David Maxfield, US Navy, Navy Reserve, National Guard 1976-2014
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My names Dave Maxfield, I grew up Wentzville Missouri, and I went into the Navy in 1976. I got out of the active Navy in 1980 and I stayed in Reserves till 2003. My first duty station was Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and from there I was … well I was on a surface ship after that for about three years. Then I got out of the regular Navy and I went into a Navy dive unit, which I was in for five years, when the war on terror started happening. I went back in, I got out for a few years, and I went back in and I didn’t really go anywhere.
In ‘91 during the first Gulf War and then in 2003 my unit went to Kuwait, and then we went to Iraq, to southern Iraq, place called Umm Qasr. I was on a small boat unit, an IBU14 and our job was patrol the waters around Umm Qasr. I always liked what I did, that was the hardest part, it was kind of a hard mission I thought. When we got back I just had enough of the Navy so I retired. I’ve been 23 years. Retired then I was out for a few years, and I knew a guy that was in the National Guard and he said, and I really wanted to go back, it’s just something that gets in your blood.
He said, “Well if you join the guard you can go back to Iraq with me.” I joined the guard and then I went back probably, till it was probably ‘06 or ‘07. I went back to Iraq, and I went to a place called Camp Ashraf about 35 miles from the Iranian border. I worked with EOD, this tour, interesting times. I was a … we call a backfill, the unit was going and I caught up with them. I worked for the Moldovan EOD team. What we do we go out and look for unexploded ordinance and we would pick it up and then we would detonate it in our test, we had a blast hole we used.
One of the things that happened there that I’ll never forget. We were called to the gate one day and the Iraqi police brought an IED to the gate, it was in their car under the seat on the floor mat. I told them, “we need to take it out.” They put it down and right there on the ground, the Moldovan guys I worked with they immediately started working on it. We were in a place where there were a bunch of rocks, big boulders around. We were kind of behind them trying to, well after a lot of yelling I did, because I thought we were going to get blown up.
The sergeant major I worked for at the head quarters Dragon Fighter base, she thought we were going … It was just too dangerous to say the least, so I told her we just had to keep on going, and I just broke comms with her because we couldn’t stop what we were doing, to disarm this IED. You don’t do that to a sergeant major in the army. I thought it’s not going to be well for us when we got back to our little, we had a little office on FOB, EOD office. We got it disarmed and took it to our test hole to blow up.
There was a lieutenant there, during the process she said, “It would be okay staff sergeant.” I was staff sergeant, and I said, “That’s good I hope so.” We went back to our office and we were doing paperwork, because you’ve got to do an after action report, we call it a EOD nine line for what the process was to disarm this IED. The sergeant major of the base, the highest enlisted ranking person at base came to our office. I saw him walking across the black top pool, the cement pad, I just thought this is not going to be good.
He came in and he looked at me, and looked at my specialist and says, “You guys did a good job out there today.” For us that was quite an acknowledgement for a stressful time, extremely stressful. I was with a specialist Josh Stalsmith, good guy. Spent most of our days there looking for things that weren’t blown up. We had some times that were extremely dangerous. We dropped, America did, at the time we dropped BLU-97’s, it’s a cluster bomb in ‘03 when we first invaded Iraq. There’s so much of a dud rate, so they were lost in the desert where we worked, in our compound.
We were out one day, I was out with a bunch of Iraqi guys and we were digging around bomb fuses to pick them up to detonate them. I was digging around with this, like a little probe rod, and I popped one of those out of the ground. Probably only by the grace of god I’m here today because we could have been killed right there. These things are extremely dangerous, it’s already been set off, it just didn’t go off when it hit the ground. We just backed up, what you do … we used to blow these things in place. We just lay C4 beside them and blow them up.
When I got back from that mission, and I had a shoulder injury. I was in WTU, it’s a ward transition, like a medical hold unit for 12 months. I was there in Iraq that time ‘07, ‘08, and then I got back in late ‘08 and part of ‘09 I was in Fort Leonard Wood, WTU. They did a great job, I couldn’t complain it was excellent care. They worked on both shoulder, I had shoulder problems in both shoulders. Torn rotator cuffs and stuff. Probably from what we did, you know lifting bombs and stuff, and I got back. I was back about a year and a half and the guard called me.
I was drilling with my unit and they wanted to know if I wanted to go to Afghanistan. I said, I liked being deployed that’s the part I really enjoyed about it. I always wanted to go to Afghanistan because I knew that was probably where things started. I was part of an AG Development Team, AG Development Team 5 going to Afghanistan in 2011 and ‘12. We trained for like a year and a half, about a year, maybe longer and then we went to Afghanistan and we got there in May 2011. It was already miserable hot. Our job was to help farmers and the AG specialists from the different groups, different provinces we worked in.
My province was Rodat, and I had a battle buddy Mac, he had a different province and we’d go out together and do jobs with Iraq, not Iraqi’s but Afghanis. We would set up projects, like small scale projects with them and help them clear out canals to water their crops, because it doesn’t rain there very much. It’s super dry. Then we did classes with them, my first class was a soils class. We talked about how to water more efficiently and what, you know, the effects their soils a real alkaline. I went to school in Mizzou for forestry so it kind of fit right in there what I did on this mission.
Mac ended up having a heat stroke or something and he had to go home early, and we had a couple of people that didn’t make it through the tour. They just had psychological issues with being deployed that long. We were there for 12 months. I came back, and I was back probably a year or so and then retired 2014. If I could say about what I felt with my service I’d do every bit of it over again. If I’d stayed I would have gone back. I liked to be deployed, more so than being at home, because you just feel like your doing what your trained to do, instead of just going through the motions of drill everyday.
When I was in the unit, I was in the MP unit, 1139th MP company. I was platoon sergeant part of the time, you just, just different kind of jobs. I was PT coordinator for exercise and stuff. I always liked to the guys and most everyone I knew wanted to be deployed. One of the things you always notice when you, from being in the navy, the unit I was in we were always exercising and PTing. The guard guys were a little more soft and flabby than us. You know in general I think there’s so much camaraderie.
I felt that more in the guard probably than the navy. But we did have, we were pretty close in that unit as well, and I still see them on Facebook quite a bit. One of the things that probably, when I was going back for the VA and I would talk to a psych and I never thought about PTSD. I just never thought of that’s a problem I had, and I was … My first time in the navy years before, we were in Spain and one of our guys was shot at the pier in Rota, by the Spanish marines. We were kind of standing on the deck and he was killed in front of us.
God, a family man, I call it murder. We kind of packed the ship up and left, we couldn’t really do anything. That probably something that stuck with me all these years, seeing that guy get killed on the pier like that. All my other deployments we had actions but not where we saw… I’d see Iraqi’s get shot but that didn’t bother me as much as our guys getting killed. I know it sounds cold but just you know enemy soldiers don’t, they’re just, you just something about you, you get numb to seeing them die. When I first went to Um Qasr it was a republican guard base there.
Those guys fought till last man, they all died in their compound. They couldn’t get out anyway so the marines shelled their position until they all died. But if I could do it again I would gladly go back. I had a quote from Nathan Hale, when he was captured, he said, “His one regret was that he had but one life to give for his country.” That’s always been my motto, always felt that way. That’s good.