The War on Terror as seen by an Air Force Staff Sergeant

By Beau D. McNeff

I had the opportunity today to interview a War on Terror veteran from the US Air Force. Between 2001 and 2005 this Staff Sergeant spent more than 14 months on 4 deployments to the Middle East. He was not a combat soldier, but worked on Air Force equipment and vehicles. This is the first in a line of interviews with vets that I hope to write, and will sum up our conversation in a few paragraphs. The Staff Sergeant requested to be identified as “Paul” because he is considering re-enlisting.

Paul joined the Air Force directly out of high school in order to provide himself certain opportunities that he might otherwise not be able to achieve, such as a college education and a skill set for the job market. He was “proud to serve” as his relatives had, and gained a certain confidence that can only be found when overcoming obstacles. On September 8th, 2001 Paul landed in Saudi Arabia and began to prepare for his stay as if it were to be any other deployment. Three days later his role, and the job he had been sent to do changed dramatically.

Looking back, he said this was one of the most uncertain times he spent in uniform. No one knew exactly what was going to happen, but everyone knew that we would respond to the terrorist attacks. Paul completed that mission and returned home, only to be deployed time and again to support the War on Terror. In all his trips to the Middle East, he called out two items that stuck out as his most noticeable memories over seas. First, we discussed the amount of money spent to launch and maintain the campaign. The missions of the pilots and crews that he worked with “were not cheap, and we were flying them regularly.” The strongest memory that he had was of the dedication of his fellow airmen. He and they had been deployed several times, many of them going over as much or more often than he did. With all that time away from their families and loved ones, they were “still dedicated to doing their jobs,” and proud to be serving their country. They were “burnt out, tired of being in a long confrontation,” but held steadfast to the belief that mission was crucial and their job needed to be done.

When Paul got home to the states, he noticed some differences here that really struck him as odd. We civilians carried on like normal, like nothing was going on and we weren’t at war. He compared this to the days of previous wars like WWII and Korea when people felt the war on every level. He recalled going into a bar and people danced and drank as if “there was no sense of urgency to win or fight a war.” The majority of this can be accounted for in the coverage of the war by the media, he said. He attended operational meetings and briefings while over seas, but there was evident spin by the media here that left him feeling “cheated.” He said you could tell that the media is only giving you half the truth at best, and you have to sift through all the networks and online resources just to get an idea of what’s really going on. He said that this goes down to the daily death toll that papers like the Oregonian run, which in his words “is fair coverage so that people understand the true cost of war,” but he argues that it isn’t the only story the papers should run.

As all conversations these days seem to turn to politics, so did ours. Paul considers himself an independent and said that he would want Colin Powell to be President if he had a choice. Paul will back McCain this year because of McCain’s experience and his feeling that McCain has a good feel and understanding of what it will take to win the war. Obama, Paul says, shows a lack of character and judgment in his friends and associations and that does not bode well for a person charged with making life and death decisions.

Thank you Paul for serving our country,

Beau D. McNeff
Paul’s service —
9/01 —12/01— Saudi Arabia
8/02 — 11/02 — Oman and Uzbekistan
2/03 — 6/03 — Pakistan and Uzbekistan
4/05 — 8/05 – Qatar

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Posted by at 05:55 | Posted in Measure 37 | 6 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • Alan

    Collin Powell as president? I haven’t heard that name offered in years. I wonder what Paul is thinking?

  • Susan Stouffer

    I am so grateful for men like Paul who give so much of themselves.This article woke me up! Susan Stouffer

  • Jude

    We are thankful for all of our servicemen/women and their sacrifices. We Americans must demand the truth, not pantywaist details from the media and our politicians. Our future depends on it. My vote, too, is for McCain. He has been there, done that.
    Obama?, too much conflict within himself & his beliefs, not to mention, no service record.

  • dean

    President Bush failed to even attempt to mobilize the nation for a long war. He cut taxes during war (Roosevelt raised them and rationed,) failed to create an energy policy that would reduce our dependence on Middle Eastern oil, did not increase the size of the armed forces (resulting in Paul’s multiple deployments,) refused to consider a draft, and told us to be patriotic by slapping yellow stickers on our gas guzzling SUVs and to “go shopping. He also chose to attack a nation that did not attack or threaten to attack us. What did Paul expect would result? A fired up public? Yes…but fired up to dump a Republican party that led us into this parade of errors.

    And Senator McCain has been a primary cheerleader. Reward him with your vote? Whatever.

    • pk2

      Now that the soldiers are having their interview, someone needs to interview an Iraqi. Their opinions matters as well.

  • Bo

    What a special story. We can hear all the talk and media reports on the war, but sometimes just hearing it from a soldier tells you something deeper.

    I too would like to say thank you Paul for serving our country. If people like him are in our service, you know our nation is in good hands.

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