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Deployment: unwanted break

by Lindsey Rowland, Military Matters editor

 

Some students take time off from school to save money, to have more time to play, or to figure out what they really want to do with their lives if school just isn’t fulfilling their needs. Others interrupt school because they have to, because they have no other choice. These students aren’t absent from classes because they are sitting on the beach or because they have increased family responsibilities; they are absent because they have been deployed.

 

HPU senior and visual communications major Jeff Smith is one of those students. Smith is also an active duty senior airman in the United States Air Force. Smith is stationed at Hickam Air Force Base as a member of the 15th Security Forces Squadron. Last October, in the middle of fall semester Smith was scheduled for deployment.

Smith, a full-time student, was able to coordinate with teachers to finish some classes, but he had to withdraw from others. “I had two weeks to get all my affairs in order,” Smith said. “I had to move out of my townhouse in Waipahu and get power of attorney for all my bills as well as other legal duties,” Smith added.

By Nov. 1, Smith had relocated to Fort Lewis to under go standard predeployment training. Smith’s final destination a far cry from Fort Street Mall, would be Camp Bucca, located in southern Iraq, outside Umm Qasar (about 10 miles from the Kuwait border). His unit’s job: to assist the army with EPWs (Enemy Prisoners of War).

Smith is currently a prison guard working under the 732 Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron. “My job specifically is a ‘roving patrol,’” he said. “We drive around the compounds making sure nobody has or is trying to escape the facility.”

The ratio of U.S. military personnel to EPW’s is roughly 400 to appromiately 6000 Iraqi’s. This is not a job taken lightly. Smith works 12- hour shifts, 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.

When asked about the treatment of prisoners in Iraq, Smith said: “I feel there is a vast improvement in the way detainees are being treated. Camp Bucca is supposed to be the Army’s new ‘model prison.’ The Army has changed all the rules on how it handles detainees, and now the Air Force uses them and improved them.”

Smith has seen things in Iraq that have opened his eyes to why we are there. “These Iraqi people really do need our help,” he said. “There are many reasons we are here, but one thing is certain: the difference that we are making will be enough to influence the next generation and, hopefully, a totally new era of thinking in Iraq.”

Smith didn’t always feel that way. He dreaded leaving his life in Hawai‘i and going to Iraq. It wasn’t the Christmas break he had envisioned. “But now I’m glad I’m here,” he said.

“ I challenge anybody who opposes our presence in Iraq to stop by for a visit, just for one day, to see how messed up this country really is. Saddam really did these people wrong. I see young children playing in the garbage and other filth that lines the street, it’s horrible.”

Smith believes that those of us who are back here in the states should support change for these people. “It is up to everyone—all Americans— to support change for these people, and their society, for the better.”


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