Joe Tanner, US Army, 1996-2013
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My name is Joseph Tanner. I was in the army for 17 years. I joined in 1996, November 6. I was out January 31, 2013. I started serving and my first duty station was Fort Drum, New York, up in the cold. I did three deployments during my time in service. I was a communications tech. I made staff sergeant before I got out. Some of my time on deployments kind of showed me the value of what we have here, which is why I stayed in so long, because once you see how other countries are living you kind of realize why our country is great.
I would definitely do it all over again if I had the chance because I met my wife while I was stationed in Fort Drum. I’m very proud of what I do, and ever since I got out I’ve always wished I was back in, but you kind of miss the service. You get proud. I tell people all the time that I served in the Army.
The reason I only did 17 years is because on my third deployment my vehicle was hit in a convoy with an IED, and I was determined to recover from my injuries and I was able to fully recover and worked as a cable guy carrying ladders for a year and a half after that before I started with the sheriff’s department.
One of the things that I think about all the time is I’m a little bit relieved that I don’t ever have to say goodbye to my family again for awhile because of deployments. I mean each of my deployments was a year long except for the second one, and that was 17 months because we got extended. It’s had some good experience also, like surprising my kids when I’ve come home on my two-week vacation, my two-week leave. They were in school. They didn’t know I was there. So, I hid behind the door because they thought my flight was delayed because it was delayed for like a week because of the sandstorms and stuff like that in Baghdad. So, they thought I was still in Iraq, and I jumped out from behind the doors. My daughter, I couldn’t get her to stop crying for about an hour and a half, so that was a good memory there.
I was stationed in Germany for about six years, and that was a really good experience. The country is clean and it’s easy to travel around. You just jump on a train and go anywhere on the weekends. We used to do that too. I did two deployments while I was stationed there. I’d say the best time of my career was when I was stationed at Fort Bragg with the military police. Just the mentality there is all about leadership, taking care of soldiers and the training, so when I became a leader that was a great place to be because I had a lot of mentorship there.
All three deployments was in Iraq. The first two times I was near Baghdad. The last, third deployment was a place called Camp Kalsu. It was way down south, was kind of in the middle of nowhere, but they were all three in Iraq. Always stayed late after the rest of my unit left, and I was in Kuwait for a while because I had to kind of coordinate the efforts to get the equipment and personnel out, so I was usually last one off the ground in my unit.
I would definitely do it again. I’d say the hardest part about from the time I joined the army till today would be integrating back into the civilian life. I’ve had three or four different jobs since I’ve been out. I’ve been about four years, and it’s just tough to find a place to fit in. I guess that’s why I ended up in law enforcement because it’s more of an organization like the military, kind of has a structure to it, and that’s what I felt comfortable with. I got along with everybody I worked with so far. It’s just I felt out of place.