Molokai Soldier in Afghanistan: Part I
Jesse English, 1990 Molokai grad, tells his story.
Molokai grad, Jesse English served five tours in Afghanistan.
By Jesse English
My mom sent me an e-mail article about your veterans day parade there. I know that was awhile ago, but life here is in a vacuum.
I have been very busy since leaving Moloka'i many years ago. I was recruited into Special Ops and have done 5 tours in Afghanistan. I am currently in the Army on active duty and am a Platoon Sergeant with the 82nd Airborne Division. I am finishing up a 15-month deployment securing villages near the Pakistan border.
I stayed on Molokai for several years after graduation, working construction off and on, but never really saving any money or going anywhere. You have to understand about me that I was out of place for most of my high school years. I never really felt like i belonged, and I did not like school all that much. I just kind of liked to be left alone, and was definitely not what you would call very motivated.
Things got better after graduation, but I knew I was not ready for college and that it would probably be a huge waste of time and money if I tried to go right away. I took a few local college courses as I pondered my future and I came to a conclusion. Most people try to pick one thing they want to do or be, but I could not pick just one thing–so I decided to go out and do as many different things as possible, and try to see some of this planet beyond the islands.
I also decided that whatever I did–I would try to be the best at it. I joined the Army Guard and served as an Infantryman with the Scout Platoon there for 6 years. I then moved to Alaska where I switched from the Army Guard to the Air Guard and became a Combat Cameraman–which I did for 3 years.
At the same time I was a criminal justice major, worked full time at the U of A-Fairbanks Police Dept. as a Community Service Officer , and was the first ever Army ROTC Cadet who was in the Air Force. After my first year I was selected to attend airborne school and got my wings in the summer of 1998.
After three years I cross-trained into Security Forces and was the Honor Grad for my class. I was then approached by some people in Air Force Special Tactics and I left Alaska and moved to Michigan where I joined a very small and distinguished group of Special Ops Paratroopers called Special Tactics Weathermen. It is a very hard and demanding job and there are only about 100 or so at any one time on Active Duty. I attended technical school for almost a full year and became a certified Air Force meteorologist.
Some background on this is necessary. Since the split in 1947, the Army gets all it's weather support from the Air Force. If there is an Army airfield, there is an Air Force man or woman in the tower. If there are conventional soldiers–there is usually an Air Force man or woman in the field with them. In Special Tactics we strictly work with Air Force, Army and Navy Special Forces, so we go where they go and do what they do–all the while observing and forecasting the weather.
Most people do not realize the significance of this, but what this does is puts certified meteorologists directly on the battlefield and provides commanders with critical real-time weather intelligence. This affects everything from missions to aircraft and everything in-between.
In order to be assigned to such a unit–you have to attend much of the same special and tactical training. Thus I attended SERE (survival, evasion, resistance, escape) school, advanced SERE, water survival, Jumpmaster and Pathfinder schools. I also had to train on all kinds of weapons, radios, vehicles etc. I attended a course to learn how to control planes and attack helicopters, as well as numerous special operations and terrorism courses.
I trained for over a year and a half non-stop and was in Argentina on a mission with Special Forces when 9-11 happened. I was immediately presidentially activated and even though I was technically in an Air Guard unit, I was now on active duty and have remained so for the last 6 years. I volunteered to go to war, trained off and on, and deployed to Afghanistan four times. Each of those deployments lasted about 5 months or so.
More in Part II of this three part series…