Grant Richie: Welcome home from a combat zoneMemorial Day means a little more to Grant Richie this time around. Richie is home on leave from a 10-month tour of duty in an Afghanistan combat zone.
By: Jon Echternacht, Hudson Star-Observer
Memorial Day means a little more to Grant Richie this time around.
Richie is home on leave from a 10-month tour of duty in an Afghanistan combat zone, and now when people randomly thank him for his service, he feels like he earned it.
“When I got out of boot camp and I was in uniform, people would thank me for my service and that was OK. But now, after being deployed, it means more,” he said during a conversation last week.
Richie, 20, is a specialist in the Military Police (MP) with the 101st Airborne. He has earned a pair of jump wings and a combat action badge.
His assignments in southern province of Kandahar, Afghanistan, were many and varied.
“There were 30 MPs in our brigade, most had specific jobs but my squad (12 men) did all the jobs,” Richie said, who manned a 50-caliber machine gun on his patrol vehicle.
The jobs included training the local police, gate security on the base, traffic control, personal security for high ranking officers and convoy security.
“During our missions somebody was watching over our squad,” he said. “Something happened either before or after we got somewhere. Once we drove over a 700-pound IED (roadside bomb) and it exploded later.”
“We didn’t lose anybody in our platoon, the company lost five or six but the battalion and brigade got ripped apart,” he said.
A Thursday routine developed when his outfit was stationed at a small base at Arghandab for two months. “We called it rocket Thursdays,” Richie said. “Every Thursday rockets were fired at our base, at anytime.”
Richie said the base was up against a range of mountains and the rockets were launched from behind the peak, so it was difficult for the enemy to zero in on the soldiers.
In fact the North Hudson native became used to little interruptions. “During a traffic control mission once, small arms rounds passed over our heads, and I didn’t even hear them,” he said.
Richie also experienced an extreme in temperatures. “The highest it got was 140 degrees in August; in December, it got down into the teens at night.
The 2009 Hudson High School graduate has three years left on a five-year active duty contract. After his leave, he will return to Fort Campbell, Ken., for air assault school. “The rumor is we could be deployed back in 2013,” he said.
Richie has considered staying in the Army for 20 years. “I’d be 37 or 38 when I get out,” he said and with the slow economy and jobs hard to find for young people, he is giving it serious thought. If he stays in, he will apply for selection to Special Forces.
If he gets out he wants to use the GI bill to qualify as a forest firefighter, “I want to be a fire jumper,” he said. Richie said the post 911 GI Bill provides housing assistance as well as money for tuition.
In the meantime, he’s glad to be home and will celebrated Memorial Day weekend with a special trip. “I’m going to see my aunt in Madison and she’s taking me to a Brewers game Friday,” he said.