconsin for two weeks, and then they sent me to Boise, Idaho for two weeks to the Tank Commander's Course, and then I was sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky. This would've been in 1990. I was sent down to Fort Knox, where I went through my Basic Noncommissioned Officers Course there, and then I went back for the M1A1 Master Gunner course.
JH: For folks who aren't familiar with this particular MOS, what does it entailto be a Tank Commander, to be a Master Gunner? What are you actually doing day to day?
DT: It is a very, very intense school, first of all. It's one of the thanklessjobs, most thankless in the United States Army they have. You attend a 13 week course, and you have to know every component that exists inside that turret of the tank. Everything from the optics to the gun tube to the gun, the ammunition, and every function capacity and how it works. You basically are a troubleshooter there to try to troubleshoot the problems, to get the mechanics to fix it, or during the gunnery when they actually live fire their tanks, you're the guy that's in charge to make sure everything goes and everything is safe.
There's a whole plethora of things that has to be done to prepare for a GunneryRange. It's not just you show up there, you jump in a tank, and you start firing rounds. There's a ton of things. You have to go through a TCGST, which is tank 00:28:00gunnery skill test. In the Guard, that takes pretty much ... We start doing that in January, at the time, and that pretty much took us all the way up to about April. There was at that time, I believe 12 or 13 different tasks that they had to perform.
We would also do a tank table one and two, and three and four out at Ravenna. Wewould do that as they ran down the trails, and it could be raining, snowing, we actually had taken a chair similar to something like this right here, with the arms on it, and we built a rail on it and welded it, and then we bolted it down to the rim of the tank on the loader's side. It had the seat belt there, and that's where we rode when we went down so we could hear everything going on inside the tank. We kind of made due with what we had. This was before they had the jump radio system where we could sit in the tower, and be able to listen, we were kind of plugged in ... Probably not the safest thing we ever did, but it worked very well. We were able to see the tank. We were able to see everybody down inside, hear the tank commands, make sure and ensure safety was going on. It kind of worked out very well for us.
Some of the other jobs we do is we ensure that we actually ... We don't inspectgun tubes, we actually look at the data cards on the gun tubes, and see how many rounds have been fired down to make sure that it had a boar scope and pullover done, which was that does is it entails that the wear of the gun tube, how many rounds had been fired down. They actually run a scope down through there, and look for any cracks or anything that may have happened inside the gun tube to keep everybody safe because after so many rounds go down or if they find any cracks or anything, they have to replace that gun tube.
We went into ... We would go down there. We would prep all of the ranges, setall the ranges up, run the boar sight line, help everybody boar sight their tanks, and then we would get up in the towers, and with the jump radio system that they had there, which was very nice, we could listen to everything, plus video tape going down range. Then we would take them in for briefings. We pretty much ran anything dealing with the tank ranges in a broad scope. 00:30:00
On the weekend ... Monday through Friday, as a Training NCO, I took care of allof the training schedules, lining up all of the training, getting the buses, getting the trucks ready, making sure that we had fuel laid on, making sure that we requested meals, ensured that my unit personnel sergeant had turned around, and he's got everybody paid and we've got accountability. We got problems that happen during the week where some guy can't come, or he's got injured at drill. We've got to make sure he gets paid because he can't go back to work. There's just a plethora of things that happen Monday through Friday. Everybody thinks we just sit in the Armory, but no, not so much.
An AGR Soldier in the Guard, and I've heard this a hundred times from people whohad been Active Duty, we work twice as hard as they do. The reason is we've got 12 months, two days a month, roughly, 48 UDS, what that is one day to do everything that they do in one year, plus our 15 day AT. We've got to cram everything that they do because there's all this different training that is required and mandated, we have to plug into, plus to do whatever it is MOS or mission that we're going to do, and be able to compete with Active Duty. The people we send to school, a lot of them go to Active Duty schools, and we have to be able to compete with them on a competitive basis.
JM: Is there kind of a bit of a battle between the Active Duty and the NationalGuard? People see you as you've got a desk job rather than-
DT: Yeah, yeah. Exactly. The position I'm in now, it is more of a desk job forme because I'm so high up on the totem pole, but when I was at the unit level, not so much a desk job. A lot of stuff I did there, and they were very long 00:32:00days, and we put in a lot of hours preparing for a drill. We would put in a lot of hours making sure everything was ready for drill when they got there because the bottom line was when they arrived their at drill, we wanted to make their time count, that we weren't wasting their time. Sometimes we did because you can't always be perfect, a lot of times we made sure it was really a lot of stuff to do. I stayed full-time with the guard until 1993.
JH: During that period of time when you're working as an Active Duty Guardsman,what was it like for you to assume this leadership role? You started out, you went to the Marines and basic training, then suddenly you're in charge of making a lot happen for training the entire Guard.
DT: Sometimes it was kind of neat. Sometimes it was scary because having theresponsibility along with that also goes for answering for everything that goes wrong because yes I have a unit commander, and yes I have a First Sergeant, but in order for them to be successful, I have to make sure that I do my job right and do it correctly. If I don't, they could turn around and fail. That's not an option. To make sure that they're successful and the unit's successful, it's kind of a pride thing. You've got to go out there, and put that extra little bit in to go do it.
JH: What developments in your Guard career that influenced you transitioningback to part-time Guard, and what was happening in your family life?
DT: Here's what happened. Back in the early '90s, the 107th Armor CavalryRegiment was going away. There was huge cutbacks in the early '90s during the Clinton administration with military, all over. They were cutting back on a lot of the AGR jobs, and I was told that, "Hey, you know what? They're going to cutback. We don't know where you guys are going to get moved to. You may not have a job. We don't know." At that time I was a reserve police officer in 00:34:00Brimfield, Ohio. I was offered a position full-time guaranteed. I'm like, "Gee whiz, there's a guaranteed job, and here's one that may or may not be there." I went with the guaranteed job. I stayed MDAY. I stayed in the Guard as a traditional MDAY Soldier, and I went and took the police job Monday through Friday.
JH: How did your Guard duties at that moment in time, and maybe before when youwere Active Duty too, how did your Guard duties sync up with your family life and responsibilities? I know you had one child-
DT: I ended up having a second. Even when I was full-time guard it was a littlebit harder because I had to go and try to make the ball games and school plays and all of that stuff. You end up missing a lot, you really do. The good example was, even when I went back traditional, I went to the Sergeant Major's Academy in 2000, and I missed my daughter's high school graduation. If I could count on how many anniversaries, birthdays, Christmases, Thanksgivings, Easters I've missed, there's quite a few in being full-time and traditional.
JM: At this point, did you actually want to be in Active Duty? Did you want tobe out there? How were you feeling?
DT: It was kind of a maybe yes, maybe no. I always wanted to be a cop. That'sprobably what drove me to stay in the profession I chose. I had went back to being MDAY, and during that time I went from ... I was an E-7, and I went from being the First Sergeant of Charlie Company, First of the 107th, and then I became ... I got a chance to go to the Olympics as a First Sergeant in Atlanta, Georgia, and then we went and I had the opportunity to become the Command 00:36:00Sergeant Major of the First of the 147th Armor down in Cincinnati, Ohio, which I took, and then I was offered the opportunity to become the Brigade Sergeant Major for the 37th IBCT. I took that, that moved me back, thank goodness, to Akron, Canton.
Once I got moved back up there, on my civilian side, I had continued to advancethere. I went from patrolman to sergeant. I was a detective. I became a lieutenant, and then I became the chief.
JH: There's a lot of movement and a lot of promotion in what seems like arelatively short amount of time. What are thinking and what's going on for you internally at that time? It seems like things are moving fast and you're moving up a lot.
DT: I thought I was moving ... I wasn't sure if I was moving too fast of tooslow, it was just a lot of movement, a lot of promotions, a lot more time away from home, but it was just the things that I had to do if I wanted to be successful and if I wanted to provide for my family, that was just the way I had to do it. I had gotten all of those ... I was kind of neat because on the way up from the goals in the Guard, I started out in '81, and when I became full-time, it was '86, I remember a young lieutenant who in later life, he became a Major General. When I became the Command Sergeant Major for the 37th IBCT, my commander was my first Company Commander. He was a full bird Colonel at that time, and then he retired as a Major General. I've seen a lot of Major Generals, and I've seen a lot of full bird Colonels, and people that have came up and 00:38:00risen up through the ranks, and have since retired.
JH: At that juncture, looking back on who you were growing up and thedifficulties of your childhood, and what you would imagine a military career would give to you, and then looking at some of your struggles with joining the Marines at the beginning and all of the stuff that went on there, what are you thinking about your career at that juncture, around 2000 and 2001?
DT: My plan was that I was going to ... My whole plan was being the BrigadeCommand Sergeant Major. My plan was to do another three years as Brigade Command Sergeant Major, and retire. I had my 20 year letter, and in 2000 I was going to retire.
JH: What changed that?
JH: Can you tell us about any memories you have of where you were at or what wasgoing on on 9/11?
DT: At 9/11 I was on a qualification range for the police department. We were onthe qualification range, and I had received a phone call from our office clerk that there had been an attack on the Twin Towers, and ... It was funny because a lot of us were like, "Okay, where's that at? Chicago? Anybody know where that is?" We went back and we seen what happened, and like everybody else in America, we watched it on the news. Of course, everybody was on high alert, and everything going on. Me, being the Command Sergeant Major, I'm trying to make contact down in Columbus to find out what's going on? Are we deploying anybody? Are we going to war? What's happening? It was a lot of confusion going on at the time.
During that time, after 9/11 in '02, 2002, there was an opening that came aboutfor a Master Gunner in Charlie Company, but it was an E-7 position. I talked it 00:40:00over with my wife, and I made the decision I wanted to go back full-time, and I resigned as the Police Chief, and I went back full-time in the National Guard. I took a two rank reduction. I went from E-9 back to E-7.
JM: 9/11, before this, you wanted to be a police officer, you wanted to be aprotector. You've always wanted to be a protector. 9/11 happened, internally, how'd you feel about it? It must've been as it was, pretty bad, but how did you feel?
DT: It's kind of hard to say. I was mad, and at the same time I wanted to helppeople, but I wasn't sure how to do it. I felt by going back in, the possibility we may get deployed, maybe I'd actually be able to do something. That was one of the big driving forces, I went back in. Plus, at that time my son had just got hired before me, AGR, full-time. We were both now full-time.
JH: You mentioned the possibility of deployment as being something that youspoke to as a way to help. When did it start to dawn on you that the goal of the Ohio Guard would change dramatically post 9/11? When did you start to see those changes?
DT: October 2003 when I was out mowing my mother-in-laws yard, and I got a callfrom my Company Commander telling me that we had received a stand-up order that we may possibly be getting deployed to Iraq. Before that, the only deployments that I was aware of was small pockets of people being deployed into Iraq, and when I was still the Command Sergeant Major, we had units that were Fort Knox, Rock Island, just doing guard duty type things, stateside. 00:42:00
JH: What was the political and media climate like, at the time, surroundingthese ramping up US plans of potentially invading Iraq, and what were you thinking about all of that?
DT: The media, a lot of the stuff that we were watching on the news from there,it was really wasn't too sure what all was going on there at the time. I knew that we were there in a presence, and I knew that the first wave had already started into Baghdad. We were watching that on TV. We were watching the coverage of everybody moving in, it was a little bit, kind of scary. Not sure what we were going to be doing because we're a tank company, what are we going to be doing.
We got attached to the North Carolina National Guard. They needed a filler unit.We got attached to them, my entire Company went over with them, and we ended up going over with Old Hickory, it was what their patch looked like, and that's who we went over with. In 2003, I can't remember the exact date in '03, but we left in '03 and headed for Fort Bragg, North Carolina. That's when we started our training.
JH: Can you tell us a little bit more about what your pre-mobilization exercisesand trainings looked like?
DT: Yeah, when we first got there, we thought we were going to go over as tankcrews. We real quickly found out that that was not the case. We were actually going to go over as infantry, mechanized infantry. That was all new to us. Once we got there, we turned around and we started our training, which we started doing individual training tasks, we got our new M4 rifles, we were doing individual training tasks on the ranges. We were doing 9 millimeter ranges, 240 ranges, 50 cal. ranges, we were doing the ranges for the M19s, which is a 00:44:00grenade launcher.
We were working on our trucks, practicing convoy operations, we turned aroundand we would go out on BVWACS. We would set up a small miniature FOB, a forward operating base, and we would set that perimeter up with concertina wire, and then they would turn around and send some people down, like the villagers and stuff. We would pretend that they were coming into our area, and we had to talk to them and work with them. You'd get some people that wanted to riot. Just those different types of training things in an urbanized training environment.
Then we turned around, and we would work on crowd control. We worked on IEDs,and how to you react when an IED hits. During that particular time, we were taught when we went down the road, we had the windows down, weapons out the window, and as time progressed throughout the war, we decided that wasn't such a great idea. A lot of things progressed very quickly.
The way it's done now, we went through out entire training package when we gotto our training site at Fort Bragg. The way it's done now, if a unit is deployed, they turn around and they're all trained by the National Guard in Ohio. They'll bring everybody in, and train them to certain point that they have all the individual tasks out of the way so when they go to their MOBE site, they can work on their collective tasks, which really helps prepare them, I feel, a lot better for deployment.
JM: When you first joined, and you're first doing active duty, there wasn'treally an enemy at that point. In a weird way, there was kind of Russia, but sort of not, but now you've actually got a distinct enemy. You've got somebody who has actually threatened your country. How did that feel? Was that ... How 00:46:00did that feel like?
DT: It's kind of scary because here we are, we're going over. We don't know whatto expect, only from what we've been trained. We're not sure ... We know these guys aren't going to be wearing uniforms like us, we've got to find them. We've got to figure out who they are. What are we going to do when we get there. We have no idea what we're going to do. It was kind of funny because when you relate it back to watching some of the old movies where you see the new guys coming in, that's exactly what it was like. That's what it felt like. We had no idea what we were doing.
We landed in Kuwait, and we got out, and just the heat was like somebody hadtaken a dryer and blown it on you. We were like, it's kind of warm here, but as everybody keeps telling us, it was a dry heat, which doesn't make a lot of different. We were there, and the stench was just unbelievable, from the oil and the everything, it was a funny smell in the air. We got there in Kuwait, and we started getting our up-armored vehicles to make our trek up into Iraq, and all of a sudden we were learning that, "Hey, guess what? There's not enough armor." They had these kits they were putting on to the HMMWVs and they ran out of kits.
Somebody came back with this really good brainstorm, that they took the HMMWVpick-up truck, and it comes back, and they had put ... I see these panels on the doors, and I'm looking at it going, "I know it's not a piece of plate steel because it's on a canvas door," and it was a piece of wood painted black to give the impression that we had armor on there, which would've been great if they were throwing knives at us, we would've been good. Anything more than that, we're in a lot of trouble.
In the back of the trucks, what they did was they built a boxed in the back ofthe truck, and it was designed to put sand bags in the bag. In my truck, I 00:48:00turned around and I put full water cans in the back there. It was less weight, it would pretty much slow the projectile down as much as could be expected, but my worry was with all the weight, with all the sandbags, the trucks were going like this, and I was worried about busting a spring because they weren't designed to carry that kind of weight in the back. There we were, sitting there, we had some up-armored HMMWVs, and we learned very quickly that when we were doing out training, we would sand bag the floors in case there was a blast that came up from underneath.
When we got into country, we got these brand new up-armored HMMWVs, and I'mlooking at the floors going, "Okay, we can't sandbag them because there's plating there, and there's nowhere to ... You can't put your feet anyplace. There's not well, there's not foot well." We couldn't bag them, so we had to depend on the armor that was on the vehicles, and when we were in Kuwait myself and the Executive Officer were picked to go on the advanced party into Iraq before anybody else. What they did was they flew us from Kuwait right into country.
We landed in Bagram, in 2004, and when we got there, we married up with a convoyto take us to Codwell. We had members of the Battalion that I was assigned to, also there, the Executive Officer was with us. We all piled in the back of an open 5 ton truck, and down the road we went. It was quite the initial shock, driving through the streets of Iraq, and you're looking, and you've got some people waving, you've got some little kids telling your number one, and at the same time you've got people flipping you the bird. It was kind of a mixed feeling what we had.
We were going through the one town that I distinctly recall gunshots being00:50:00heard. Of course we all hit the deck in the back, and the guys in the cab are laughing because I guess it was a wedding someplace, and that's how they celebrate a wedding is by firing the AK-47 in the air. Us being back there, we didn't know. We didn't think it was too funny. We ended up pulling into Codwell, and we watched the guys in the truck turn around, and start doing the test fire. We couldn't figure out what they were firing at, so we got down in the back bed. We ended up getting in to Codwell, stopping the truck, and I distinctly remember the Executive Officer exiting the back of the truck, and just chewing a little bit of butt because there was no reason to test fire when you're pulling into a FOB. You test fire when you leave.
What it was, it was just plain simple harassment is what they were doing. Inoticed when we got there, the difference between the active component, and the difference between the National Guard became very distinctive to me as a Soldier during that first deployment. There were several reason.
When we left there, we ended up at a FOB, we were at a FOB called FOB Cobra, wewere about 40 miles for the Iranian border, roughly, right in there. That put of over on the Eastern part of Iraq. A lovely area of the country. We were by a town called Jalawla and Sadiyah.
When I first got on the FOB, the active duty Engineer Corps had put in showertrailers. I got there, I got all situated in my living CHU, I went over to the shower trailer, got my shower, came out, went to shut the door, and got blasted back in my about two feet with a big blue spark. They hadn't grounded the trailers. When you don't have a trailer grounded, and you've got water, and you're standing on a plate, you're going to get shocked because that trailer's power coming into that trailer for the lights and to operate the pumps is 220 volts.
The next morning, I went and found some copper wire, and I found some grounding00:52:00rods, and I started grounding the trailers. The skill set that the National Guard brings when they bring into an area, is that your National Guard Soldiers are plumbers, electricians, carpenters, all by trade. In the engineer community, where I'm at now, all of them, a lot of them are do ... What they do on they weekend, they do in the civilian world. In my infantry company we had carpenters, plumbers, we had a plethora of everybody, which Active Duty doesn't have. I noticed that started making a huge difference on the improvements we did on our FOB right off that bat.
I ended doing a lot of the plumbing stuff there. Plumbing a lot of the CHUs andthe trailers. One of my Platoon Sergeants was a carpenter, he ended up turning around, and we had built our own DFAC, and we built bunk bed, him and me, and I had ... As we were on the FOB, we expanded it out, and I was the Platoon Sergeant for Headquarters. I was also the assistant FOB Mayor. I had a pretty full plate. It kept be very busy, which was great.
When our main body arrived there, they were there for two days, and we got ourfirst attack on the FOB, which was a rocket attack. One or two rockets came in and blew, didn't hit anywhere near us on the inside, it was on the outside, but it was interesting because the more time we spent there, we started to see that if there was no alum, which was the moonlight, we knew we were going to get hit. It was almost a given. If there was no alum, we were going to get a rocket attack on us because they could move better, and our night vision at that time was not as effective without the moonlight. It was still effective, but they 00:54:00felt that it was more conceal of darkness for them, I guess.
A lot of them, what they would do is in Iraq, at that time, there was a lot ofTank emplacements, which were dug for when they went up against Russia. What they did was, they would go and they would find their target, whatever it was, and they would peak over, they would see what the target it, they would find a brick or a rock, and they would point it in the direction of the target, and they'd take a mortar tube or just a tube, set it there, take a mortar round, and they would fit a piece of dry ice down in the tube, take the mortar round, drop the mortar round so as the dry ice melted, once it melted and the mortar round made contact with the pin, it would fire, and they were long gone. They had done this quite a few times. They were pretty good about it.
The entire time we were there, we had one, two, three hit inside of our FOB.Nobody was hurt out of all of those thank goodness. I had two RPGs fired over my head, and nobody was hurt. We had several of our Platoons hit with IEDs, we were blessed again. It was minor injuries, just a couple glass cuts. Nothing big. We had some small arms fire directed our way, and nobody was injured with that. We were very fortunate during our deployment. I think one of the key things that had a lot to do with it was the fact that the communications we had with the down because my Commander worked directly with the town council in Jalawla and in Sadiyah and also worked with the IPs, which is the Iraqi police in Sadiyah, and worked with the Iraqi National Guard in Jalawla, and worked very closely with them.
One of the most memorable things we had during our deployment was, it was on00:56:00June 23, 2004, when they held their elections, to be able to hold democratic elections, it was saying they were free. We were out for four or five days to make sure the poling booths and everything was safe. During that time, at one of the IP checkpoints, the way that the witnesses said it happened was that there was a vehicle that pulled up, they got out of the vehicle with AK-47s and opened up on the checkpoint.
Iraqis at that time were very ... They would put people on checkpoints and leavethem there for 30, 40 days. They were lucky to get fed, but they were known to sleep a lot. They caught these guys sleeping, there were six or seven of them, and they killed them right off the bat. One guy ran away, and another gentleman ran away and he was injured. He ran to a farm, the farmer found him, and brought him back into town to get into the hospital. We went there to the site seeing what was happening, and then we had our first platoon go ahead and take over there, we went back into town with another Platoon, and went into the hospital in Jalawla.
We looked at the injured parties, we got a military MEDEVAC in to get them outof there, and the farmer who had brought them in ... We had to form around him to protect him, they placed him under arrest because they thought he was one of the Al Qaeda.
You have to understand that their way of thinking is totally different from ourway of thinking here. It's not even close, and sometimes I looked at it as trying to teach Kindergartners how to do something because in some cases they were very intelligent, and some cases they were very backward.
In investigating a crime, it was like being in the stone ages because he had00:58:00blood on his clothing, he was automatically considered to be one of the terrorists. We tried to explain it to them that if he would've been one of the shooters, if it would've been at close-range, there would've been blood splatter, like spots, not blood, he got the blood from carrying the guy in here. That's how he got it. After hours of interrogation that they did, I was able to set in on it with the interrogator from the Army and from the Iraqi side, they decided he was not guilty.
It took us a while to ... It took them a while to be able to establish that thisguy had nothing to do with this.
JH: You worked in the Criminal Justice System in a lot of capacities in yourcivilian job stateside, what was it like for you to see this very different, cultural system, and system of justice that's very intimately tied to the US occupation?
DT: It was almost comical because when we went to visit the Iraqi police, wewould be there in Jalawla or Sadiyah, and we're sitting up there, and I would be guarding while my Commander's in there having a meeting, and I would watch a pick-up truck with about ten guys piled in the back of a Dotson pick-up truck with AK-47s, and down the road they'll go. They'll just jump out, and it appeared to me that somebody who looked like he was a problem, they'd just start beating him up, put him in the truck, bring him back, and threw him in a jail cell with a dirt floor, and lots of luck on a trial. There's not police brutality there. There's no, "I'm going to get my lawyer," because I'll tell you right now, when you get thrown in jail there, you're in a lot of trouble because 01:00:00you're in the middle of nowhere, and it's very easy you can spend a lot of time in that jail cell.
JM: Before, you traveled before to other countries before this, or was this thefirst time?
DT: This was my first time overseas.
JM: What was it like when you got off that plane? I know Ravenna, it's a nicelocal town, you've got that going to Kuwait. How was that?
DT: Kind of a culture shock because you've got no trees. When I landed there,there was no trees. It's all desert, blowing sand, dust storms, we're sleeping in tents that are just coated with dust on the inside. Trying to get used to the food we're being served because it's totally different from American food. It doesn't taste the same. The ice cream definitely didn't taste the same, not even close.
Seeing other people, the way that their culture that they had there, and the waythey were dressed and stuff, it was kind of different. A little bit of a culture shock. It took a little bit of getting used to because we found that everything we were ... Some of the stuff we were taught when we were getting trained up to come here wasn't so much true. Wasn't so much true. We found that out fairly quickly.
JH: Can you say more about what you mean?
DT: I'll give you a good example, we were told a lot of the customs in Iraq, twoguys holding each other's hands is totally good to go, where in America, probably not so much, at that time. We're like okay, we've got it. We really didn't care. When we got there, we found out that ... We were told right up front by the Iraqis that we worked with over there, they told us, "They said 01:02:00women are for babies, and men and boys are for fun." They would think nothing of a 12 year old, 15 year old boy, taking him out and having their way with him. They wouldn't even think about it.
That custom and culture over there, that's a shock. That's a lot more ... That'smore of a shock than over here because over here, it's acceptable for two men to be together in a partnership, and then they're good to go, but over there it's more of a, "I'm married, I have four or five wives, but they're only for babies, and I go out with the guys." That's just weird. That was hard to accept. That was plain weird to us.
JH: You were coached in some of the cultural customs, it sounds like, by theIraqis themselves you were working with?
DT: Yeah. We told them, we were like, "Maybe in here, but not in the US. That'sno good. No good."
JH: Did you have a sense, similarly, that the Iraqi reception of Americanculture in ways and customs?
DT: In some instances yes. I think that they ... They liked our money. I knowthat. The way that we did stuff, and our beliefs, they weren't to crazy about, and I think one of the big things, especially with the Kurdish people was that their fear of ... We came in saying we're going to help you, we need your help, but we did the same thing in 1990, '91 when we came there when Kuwait was invaded. We got in part way, and we stopped before we got to Baghdad, and we left them hanging. A lot of those people that we left hanging were tortured, were killed, and we just left them. That was their big fear that we were going to do again when we got their this time.
The guy who delivered our water, him and his son, he had three fingers missing.01:04:00They were cut off right above the joint, and he delivered the water. I asked him what happened to his hand. He told me, he says, "Saddam cut off because I help American." He goes, "Kurdish, cut off." Simply because the guy was Kurdish, and they cut his fingers off. That's the kind of mentality and cruelty in that country that existed. We would go into town and conduct searches for Al Qaeda at that time, and we would tell people to stay in their homes, and our interpreters would say, "They're going to stay in. They're not going to come out because when Saddam was in charge, if they came out, they'd be shot."
We tried to be very civilized toward them. We tried to treat them better than... How do I want to put this, than they had been treated in the past, but there was still that distrust that we were going to turn around and then leave, and then they're going to be ... Someone else is going to take over, and it's just going to start again. We had an interpreter who was married, his wife worked at the bank in Jalawla, and one morning he dropped her off, and he's driving back with his brother-in-law, and a car pulled up behind him and started opening fire on him. He tried to make it back to the FOB, and he was killed. It left his wife and two little kids, simply because he worked on our FOB as an interpreter for us, he was killed.
JH: How did those experiences impact your sense of the US mission, andespecially your particular mission on Cobra?
DT: Sometimes we felt like we were doing some good, and other times insituations like that, we really sat there, we're banging our heads because one of the main things was that we were working with them on teaching them how to shoot weapons, how to clean them, trying to help the Iraqi National Guard, and 01:06:00developing an Iraqi Army and training them. It was kind of like, I don't know if these people are going to be able to do this in this short period of time.
I said it when I was there, "When we leave, when we pull out, they won't be ableto defend themselves. They just won't be able to do it." I watched a lot of them, and try as hard as they will, it's not a stable life there because they're not receiving a paycheck every month like we do in our military. They could pretty much say, hey have a nice day, I'm gone, which we can't do in our military. We can, but you're going to go to jail, but there, the repercussions weren't as great during that time.
You had a lot of people that were not enlisting to become Soldiers or work forthe IPs because they could get killed. They were killing these people. They were killing these people who were volunteering. During that time, when I was over there, they destroyed a whole bus full of volunteers. They were going to become Iraqi Police Officers, and they were all killed.
When you start seeing people that are volunteering to be in the Army or peoplethat are volunteering to be in the Police Department, and they're getting killed, you're like maybe I don't want to do that. That makes it a little bit tough, and it makes it like we're beating our heads against the wall.
Then we kept saying, "How much longer? How long do you think we'll be here? Ifwe're here five years, six years, seven years, eight years, is it going to make a difference? Are they looking at establishing a permanent base here?" Those are the kind of questions that we would sit around at night and talk about because we're dropping a ton of money into a country to try to help them become better, and to try to make their life a little bit better. Hindsight being 20/20, looking back, we just took a whole bunch of money, and just flushed it right down the toilet.
JH: It sounds like you guys in the leadership, especially had this very striking01:08:00perspective on what it's really like for Iraqis going through all of this transitional phase, and the consequences of what the US is trying to do. How did that impact the culture on the base? What was morale like? What was your sense of what other Soldiers and Servicemen and women were thinking and doing around this confusion about the impact of the mission?
DT: Morale itself wasn't too bad because even though, a lot of times we feltlike we were hitting our heads against the wall, there was always that little bit of good we could do. When we would go out in town and do our ... What we called Potato Missions, because basically, what it was when our Commander would go to Jalawla or Sadiyah for a meeting, they'd be four or five hours long, we would go there, search the buildings, set up our perimeter, and we would sit in the trucks and bake like potatoes. That's why we called them Potato Missions.
We would go and do patrols around the town when we were there. We would alwaysbring some stuff from home and pass it out, candy bars, stuff like that. We had a bunch of school supplies sent to us, we went to the local school and passed that stuff out to the kids there. Being able to do that kind of stuff, we would get some other things sent to us, and we would find some needy families and give them that stuff. Being able to do that, that right there made us feel like we were actually doing something that was worthwhile because regardless of what we do, no matter where we go to fight, whether it's Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, whether it's World War II, it doesn't matter. There's politics involved. There's only so much you can do, and you hands are tied in some situations with what we call Rules of Engagement, the ROE. There's certain things you can do, there's certain things you can't do. It will always be like that, no matter where we go to fight in the world, no matter where we have been, its always been like that.
Politics still play a part in the Active Duty military.01:10:00
JH: Did all of this lead you to seriously question your service or the larger USpresence in Iraq at any point in time?
DT: No because basically, when you're a Soldier, you do what you're told to do.I may not agree every time with what my Commander says. I may not agree with what the President's saying, but that's a conversation that I have, obviously not with the President, but with my Commander would be behind doors. Once ... If I can't get him to see my way, or maybe my way's wrong, maybe I'm not seeing the full picture, when it's all said and done, and he says this is what our boss wants, and this is what we're going to do, then I will pull out and drive that train down the road because that is the mission.
We're going ... The mission comes first. You've got to look at the mission.There's a reason for every mission you're given. You may not see it at a Company level, you're getting handed a mission coming from the Division, coming down from a Brigade, coming down to a Battalion, and then it comes down to a Company. By the time it gets to you, you have no idea why you're doing this. It makes absolutely no sense, but somewhere down the line, that little piece of pie that you're doing is tied to a bigger picture that you may not see. That's why we drive on and do what we need to do.
JM: Your role was ... You were working mainly with the infrastructure of the FOBand helping out, it seems to me that you had a much closer tie with the Iraqi people or the Kurdish people-
DT: Oh yes.
JM: Than other people who would go out there. You seemed-
DT: I had eight people working for me that were all Kurdish, and they reportedfor work everyday, Monday through Friday ... No, I take that back, Monday through Thursday. They didn't work on Friday. Friday's a holy day, but I had 01:12:00those guys who came and worked for me, plus I would go up to the north, I went all the way up to Tikrit to get supplies because at that time we did not have a contractor unit there to do our plumbing, electrical, KBR is what everybody usually used. We didn't have anything like that there. We were self-sufficient. That's how I ran into these guys from the engineers, and I had seen the patch, and I'm like, "Hey, aren't you guys from Ohio?" They're like, "Yeah." I'm like, "Hey, here's the situation, I'm on this little piece of heaven down here, and I ain't got nothing. I need water tanks. I need wire. I need plumbing stuff. I need hot water tanks. I need pumps.
They're like, hey .... They took me into the yard, and we loaded up trucks, andthen we drove the trucks back down, and myself and the guy I that was doing the wiring, we went to town, and we started hooking up extra pumps, extra tanks for water, and actually were able to make improvements on FOB. Huge, we put a ... I hooked what I called a hillbilly laundry unit. I had a trailer set up, it was a shower trailer, and I put a 250 gallon water tank on top, plumbed it coming down, hooked everything up, ran it out to a French drain, it worked perfect, and that's the kind of stuff we had to go make due with until they actually got KBR there on the ground, which was near the end of our deployment there, and we were getting ready to pull out.
JH: What was your daily routine like?
DT: Our what?
JH: What was your daily routine like?
DT: I would get up at 5 o'clock in the morning, and start the coffee, and then Iwould head up to the chow hall, and I would go and grab myself a muffin, and turn around and make sure that they had X number of rations for the patrol that I had out. I would walk back over, and sit out there and drink my coffee and eat my muffin, and check the duty log from my TOC. The way I had it set up was they 01:14:00had the main TOC in the building where everybody else was, and then I had a 577 that I had gone and added the 10 on the back, and did a little bit of Army ingenuity on it, and hooked up an air conditioner on it, and some other things that were set right outside my Commander's office. My theory behind it was that we had ours here, and they had there's there, if they hit that main TOC, they had a back up to come to, which the Colonel really liked.
After I would get done with that, the patrol would come in, I would have one ofmy guys in my TOC go over and get the food, bring it over, make sure everybody got fed, and see if there was any missions that I had to go out on for that day. I'd either go do a mission during the day, or I'd turn around and go work as the assistant FOB Mayor, which could be anything from going to repair a toilet to turn around and building a shower for the Iraqi IPs, which I did, or build a shower up on Magic Mountain for the guys who were up there for two and three weeks. It was a radio trans station. I built a shower for them up there with a gravity fed water tank. Myself and another Sergeant.
Then I would work into the night, and then turn around, and I would come backand I'd sit down, usually around 2000 we had what we called every night movie night. We'd sit there, and we'd either throw a movie in or watch something on cable. We had an antenna out there, but it took a while watching Bill Cosby speaking Arabic to figure out what was going on, but we did something at night. If there was a night patrol or something like that, I may go on patrol with them at night, and then start the whole thing over again, seven days a week.
JH: What were your official titles for the jobs you did, and where were you inboth of your positions within the overall Chain of Command at FOB Cobra?
DT: I have a Company Commander, and I have a First Sergeant, and then I was the01:16:00Headquarters Platoon Sergeant. I was the senior E-7 because you have a Headquarters, First, Second, and Third Platoon, and I was the Headquarters Platoon Sergeant. I was the full-time guy too. Everything, writing the awards and doing everything that happened paperwork-wise still fell on top of me too, along with all of those other duties.
JH: How many Soldiers were under you, that you were in command of?
DT: In my Platoon, I had about 25 in my Platoon.
JH: What's it like being in charge of people, not just stateside, but in quite adangerous place?
DT: It can be challenging at times. It can be very challenging. You've got tokeep an eye on them everyday because you have a different string of emotions. You have everything happening from ... You've got to watch them to make sure they're not starting to get depressed or they're not starting to ... Look for suicidal tendencies. You look for people who have been drinking. Has this guy written home? Has he got on the computer and emailed home?
I was a very big proponent of pushing them to write letters home, and then Iwent and got this great idea where I took a MRE container, and tore it, cut it off, and I wrote a post card and sent that home, and I showed everybody that, and they thought that was the coolest thing, so they started doing it, which was good because I wanted to get people to start writing. It's so easy to use social media, but there's still nothing that replaces somebody writing home.
JH: Can you tell us a little bit more about how writing became important to yourown service experience, and processing what was going on because I know you had showed us earlier that you yourself journal-ed quite a lot?
DT: Yeah, I kept a journal each one of my deployments. The reason I did that wasbecause at some time I'd be able to go back and recall what I had did, and ... Sometimes the little things escape you. I was reading through them the other 01:18:00night because I came here to do this, and there were some things in there, that I had totally forgotten about like driving the golf balls. It was me and the First Sergeant and the Platoon Leaders and Platoon Sergeants that were standing on the berm. We're two days from going home, and we had a bucket of balls and some clubs, and we're standing out there, and it was like something off of MASH. We're driving them as far as we could hit them.
They asked us, they said, "Are you guys going to go out and get those ballsback?" We were like, "No brother, you want them, here you go. Go get them, we're not." It was a stress reliever too.
JH: I wanted to ask, given your emphasis on communication and taking care of themental health of the Soldiers you worked with, what was your own communication like with family and friends back at home, and part two of that, what else was happening in your family? You had mentioned your son was also a full-time Guard?
DT: He was full-time, and he was due to deploy, but he didn't because he gotinjured during the train up, so he couldn't go. He was back home. My wife was back home, and my daughter was there. I was communicate to them through the telephone or through email or through writing letters. I would take a lot of pictures and send them back home, mail them home to get developed, souvenirs that we had bought from the cheap Haji movies we would buy, and maybe some clothing, articles of clothing, AK-47 bayonets were real big. They were five bucks a piece then, not so much anymore I'm sure. I don't think you can take them home now because they consider them a war trophy, back then they weren't. It's not like we captured them off of somebody, they were selling them to us for five bucks.
JH: What kind of connections were you able to make with other service members?01:20:00What was the camaraderie like between folks that were serving?
DT: It was pretty good because we, being the outsiders, ended up being theBattalion Commander's number one Company. At one point I asked him, I said, "I'm just curious why your CHUs and your Staff CHUs are over here in our area?" He pretty much just looked at me, and he said, "It's like this, I want to survive this, and you guys are the most high-speed unit we've got."
When we first came there we had to prove ourselves, so we had to try extra hard.We were more organized, we were more ... My Company Commander was very good, organization, and making sure we were where we needed to be. I did my part on looking out ahead, and First Sergeant did his part to make sure everybody was where they needed to be. Role calls, checking everything, and all of that paid off. That's why we ended up having Jalawla and Sadiyah, and not some crap mission where we were running convoys. We had two towns that we worked in. We had the good mission, by all rights should've been somebody from North Carolina, but it was given to us.
For my Company Commander to be able to go and do that, that was a great thing.It said a lot about him and his leadership.
JH: Can you say more because I just want to make sure that we understand? Whatwere you guys doing in those two towns? What were the missions that everyone was running like, when you had to go out on mission what exactly were you doing?
DT: Basically, when we would go out, we were going a couple of things. The firstpriority was that my Company Commander work with the leadership in Sadiyah and Jalawla. We worked with the IPs, the Iraqi Police and helping them establish their Police Department, establish a Chain of Commander there, and try to help them become more functional, understanding how a police department is supposed 01:22:00to work. He worked with the town council, helping them understand how a town council works, trying to help them understand that you don't take a contract and give it to your cousin. You bit the contract, the person who has the lowest bid or the person who has the capability of being able to do it, he comes in and the contract is awarded to him.
Then, they also worked with the Iraqi National Guard. We worked with them,trying to make them understand how a military organization functions, what they do, and how you don't leave a group of guys out on the checkpoint for 30 days and not feed them. We were trying to work all of that in there because in that particular thing, they only understand officer rank and not enlisted. We were trying to empower the First Sergeant and explain to him what a First Sergeant does, what the enlisted guys do. They're not servants for the Officers, but they have a key role in what they do and how they do it.
We also would do night patrols in the cities looking for insurgents, looking forproblem areas, going through there looking for IEDs, we would also turn around and we would go through the cities in the daytime and do the same thing. If they an IED, people would come and tell us, we would go there, call the EOD, they would come and blow it up in place, we would turn around and we would find caches of munitions, and we would guard it until EOD would come to blow it up. Those types of missions we would go out and do all the time.
Of course, we would go down to Anaconda, which was Balad. We would go downthere, and we would get resupplied on some of our stuff and bring it back up. We would go to different FOBs, get resupplied to do different things. That in a 01:24:00nutshell, that's basically what we did with the government side.
JH: How long were you guys boots on the ground?
DT: We got boots on the ground, we were there from roughly February of 2004until January of 2005.
JM: Could you ... I know it's a bit of a weird way of saying it, but paint apicture of how the towns were, the buildings, the roads. I know this sounds weird, but it my head, I would think that it would be dirt tracks and little huts, and it's not like that at all. The infrastructure is very strong there. Can you paint a picture?
DT: Sure. Most of the road, there were some paved roads, but a majority of themwere dirt. The houses and homes were all, 95% of them were made out of mud brick, which is ... It looks like, when they're made it looks like a ream of paper, and they're stacked, and then they're covered with a plaster type of material. They're very thick because they have to have the insulation there. They don't have furnaces in their homes. They're very thick to be insulated. They're very strong. Very strong homes. You'll find a lot of them will have more than one family in them. They'll have what they call a tribe. They'll have several families living in a ... It just seems to run on and on and on. The house connected. It's all connected coming around, kind of like a fort in some of them.
You'll find your buildings in the town are built the same way. Older steps. Tilefloors everywhere you look. Everywhere you look there's tile floors. Some of the ... There's tile everywhere, and a lot of the tile work is just amazing. How 01:26:00they do it ... It's amazing. The work that they do with the tools that they use astounded me because I'm into wood working, and I've watched them build a building. I've watched them do it with a laser. I've watched them do it without a level. I've watched them do it without ... Just a piece of string and the guy's eye. I sat there and watched them lay the tile, and they built a library. I watched everything they did as the progression of the building went, and I was astounded of the craftsmanship that they were able to do with very little tools. It's just amazing.
That was like the comparison I had said earlier. When I look, sometimes you'retrying to teach them, it's like trying to teach a kindergartner, but you look at on this side, they're so intelligent, and their skillset in building is just amazing.
JM: I'm sorry, I'm going to keep on going just a bit. Did they have internet,TVs, did they have sewage systems?
DT: Yeah, internet, they had internet. They have television sets. 95% of all thetelevision sets there were based off a big dish. A way a lot of them would work is you'd be out at the local caf, or out at somebody's garage, and they'd have a ... When I say garage, I'm talking about a lot of your businesses are just a roll-up fence that they rolled up and they pulled down. That's where they worked out of, and sometimes lived in the back. You would see televisions everywhere, and fluorescent lights were everywhere.
As far as a drainage system, there was a little creek that ran through Jalawla.This really stuck in my mind through the deployment. This end of the creek down here, you've got the guy dumping his raw sewage, it's running down into the creek. You've got another guy dumping oil that he just changed from a car 01:28:00running down the creek. You come down a little bit further, and you've got cattle grazing in there, and they're drinking. You come down a little bit further, and you've got somebody washing clothes. You go down a little bit further, and somebody's drinking. The theory is, the more the water when down that way, it was good to go. That was the most polluted water I had ever seen in my life, but it's just like they have a tolerance they built up to being able to use that water and it doesn't bother them.
Where for us, if we drank it, which some of us accidentally did get some ofthat, and ended up getting sick. Very sick.
JH: I'm also very curious about what sounds like a very close relationship youwere able to have with the local Iraqis. Were there any particular friendships or relationships you developed that stay with you to this day, or you really feel like were formative during your first deployment?
DT: I had two, and they weren't really friendships. They were moreacquaintances, but the one was with a young 18 year old kid, he was an Iraqi IP, and I was teaching him how to do handcuff techniques, and different ways to handcuff people. I had an Army knife on me, a US Army knife, and I noticed he kept watching it as I pulled it out of my pocket, and I'd be playing with it. I gave it to him, and he gave me a little picture of himself, which I thought was kind of neat.
We were in town doing some building searches looking for different, at that timeCDs, they were propaganda CDs for recruitment, ad we were going through there looking, and somebody had walked up behind me, which I didn't see. I don't know if the guy meant me harm, I don't know if he was just going to walk behind me to go get something, a glass of water, I had not idea, but he went behind me, and all I heard was a crash, bam, boom. He had taken this guy out. He had blind 01:30:00tackled him into the wall, and they were thumping on him, and they cuffed him, and they took him out. I asked him what happened, and he turned around to me and he said, "He was coming behind you. Nobody comes behind you. They need to stay away from you as long as I'm here." All I did was give this guy a pocket knife, and for him to do something like that, to be looking out for me, I thought was pretty remarkable.
The other one was one of the ... I found out later after ... I told you aboutthe incident with people getting killed, I found out later that one of the Soldiers that were killed on that checkpoint was a young man who I was working with, teaching him how to shoot and I was teasing him because I said, "You'll be one of my snipers man because you," ... He hit the target five or six times out of 25 times at 25 meters, which ain't very good, but he hit it more than anybody else. Unfortunately he was killed in that situation. I didn't find out about it until later on, and that was kind of a sad thing.
JH: Towards the end of your deployment, January of 2005, it sounds like you guysmade really close connections with other American Guardsmen and women on base, but also with the locals you were working with. What are you thinking about in terms of going back home, and leaving this world?
DT: We were kind of wondering what was going to happen to them. We weren't sure.We were relieved by the Tennessee National Guard. Everybody does things a little bit different We weren't sure what was in store for them. We weren't sure how things were going to go. Change is a hard things to accept, no matter who you are, and what you do. I don't care what position you're in, what are you doing in civilian life, military, whenever there's a change, it's very hard to accept. 01:32:00For them, a change is when we leave and somebody else comes in. There's a change involved there, and it's hard for them to accept. We weren't sure how it was going to go, but we knew there was nothing we could do. We left, and you kind of lose contact with those people there because it's very hard ... You have to be careful with what you do, what you say.
We came back home, and I went back to my full-time position as an AGR Soldier,and a lot of my other comrades in arms either got out, or moved on to different positions. I ended up going to recruiting command. I wasn't a recruiter, I was there admin guy, and then I had an opportunity to go be the First Sergeant for the 37th IBCT where I was the Command Sergeant Major. I went back to be the First Sergeant, and they were getting ready to go to Kuwait. That's how I ended up getting sucked into Kuwait.
JH: I want to talk a little bit more about, before we get into your seconddeployment in Kuwait, about the transition process. Did you have any personal difficulty at all, adjusting back to civilian life after a year or so away?
DT: Yeah. It wasn't easy. You're coming back in to a living environment whereyour wife has been paying the bills, has been taking care of the house, has been making major decisions, and you're coming back now thinking that, "I'm back now. I've got all of this." It don't work like that. It doesn't work like that at all. I've seen a lot of families that ended up divorced. I've seen a lot of guys that ended up getting arrested for domestic violence. It just doesn't work like that. The adjustment coming back, it's not easy, and I was very fortunate that I 01:34:00ended up with a wife that understood the military, and understood how we had to make things work when we started back, taking it slow, getting things, getting to know each other again. I was very fortunate with that.
JH: Was your son still in the guard at the time?
JH: He had been attached for another mobilization, and you said he was injuredduring the training experience. Can you say a little bit more about what has happened to him in the same time frame while you were away?
DT: He had ... At one point he ended up with a break in his arm, which was justbelow is elbow where he ended up having to have surgery to have some of the bone removed because of his position as a Supply Sergeant and working on the tanks, he kept lifting and lifting, and after a while it got to the point where he couldn't even raise the arm. He was going to try to tough it out to go through, but he just couldn't do it. He ended up going back and holding down the fort back in Ohio for his unit.
JH: How did you family overall ... I guess we didn't ask that talking aboutpre-deployment. How did you family receive your deployment to begin with, and what was your reception at home, locally in your community, and in your family?
DT: Reception was neat. It was something that we were very fortunate to get. Youwould've thought we just returned from World War II. It make me think because we were being treated like heroes, and we weren't really heroes. All we did was our 01:36:00job. Whether we made an impact on what we did or not, we just did our job.
It made me think about the Soldiers that came back from Vietnam that gotnothing. The same thing with the Korean War. They didn't get that much, but here we are, we didn't really do a lot, and we're being treated like we just won the third World War. It was kind of a bittersweet thing.
How do I put it-- humbling when we're being lead back from deployments byVietnam veterans on motorcycles welcoming us back. When it really should have been the other way around.
JH: So as you said you had a number of changes in position after you got back tothe states you were working full-time with the Guard from the time you got back is that correct?
DT: Yeah. Yes.
JH: And then very soon after it sounds like 2007 or so you got news that you--
DT: We were going to go to Kuwait.
JH: Yeah, so what was it like there on that base?
DT: Yeah, well it was-- going to Kuwait is a whole lot different than going toIraq. Totally different mission. The mission in Kuwait was to basically do life support for the-- our mission in Kuwait was life support for zone 6, which was one of the zones in Kuwait on the base that we were at. And it was all divided into zones. Zone 1 and zone 6, zone 6 was the living area. And we went through 01:38:00the same training this time at Fort Hood. It was just-- the train up we did back in Ohio and we got there and did our elected task but it was just as intense of a train up as if we would have went to Afghanistan or Iraq.
We landed in Kuwait and we started, you know, doing our job there and it wasdifferent this time because there had been so many changes in Kuwait since I was there in 2003 and 2005 when we flew back through. I didn't even recognize the bases I was on, didn't even recognize them. They changed the names, that was one big thing, but the infrastructure I didn't even recognize. I could not tell you where I was if I had to. Some of them had closed down other ones had opened. New building were built. I mean, it was unbelievable. I had no idea it changed that much that fast.
JH: This time around what was your role and what was the overall mission youwere part of?
DT: This time it was first sergeant and I was I was the, again, I was theassistant FOB Bear for zone 6 . So I was the senior enlist soldier in zone 6 and I controlled everything there from making sure the shower contracts were good and the water was delivered to repairs. Make sure that repairs were being made. Making sure that we had people to man our guard towers when we went through our drills. Turning around and insuring that we had communications run through there because where we were at we had it was multinationals.
We had people from the British Army, we had German, we had American, we hadPoland, we had Australians. So we had a conglomeration of all these people 01:40:00living in zone 6, which was kind of neat because I got to be-- I got to spend a lot of time with some of these people. Especially the Australians and I spent a lot of time with them there. And we kind of swapped culture stories and looked at each others weapons, and compare the weapon systems and how we did things and how they did things. So that was kind of a good learning experience.
And then basically here was a little bit better because we had KBR. Instead ofour cooks making meals we got catered meals. I mean we had people making the meals in the mess hall I mean this is good life. You know they were calling this a combat zone. I mean like this is ridiculous. I'm getting three squares a day. They've got a woodshed here I'm able to go in and go in there and do woodworking at night which I loved to do.
They got USO here that's bringing through-- we got to see the guys from the unitand get my picture with them and autograph. I got to see Lieutenant Dan, I got his picture and autograph. But probably the most memorable thing that I got to do there which will stick in my mind forever was when I was walking-- Trace Atkins was supposed to come. So I'm like this is really cool. Well there was a huge sandstorm in Iraq he couldn't fly out and this group of guys couldn't fly in.
So I go walking by the MWR tent, the USO tent, and there's this little signthere that says come in and meet the band of brothers. Now I'm thinking oh great the Hollywood dudes are here that's all I need so I'm like I'll go in and get some autographs and maybe these guys will be big someday. So I go in there and I'm looking around I'm like hey where are these guys at? I don't see anybody and she goes there right over there at that table.
I said those are old guys. Those are it? Wait minute those are the real-- And01:42:00she goes, yeah. This is the real, those are the actual band, those are the real people. So I went over there and I was able to meet-- Not only meet but actually talk one on one with people like Wild Bill, Babe, some of the other key individuals there. I believe that the first sergeant was there and it was neat because these are the people that-- I watched Band of Brothers I had seen on the screen, but being able to communicate with them and talk with them was really unique because these guys are heroes. I'm siting in the middle of Babe and Did Bill and they're nothing eating on me like two piranhas because I'm made the $100 mistake of asking them if they were from the Bronx and they're both from Phillie. And they just started chewing me apart but it was neat because these guy had come all the way over here to honor us when it should be the other way around, you know.
And they didn't think of themselves as heroes but to me and everybody elsethere-- It kind of chokes me up sometimes. They really were heroes and yeah we were in a combat zone in Iraq and I was again in Afghanistan but these guys made a difference. You know, they won a war. Vietnam they made a difference and they lost a lot of people. And they had worse conditions than we had, but these guys came all this way to make our lives a little bit better. So that to me was kind 01:44:00of a neat thing.
JH: On that note what was your sense of what the media reception was like for USpresence in Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan at the time?
DT: I'm sorry say that again.
JH: What was your sense of what the media reception was like around the USpresence in Iraq, Kuwait, Afghanistan at the time?
DT: When we were in Iraq he media was concentrating on-- the were looking forSaddam, they had the playing cards. We had playing cards out and they were constantly on the news saying hey we captured this guy, they captured this guy, they've killed Saddam's two sons. I mean there seemed to be an awful lot of coverage. By the time I had made it into Kuwait there's no coverage on anything happening in Kuwait. There was very little-- There was some media coverage bantering back and forth still a little bit into Afghanistan. And I really didn't hear a lot about Afghanistan the entire time I was in. It was still mostly about Iraq. It seemed to be dying down. It seemed to be tapering down rather quickly. And they kept talking about pulling us out. They seemed to be continuing to taper down.
JH: And just so we have it on record how was what you were doing in Kuwaitconnected to the larger US strategy? What were you trying to achieve and how did it tie together--
DT: Basically what we were doing we were providing-- we were like-- I guess thebest way to say it is we were like a train stop station. We had the other elements that would come there and they would be there for a while or we had units that were coming back or going into country. We would find housing and lodging for them. They would either move forward into Iraq or go into 01:46:00Afghanistan. And then we would go and you get the next batch would come. So we had constant turn around there. We had Russians flying equipment into Iraq on a constant basis where we supplied soldiers to fly with them, with the equipment. We had Air Force people staying there, Navy personnel staying there. So basically we provided their life support while they were there on our base and then they move forward. That was our mission. To provide life support.
JH: What was the base called at the time? You mentioned the names had changedsince the first time--
DT: You know I cannot remember for the life of me right now [Camp Arifjan]. Itwill probably come to me. Yeah, I can't remember what it was called right now.
JH: What was the culture on the base like this time around with all of these improvements?
DT: Well it was a huge, huge difference. The people in Kuwait it was night andday because the ones that worked on the base they were all-- All the people that worked on our base, the majority of them, were either from India, some from Pakistan, and some from- very few Kuwaitis. The majority of them were from India that worked on our base. Everybody that worked in the wood shop was from India. And we went through the chow line that was serving all the food and everything, they were from India. Then there were some from Africa, but the majority were from India and Pakistan.
JH: What were your relationships like with other soldiers on base or with thesethird party contractors? Were they close?
DT: Well the third party people it wasn't too bad. I made a lot of friends inthe wood shop. I know I keep mentioning that but I worked closely with the people from India in there and I learned very quickly who Bbj was. At that 01:48:00time I shaved my head and had a mustache and round glasses and they told me I looked like Gandhi. Who they called Bbj. So everywhere I went they started calling me Bbj.
But they were very helpful. I learned an awful lot from them. I mean and thenI-- One of the contractors who was actually running the facility, I learned a lot from him. He really gave me some great instruction building cabinets and stuff. He was from England and was amazing. So I learned an awful lot from him. And the Indian people there taught me some skills that on the skill saw and on the table saw that I didn't have before I came there. They taught me some different kinds of set up and stuff. So it was kind of a really neat thing.
With the actual contractors that ran our stuff I dealt more with the endproduct. There was a major who would deal with the contractor from other countries that would handle the contract. I would with the people that came in to actually do the job. So I would deal with them more so to make sure that the paperwork was right and, you know, kind of like follow them around to make sure that everything was good to go.
JH: What was your day-to-day life like this time around? Was it quite differentfrom your first deployment?
DT: Yeah, quite a bit. This one right here I was up probably the same time: a PTin the morning and I would go to my office and work during the day, get in my truck and drive around the zone, check stuff, come back, probably go to lunch, go to the gym, lift and about 1700 every night we took the flag down, folded it with actually the music playing and the whole nine yard with an actual color guard. Actually an assigned color guard came out there and took it down. And we would take flags and give them to soldiers. They would give us a flag to fly, we 01:50:00would fly their flag, fold it for them, and give it to them. Then I would head to the wood shop. That was my day and I would start over and do it again the next day.
JH: You mentioned the wood shop several times could you just, as I askedearlier, paint us a picture of what that was like? What was the culture of the wood shop like? What were you guys producing, and what's it like for you being there?
DT: What it was you had a-- They had a MWR had a couple of different things youcould do. You could go in and watch movies, you could go and lift weights, or you could go work with wood. I took the work with wood. It was a metal building with about a 12 foot garage door and a man door. When you went inside it was basically it was just a wood shop. It had machinery, table saw, router table, a finish room, band saw, they had a skill saw there, man they had everything. They had planers. They had joiners and they had lumber.
The rule was you had to come in with a drawn project. It could not be furniture.So I built a lot of jewelry boxes and flag cases. You were allowed 10 board feet per project. So I would go there and get my project and turn it around and mail it home and do another one. The wood that they had there was-- They had hickory, some maple, but 95% of the wood they had was rough unfinished walnut, black walnut. So I made a lot of stuff with black walnut, which is very expensive wood. How they got it I don't know but they had it.
JH: Now is they relatively rare for a base to have a wood shop?
JH: Why there instead of--
DT: I have no idea. Couldn't even begin to tell you, but I've never sen one01:52:00before and I was like hey I'll take advantage of it.
JH: Now had you worked recreationally in wood working before?
DT: Yes. Yeah, so I jumped on the opportunity to be able to learn. You know, Icould have went to college at night and got my degree or done something like that, but I decided to take the other lane.
JH: Were there other particularly formative experiences that shaped this second deployment?
DT: Not as much as the first one. This one here I went to-- Got a chance to goto the Kuwaiti Naval Air Base, KBR as we called it. I went all the way up into there north and I can't remember the name of the base up there, it's terrible. We went up there and came back down. It was kind of weird seeing a dead camel on the side of the road. We didn't drive in convoys. We drove civilian vehicles. That was totally different.
I did have a firearm with me, but we were only allowed to take x amount ofammunition and we had to conceal it. So that was very different than our last deployment. Everywhere we went we were in civilian vehicles. So that was very different.
JM: It seems to me that you didn't have the relationships with people this timethat you had previously.
DT: No, I had very little contact with people. The only contact I had-- I hadmore contact with the ones that worked on the base, but those were all the people that they had hired. I had very little to no contact with people outside.
JH: Was this still considered a combat mission?
DT: They called it that but it didn't consider it that. Now we got combat pay.We got hazard duty pay. They no longer do that anymore. So I think they were in 01:54:00the process of doing away with that, but that wasn't a combat zone as far as I was concerned. Nobody was shooting at me this time. Nobody was firing rockets. There was nobody getting hit by IEDs. The only thing we were killing there was time and boredom.
JH: Those seem like two totally different types of experiences. Likepsychologically being in one sense like a relatively safe place and then before in a dangerous place. How have you compare the experiences in your sense?
DT: They were night and day, night and day. The first one was going there beingafraid of the unknown. Wondering what the next day was going to bring. Whether somebody was going to get hurt, somebody was going to get killed. On the first deployment we lost nobody in my company, but we lost several soldiers in the battalion. That was just one of the things that happens. Now this deployment we went there we didn't lose anybody. The worst things we got-- My commander got a case of gallbladder attack.
JH: And how long all told were you in Kuwait?
DT: We were in Kuwait about nine months.
JH: What are your memories of the last days before returning to the US?
DT: Oh, we were pretty much there we were just taking it easy the last couple ofdays. It was kind of nice because we got a chance to go and do some different things and hang out in zone 1 and just pretty much do nothing, which was kind of nice.
JH: Can you tell us a little about your transition to life stateside that secondtime around?
DT: That second time around was still challenging. You still face the same01:56:00challenges. You face-- you've been away from somebody for a year and now your coming back and you're still facing the same challenge because you're trying to reintegrate back into the household again. Where you've got-- You know, we've turned around and all these different changes have happened. During my time in Kuwait my mother had passed away. So all these different changes that are happening when you come back it makes it a little bit different.
JH: If you're comfortable would you share a little bit more about the experienceof your mother passing while you were away?
DT: Well while I was over there I knew that she was 95 or 94 and wasn't doingreal well so I had a feeling she would probably pass while I was gone. Depending on what we were doing there I hadn't planned on going back for anything. I had already said my goodbyes, but she went into a comatose state and they decided to send me home.
So I left there and went through the airport, which was a unique experience initself. Because going through the airport on the civilian side I get there and they want my passport, my ID, there are armed guards in there. I'm like this is like something out of a movie. They give me my ID card back and I go through the gate and it's like a huge mall and I'm trying to find where I'm supposed to go to find this terminal. Finally I find it and I'm going through another search area. Then I get down there and I go through another search area.
The I get down there and now I'm sitting on this side and there's a glass walland before I can go and get on the plane I go through another search area. It's more thorough than the United States. I get onto the plane and of course the long flight back home and I got home I was there before she passed. So I was 01:58:00able to-- She didn't know I was there, but I was there and I got to spend two days before she had passed on, which was good.
JH: What was it like being suddenly at home for such a difficult event, and thenyou have to go right back?
DT: Ah it was different. I mean, I had went home when I was in Iraq. I had wenthome on leave and came back. It was-- You know you're not going to be there that long so you don't have the same-- You don't have the problem of I'm in charge or I'm taking over and paying this because-- When you come back after everything is over, the honeymoon is over in about a week, because the you start getting on each other's nerves. And there you're sitting there wondering why this bill is being paid and well I've got this system where I'm going to pay this in the middle of the month, and oh by the way the hot water tank blew up, etc. etc. you know you're at a different-- You know now everything is a little different so that impacts everything a little bit.
JH: So as you've come back from Kuwait and you're working through thistransition what are you thinking in terms of your civilian career and your military career at this point?
DT: Well at this point I've now worked my way back up to E8 and I'm thinking Imay not get a chance at sergeant major. You know, I'm coming to the end of my career and I may not-- My intention was to retire in 2012 probably not going to get a shot at it. And then low and behold I found out that our-- We have what's called a 30-60-90 when we come back. A 30 day integration period, a 60 day integration period, a 90 day integration.
At the 60 day the announcement was made that we would be deploying toAfghanistan within the year. So we started ramping up to go to Afghanistan and 02:00:00that put me in a position of the full-time side to become the command sergeant major for the 237th BSB [Brigade Support Battalion] in Cleveland so I would regain my E9 and then while I was on deployment I was hired full time by the 16th Engineer Brigade as a sergeant major for the operations sergeant major position, which was full-time.
JH: So this is while you were Afghanistan?
DT: While I was in Fort Stewart, yeah Fort Stewart. No, Shelby-- Shelby,Mississippi we were there doing our prep to go. They had the interview for the job and I interviewed for it and I didn't think I had a chance and I got hired and they waited a year to come back. So it worked out well I got my E9 back and that doesn't happen very often. You know, to come back, get a full time E9 position are very far a few between.
JH: So in that little spell of time between coming home from Kuwait anddeploying into Afghanistan what does life look like for you? For your family?
DT: In-between-- before--
JH: Yeah, how long are you back all told?
DT: I was back probably just a little over a year.
JH: And you knew you said 60 days in that you were going--
DT: Oh yeah, we knew we were going, start getting ready to go. So the traininghad already started. Started getting ready to go.
JH: What's that like being in that kind of limbo? You're home but you knowyou're going to be gone.
DT: It's not-- My mind was more on trying to get everybody ready to go becausethis time I knew we weren't going to Kuwait. This time we're actually going to a combat theater. And our mission there was going to be-- because a Brigade Supply, BSB, what we do we resupply everybody. I've got a medical detachment. 02:02:00I've got a trans [transportation] detachment. I've got mechanics.
You know we go and we run supplies and trucks and stuff to different places. Iknew we would have a lot of convoys-- A lot of people on the road, which is a very dangerous environment. So my mind was more on trying to get everybody ready to do what I knew they had to do and to figure out how I was going to get everybody back in one piece.
JH: What did those trainings in the ramp up to deployment look like?
DT: Pretty much the same as what we did for Kuwait. The irony of it was we justgot back from Kuwait a little over a year. We're going back to the same thing we just got done doing, but that was okay. This time I was the senior guy for the entire brigade, for the entire battalion. I was the senior guy. I had a chance to make or break everybody and I had to make sure that my decisions that I made on the NCO side were right and I kept moral up. And we kept our minds focused and in the game.
We ended up going to Dehdadi II which was in the northern part of Afghanistan.
JH: Can you tell us little bit about how your particular role as the senior guythere differed from what your roles had been in your previous two deployments?
DT: Well in my first deployment I was a platoon sergeant. This second deploymentI was the first sergeant of a company size element and now I'm the command sergeant major for a battalion. Which is about 400-- Normally a battalions about 02:04:00600 some people; I had about 400 some people on the ground. So we ran a lot of convoy type missions and my medic were-- A majority of my medics were stationed at the FOB nest to us at Spann, which was the FOB next to us with the brigade.
One of the first convoy we ran was in the month of February. We're in amountainous area so we ran the convoy from our FOB, Dehdadi II, we were going to run up to Cook. Myself and the brigade sergeant major decided we're going to go on the first convoy. We explained to everybody we're not going on the convoy to be in charge. We're going on the convoy to see what elements you're facing and what challenges you're going to be facing.
We left a t 9 o'clock in the morning on a Sunday. We proceeded down the road andwhen we hit the mountains we had 5 jingle trucks. Were white trucks, they were local truck driver hauling some of our equipment along with our green trucks. Once we started getting into the mountain, and you have to remember there's no snowplows, no salt, and we're looking at mountains and we're looking at snow covered roads and we're looking at these guys stopping to put on chains. They can't get up hills. We've got to use our wreckers to pull them up. We've got to pull them out of ditches.
It took us from Dehdadi II we ended up diverting over to Khilagay and spending aday at Khilagay to rest and recuperate. It took us over 25 hours to get there. I'm sorry it took us 18 hours to get to Khilagay, because we got there the next day at 3 o'clock in the morning. We got there, we spent the night, and then we spent the next day there to get everything reset. From Khilagay up to the other 02:06:00FOB [Spann] maybe two and a half hour drive it took us 7 again. We got up there. Once we got rid of the white truck we rested up, spent a day there, got everything we needed to come back. Now we're running all green vehicle back, running all US Army vehicles. We made it from there all the way back to Dehdadi II in 6.5 hours.
So that was one of the challenges that we knew we were going to be facing withthe- using local trucks. One of the things that we implemented was after that mission my commander wanted to start implementing inspections on the truck to ensure that they were capable of being able to do what they needed to do and make sure the drivers had an understanding of what was expected of them. Because they would get out put the chains on, take the chains off, put the chains on. It's like dude, leave them on. That's the type of stuff that we did there. But myself and my battalion commander and ES3 at least twice a month would go on patrols. And every single convoy that pulled out of that FOB I was out there on the ground talking to the soldiers and I was going around checking equipment, I would go around check to make sure they had their safety equipment, make sure they had their iPro [goggles], they had their helmets, they had everything they needed. Because not knowing this might be the last time I see these kids. So I made sure they had everything they needed. I spent the time talking to them.
We were very fortunate during our deployment. I had two soldiers that wereattached to different companies that were injured in an accident and both of them survived. There were three soldiers from the 148th that were killed in Afghanistan. That in itself is a tragic thing but we were very fortunate. All the miles we put on the roads and all the towns that we went through we didn't 02:08:00lose anybody. So we were quite blessed being able to come back with all of our fingers and toes.
JM: Could you paint a picture of what Afghanistan-- I mean I've never been toAfghanistan. How does it look? What is the terrain like?
DT: Sure, the terrain in Afghanistan where we were at is a lot different thanwhere we were at in Iraq. Iraq was kind of flat. There were some mountain areas but nothing really that big. Afghanistan there were very steep mountains. I mean we went up some mountain roads in Afghanistan that were pretty good little drop. It was like driving through California. The other thing about Afghanistan was that-- We had as we went through the towns the buildings pretty much looked the same.
But you had a lot of kids that would climb up on your vehicle as you drovethrough town to steal stuff. We didn't have that in Iraq. Never had that problem at all, but these kids here they would jump on the moving vehicle and take what the could take. I mean they would snatch the whole entire tool box, which we thought was locked and in the door out of a wrecker. It becomes a very big problem. Now active duty when they were there, their answer was that they were going to-- They had turned around and they were throwing studs at them balloons or stuff like that. We came up with our policy that we're not doing anything.
Because the bottom line is this their fault, our fault, nobodies fault. One ofthose kids gets hurt when we're throwing something at them to get them off the vehicle or shoo them away we're going to be responsible. So I would rather lose a toolbox or lose a case of MREs that I can replace than get one of these kids hurt. we came up with some other neat ideas and once again being in the Guard and having a lot of different people from a lot of different backgrounds makes a 02:10:00big difference.
Active duty could not figure out how to keep these little rascals off. What wecame up with was-- One of my guys, who was a farm guy, he found some wire that had holes about this big in it. He took the wire and did a little bit of maneuvering it and fixing on it and the back of the MRAP he was able to slip it down in there and very taut, and everything was tied down. They couldn't get up on the vehicle now. They were entering from the rear and they tried everything. They tried putting stuff across it, roping it. Little rascals would reach up there and grab your bag and everything.
Well this wire that we put up there we fixed it so they couldn't get up in theback end. It worked very well. It kept them off our trucks. Plus we went out and also talked to the local elders. We didn't, I should say, we had the interpreters go out and talk to the local elders and met with them to tell them to keep off. To keep the kids back.
The big difference between this one and the Iraqi deployment was the interactionwith the people well it almost wasn't there. The only interaction I had with the common people was with the interpreters. That was the only interaction we had. We had no interaction as far as going out into town and having meeting with them and stuff like we were doing before, that just didn't happen. The only thing that we did have a time to go out into town and have an interaction was when we had a balloon that had broken free. Something that had happened on the news here recently and crashed and crushed a guys shed. So we went there and fave them some certificates. So that was our big connection with the local villagers.
We did have an engineer unit, our alpha company engineer unit to the north, andthey were at the Uzbekistan border where the Peace [Friendship] Bridge is. We 02:12:00had those people up there so we would fly up there and it was kind of crazy because when I was in Iraq if you flew somewhere you went by Chinook. Okay, with machine guns on the back or you had-- You'd see apaches flying in. When we flew in Afghanistan we flew on Canadian airplanes. So it was kind of different. You know, we were flying commercial. You know you go over there and get on this plane it's flying by civilian pilots and taking us up to a civilian aircraft-- taking us to where we needed to go.
So, it was quite different when we were there, compared there to Iraq. It wasnight and day.
JH: What's happening on the ground in the region around Behdadi II in terms ofwhat's happening in Afghanistan? What's happening with the US in that part of the country?
DT: Basically what we were doing there was we were running supplies to the otherFOBs who were working with the local town people. They had-- instead of having the units going out and communicating with the local people they had now developed a program called SVAT that they have teams that are supposedly specially trained to go out there and deal with the locals and we support those teams by supplying their supplies in, operating fire bases, to keep everybody safe, and we also had bases in place in local communities to work with the different town mayors and stuff like that.
The SVAT would go out there and do that and we would support them. Like our oneup by Uzbekistan there basic mission there was they worked with the local police department out in town. The SVAT worked with them and then of course they had the Peace [Friendship] Bridge is right there. That was a big, I guess a big deal going between that and Uzbekistan. It looked like a bridge to me. 02:14:00
JH: I wanted to ask you what kind of interaction did you have with other USmilitary service branches during this deployment? You had mentioned a couple of times on multiple deployments seeing some or maybe a flexibility or resilience in the Guard's ability to adjust to new situations because folks came from different walks of life. So how much were you interacting with Navy, Marines--
DT: This particular FOB we were on here we had-- We ended up having ArmyReserve, there were active duty firefighters, there was some foreign Armies there. I believe we had-- We had some Poles there for a little while, but it wasn't like it was in Kuwait. We had some active duty guys there. A lot of the people we had there were the-- We dealt with a lot of the Army Reserve and I found between the Army Reserve and the National Guard-- It depends on what the mission is sometimes they're seamless and sometimes there's competition between the Army Reserve and National Guard. But both entities seem to work pretty well together when we were there.
JH: What kind of experiences stand out in your memory of this deployment? Thatstay with you?
DT: In this one here, basically that long convoy really stood out in my mind.That was one of the of the top things. Then of course we lost, our brigade lost the three soldiers that were killed by the IED from the motorcycle and that was a tough loss. That was a-- And then I had my two soldiers that were injured. 02:16:00When they were attached to a different units or different battalions. This are the things that really stuck with me. And then, where we were at we had some holes in the fences, and I'm talking about holes that you could drive an MRAP trough. We slept in tent the entire time and one of the things that bothered me was at night time-- You know, you're sleeping in a tent and there's a hole in the fence anybody could come through and just. I found myself, I found it hard to rest, I found it hard to sleep being that close to the wall that you knew had a big hole in it. It didn't seem like there was a real big emphasis on fixing that hole for some reason. I wasn't in charge of it. It wasn't my business.
JH: To give us a better sense what was the danger like, or the sense of conflictwhere you were located? Was it similar to your first deployment in Iraq?
DT: No, not even close. We would go through our drills, manning the posts. We atmy post never never got-- we were never attacked. we had several threats, but nothing ever really becomes of it. We were there when they burnt the Qurans and that's what spontaneously started the thing that got my two soldiers hurt, but we never had anything at ours. We had nothing. We were very fortunate. I guess we were in a very quiet area.
We were pretty close to Marmal [Camp Marmal], which was-- At Marmal was kind of02:18:00like-- Arifjan was the name of the camp in Kuwait. It was kind of like Arifjan because it was huge it had Germans, we had Hungarians, we had Polish, we had British, we had Australian, and we had Japanese. We had everybody over there. So going over there was really cool because it was like going through-- Like going to Disneyland. We were going through all these different countries.
And it was funny because going there even though we had KBR where we were at. Wehad a real good dining facility, but going there we had change to go-- We would go to the German Dining Facility and eat instead of the American. Everybody wanted to eat at the American one, and we would go to the German and eat because it was different. That was kind of neat being able to do those kinds of things.
The other neat thing was my Sergeant Major Jones, who was the state CommandSergeant Major for Ohio spoke fluent German. That was really cool. He would go around and he would talk to the German Soldiers, which was really neat because watching him communicate with them, and we would stand there and talk to them, and he would talk to them, and tell me what they were saying, but it was kind of neat because getting a different perspective of how they did business, and how they looked at things, and the missions that they were doing, safeguarding different things. It was different. That opened up a lot of different learning experiences for us.
JH: I wanted to ask you, from what you've shared with us so far. It sounds likeyou're someone who appreciates cultural exchange, and pays really close attention to how that is happening, and the US involvement abroad. Can you talk a little bit about how that shaped up or you during your career? You mentioned 02:20:00that when you deployed to Iraq, you hadn't really been overseas before, but it sounds like you had a number of really interesting cultural experiences and exchanges that influenced you. What has that been like?
DT: It's actually helped me grow a lot. It's helped me understand more how otherpeople live, and how they function, and a lot of it too, and the reasoning why they're like the way they are, we view them as being different, but are they really different? They're not different than you or I, the difference is that they may do things in a different way. They may believe something different than we do.
As far as the customs, I don't care where you go, you can go down in Mexico, youcan go up to Canada, there's a lot of customs and stuff that they do that are totally different from what we do in the US. Just over there, it's night and day because you're looking at a total different way of life. It takes a while to get used to buying adapters because everything is 220. You've got to get used to that. You're not used to that over here because everything is 110, which is totally different from being overseas.
Being around those people has inspired me to, when I retire, is to go to ... Oneof the things I want to do is I want to take my wife, and I want to visit Germany. After talking to a lot of the German Soldiers and places to go to there, I want to go over there and see some of the sites there in Germany.
Another place I wanted to visit when I retire is Australia. After talking to theAustralian Soldiers and some of the different places to go and do, and it's funny because of some of the things, my perspective of Australia was I thought everybody in Australia drank Foster's. I thought, hey everybody drinks that, and no, not so much. They can't stand that. That's one of the beers they won't 02:22:00touch. They won't touch it because I said that to them, and they were like, "No mate, we don't drink nothing like that." I'm like, "Really, how about that."
That's the kind of stuff that you take for granted, and you're thinking oh yeah.Oh no. We talked about different types of food, and Oktoberfest and stuff like that. It's interesting learning how they do stuff because I had no idea that overseas in Germany, a lot of the beer is warm. It's not cold. Those types of things are interesting to be able to exchange that stuff, and it's like ... I did more culture exchange with the locals in Iraq than I did anywhere else.
There was this one little kid who went around selling DVDs. I always wonderedwhat ever happened to him. He was a little con guy, and he would go around there and he scheistered ... I knew I was getting scheistered, but I also knew too, that hey, he probably can use that extra buck more than I can use that extra buck. I wasn't really too worried about it. There was some other people that I had met over there, and you know you sit back and you wonder, gee I wonder whatever happened to that particular person, are they still alive, what's happened to them. Then you see stuff on the news in the places that you've been over there, and it's kind of like gee whiz, it's just a shame that it has to be that way.
It's like I said, we don't control what happens. I'm sure it's the same way forthe people who were ... That were in Korea, the Korean war, and the people who have went back in World War II to revisit the Battle of Bulge, and revisit places overseas, and Omaha Beach, looking back on what happened then, and then the guys going back to Vietnam that were there during the major part of 02:24:00conflict. They're looking back on different things, and I look back during my ...
When I retire it will be 38 years, and I look back on how the US military wastreated when I first came in, and the perspectives of the civilian populous on the military wasn't the best. A lot of protest during the '70s. I live in Ravenna, and that's less than three miles from Kent State where the riots took place. I was 13 years old when that happened.
I guess I look at a lot of stuff the way those veterans were treated, and wenever really did anything for them as far as I'm concerned. I look at after 9/11 the way the military was perceived, and all of the things that we've done and how we're welcomed home, and everybody's like ... We did what we were told to do, and we did what we had to do. During that time there was some things that were hard and some things that were easy and some things that were fun. We learned a lot, but the thing is we weren't heroes. The real heroes were the people who escorted us home. In my opinion that was the heroes.
JH: How would you like this generation of servicemen and women in a post 9/11world to be remembered, if not as heroes, what is the legacy?
DT: I think for us, it's more that we were given a mission, and we went out andachieved it. We didn't really have a clear cut enemy that we went out and 02:26:00defeated. Kind of similar to Vietnam, although their enemy was more clear cut. They knew it was strictly the North Vietnamese. With us, it's been ISIS, it's been the Taliban, it's been Saddam Hussein, and there's not real clear cut enemy, and we went into countries, and we've helped them, and we've made changed for them, and tried to make their life a little bit better, and tried to help them define their own government. I don't know if we really went there and done anything that would prescribe us to be the type of hero.
In other words when I say hero I look at people from World War II and what theydid. I look at people from Korea. I look at the soldiers in Vietnam that, you know, on a daily basis lived in terrible conditions. Compare to what we lived in when we went over there it can't hold a candle to what this guys had to go through. You know, we send people into combat today with body armor. We send people into combat today with the most sophisticated weapons you could imagine. Night surveillance capabilities that are unsurpassed by any other country. Up-armored vehicles, I mean it's amazing and in the past the other people went into combat with no body armor whatsoever. With what they could find and what they could use. Not the proper clothing in World War II. To me those are heroes and I guess every generation probably says the same thing because if you ask somebody from World War II they'd probably tell you the same thing, they weren't heroes.
JH: What was your homecoming like, coming back from Afghanistan?02:28:00
DT: Pretty much the same as the other ones. You know, it's funny because whenthe soldiers come back they/themselves want to get off the plane, go with their families, and get out of Dodge. They could care less about the congressmen or the senator or the hand clapping, or the welcome home, or the bands playing. They don't care. They got one goal they want to get out of there. They really don't care. I think the homecoming part is more for the families than the soldiers, because the really don't care. If they had their way-- If you ask any soldier, if they had their way, get me off this bus, get me in my car, and get me down the road and I'm good.
JH: Where has your career taken you since coming home in 2013?
DT: Well, my career has taken me, since coming back home, I now work here inColumbus, Ohio as the operations sergeant major for the 16th Engineer Brigade. As an operations sergeant major it's something that I've never done before because I was in a command position most of my entire career. Now I'm in an ops position which is more of a staff position. We just had a war fighter which is a great big operation where we deal with pretend there's a battle using computers and stuff. Now I'm worried about if my computers work, if we have the right cable connections, do I have enough tables, do we have the right mission, do we have the right operations orders set, you know, is the tent set up right, do I have enough power in my power grid. Before I was worried about weapons, tanks, bullets, you know. So it's quite different.
You know, I watch the younger guys in the infantry and stuff and they're worriedabout going out there to do a CALFEX [Cadet Summer Training Combined Arms Live-Fire Exercise] or they're going to go out there and fire tanks. And I'm worried about if I have enough computers and do I have enough connections to get 02:30:00this to work. So it kind of went completely in a full circle. 38 years is pretty much enough.
JH: So what's next for you?
DT: My plan is that when I retire which will be in 17 . I am going to goand I've got my wood shop built and I'm going to sit out there and do woodworking.
JM: So in regard to your experiences. If the older you would talk to the youngeryou about what you actually went and saw, the people you saw, and how you felt. What would you say?
DT: I would probably tell myself to grasp it and enjoy it. Probably pay a littlebit more attention what the older people have to say, because when you're younger regardless of how you feel or think very few listen to the older people and I wish I would have listened to more of the older people. I would tell the younger person to go and get his education because I think that would have helped me understand things a little bit better. It took me a little while to catch on to culture over there and I wish I would have read more about it because over there when I walked in a room everybody stood up and they greeted me first. I was only a sergeant E7 and I've got a captain with me, but they went to me first the reason being I'm the oldest. Their culture is that the oldest person in the room is the first to be greeted. He's the first one to be offered to drink. That took some getting used to. Now my commander totally understood it. He thought it was funny, but me I was kind of embarrassed because I'm like, you know, being in the military you're not used to that. So that took a little 02:32:00bit of getting used to but-- I think telling my younger self I would have told myself to get my education, probably plow through more, read more, and learn more about the culture and probably learn more about the language to be more effective.
JH: As you rose through the ranks in your career what was your philosophy likefor dealing with younger soldiers and service people who were just joining up for the first time?
DT: It's funny because when I was in the line companies I was probably more of adisciplinarian, I was probably more rough and more it has to be done this way. As I rose up through the ranks and as time went on you can't operate like that in every situation. In the infantry you operate in one way and in an engineer brigade you operate in a different way. In a headquarters in a division headquarters you would operate differently than you would in a battalion because you're dealing with different people. Your dealing with generals and in a battalion you're dealing with colonels, so it's a little bit different. Each you you've got to be kind of like a chameleon. You've got to kind of adapt to how you're going to do it and how your leadership style is. If you stay with the same leadership style it'll never work. If I would have kept the same leadership style at company level as a command sergeant major it would have never worked.
JM: So, you basically said your role you don't question what you're going to do.You can't question-- You've got to basically say that somewhere down the line they're doing this for this reason and you can't make a decision on it yourself because the picture is way bigger, but how does that effect you? If I tell you to put your hand in the fire it's going to burn. There could be a bigger picture but at the same time-- I would understand but it would still be difficult. Do 02:34:00you know what I mean?
DT: Well, it depends on-- There's a line between common and then just beingplain stupid. When you look at the things that are handed down to us in a task. A good example would be we need you to take 24 trucks to this location and drop off 24 cases of MREs. Alright, we know that that route that they've picked had been blown up and is IED alley and we know that we're going to get hit. So we would not so much question but we would ask hey what if we took-- What if we took action B or course of action C are these acceptable? Can we do these? No they want you taking this route. The reason you are taking this route is that they want you to take it as a decoy. That are main objective can get through on the other one. Got it. So, we're going to do it but we're going to be smart about how we do it. Okay just because someone told me to take that hill. Got it. Now I'm going to do it my way. You told me to take it you didn't tell me how to take it. Now I'm going to do it my way. I'm going to figure out what's the safest way to do it and how I can do it most effectively with a minimal amount of casualties. It's the same thing when they give us a mission. We know we've got to do it and if you're under figreobviously there's not time to think. You've got to react. But if you're not under fire and you've got time to think. The smart person is going to look at it and go I know I have to do it now how can I skin that cat and still make everybody else happy and accomplish the mission, but do it in a logical sequence. That's the difference between a leader and someone who just blindly goes and follows an order and just goes and says I've got to go and take that convoy. That's the difference. You've got to think about how you're going to do it and that's what makes a leader a leader. Thinking about the right way to do it and the options he has to do it with. 02:36:00
JH: Across your career, you said it's been 38 years-
DT: It will be in 2017.
JH: How have your military experiences affected you, and how have they affectedyour family?
DT: A missed a lot of stuff. I've missed a lot of anniversaries, a lot ofbirthdays, graduations, it's been rough, but it's not different than anybody else who's made a career out of the military. My wife understands that, which I'm very fortunate. If you sit back, and you look at it. Sometimes it's like she says, she makes the sacrifice, and right now she's making a sacrifice because I live here Monday through Friday, but she looks at it and says that it's a small thing what she does compared to what people on Active Duty have to do. They're not only missing those things that I'm missing, but they're more every three or four years to a different base. They're being uprooted. We're fortunate and we're not. That's one of the blessings that we have there.
Having a spouse that understands, and understands how the military works andfunctions, and that makes a big difference because without that support at home, well, you wouldn't be successful.
JH: Are there particular values or aspects of military service that continue tohave a strong meaning in your life now?
DT: Integrity is the one that comes to mind almost every time. Ever since I'vebeen in the military, the biggest thing in me has been selfless service, but integrity, if you can't be a person of your word and show the integrity that you need, then it's really not ... You're really not much of a person.
It used to be when I was a kid growing up, I had an old guy that lived up the02:38:00road, and he believed firmly in a handshake, and if the man told you he was going to do it and shook your hand, he was going to do it. That's kind of the way I was brought up, if you tell somebody you're going to do it, then you need to do it.
JM: Why be in the military? Why ... You're not just in the military, it's notjust a job, it's actually, you're doing it to help people. What I've gathered from this time I've been with you, it's more important to you than it is just a job. It's actually a duty, and you're actually here, you're helping. That's the way that you see it. Is that right?
DT: Yeah. It absolutely is. It's not only ... Being in the military, not only amI helping, being able to help the community, being able to help people in different countries, but I'm able to help younger people coming in be able to get themselves on track, be able to plan their future, and be successful in the military. I'm able to help them with advice. I'm able to give them the starting path they need, and be able to be able to point them in the right direction. There's a lot of duty and honor involved in that because more so, I guess the thing that draws me to the military is that it's a structured environment.
There are some politics, a lot of politics, but I don't see it as much in themilitary as I did when I was a cop. As I cop I dealt with politics everyday and I couldn't stand it. Here, the politics I see it, but I don't have to deal with it that often. It makes it a little bit better, like I said, being a structured environment, and the opportunity to be able to mold and shape young individuals, 02:40:00and watch them be able to mentor and help them grow, that makes a huge difference.
JH: I was wondering, given your term of service, if you could reflect on how youthink the entire National Guard in particular has changed in your time of service or since 9/11, in particular.
DT: When I first came in the Ohio Guard, we did one weekend a month, two weeksin the summer. They were, at that time, a lot of times they were called summer camp, and they were totally different. We went and we would train, and then we had middle weekends off, and then we went for three or four more days, then we turned everything in, and then we came back home. Then around 1984, '86 somewhere in that area when we got a new TAG, and he took over. General Alexander, things changed.
We started falling in line with Active Duty's criteria, inspections, we startedfalling in line with no more middle weekend off at AT. We started falling in line with actual functional missions. I started seeing a gradual change coming. From what I had seen from before, they used to have beer out at the field when I first got in, now it's unheard of.
We went from Camp Grilling every year, to going to Ravenna. We have Hungarypeople going to Hungary for missions. We have people going to Serbia for missions. We have people going to Germany for missions. We have ... When we go to train we're going JTF mission, which is a Joint Force mission, which is a state mission. If something happens in the state of Ohio, we stand up in the OC. 02:42:00We didn't have that before.
We didn't have partnerships with foreign countries before. We do now. We havetraining environments that are ... It used to be one weekend a month, two weekends in the summer. Now, if you're lucky, you do two weeks in the summer because a lot of times with the extra schools and extra obligations we have with parades and schools, and different requirements, we're asking people to go and do two, three, four extra weeks a year. It's quite taxing on everybody.
We do more in one year of training than most people ever thought about. It usedto be in the old days, you didn't do that much, but now it's just like watching a heavy set lady at the salad bar, and she just keeps going up and up and up, and she ain't stopping.
JH: Given that only 1% of our population serves, what do you think people needto know about military service, and about combat and about the people who serve?
DT: Being that it's less than 1%. It's not something that everybody does. It's anecessary that we have it in order to protect our borders, protect our country, and we obviously want the best possible person we can get there. That's why now, it's so strict on what it takes to get in the military, and there's certain scores that you have to have, aptitude scores in order to be able to get certain jobs in the military. It never used to be like that.
I think that having people in these positions, it's a unique thing, and it takesa unique person to do it. The one thing I've noticed is people will come up to 02:44:00you and say thank you, and thank you for your service, and that's great, and it's funny because if you don't travel in uniform, how many times do you walk right by somebody who has been in the military, and you don't even think twice about it, or has given 20 years in, and you don't even think twice because you don't know because they're in civilian camouflage. There are so many of them out there that have done that that don't ask for anything.
It's definitely not for everybody because there's people out there that can't doit. They can't hack it. They can't take the being away from their family. They can't take the basic training, being yelled at. They can't take being challenged and being multi-task on a daily basis. They just can't do it.
I think for the ones who do, it helps them become better citizens. It helps thembecome better leaders, and on the employment side, it definitely helps when employers hire veterans because you're getting a person who has a different mindset on how work should be done. If you get yourself a top notch Soldier who is looking for a job, you're getting yourself a person who is going to give you 100% every time he shows up for work, and has a work ethic and an obligation ethic that's probably not going to be equal to anybody else's out there. I think that's one of the big differences, and I think that the different between now and 20 years ago of the person who's signing up.
Back when I was signing up in the '70s, I still had people who were in who weretold to either go there or go to jail. Those people are now long gone or retired, and now it's the people who are coming who are ... The college kids, 02:46:00and everybody's got ... You can start seeing the turn. It's a different way of thinking about things. It's with every generation, they'll sit there and they'll go, "You know in my generation," but it's a little bit different now because people see things different, and you look back at it and you think, "Is it really better? Maybe it is. Maybe it isn't." Every generation says the same thing about the next generations.