Tuesday, November 08, 2011
Nov. 3, 2011
Before leaving the transit base in Manas, Kyrgyzstan, I was grazing at the chow hall salad bar and noticed a long-time friend standing directly in front of me, completely oblivious to my presence. It was Col. Ken Desimone, my counterpart from the Inspector General’s Office at Camp Lejeune. Ken had deployed to Afghanistan last March as the Officer in Charge (OIC) of the Provincial Police Training Team in Lashkar Gah, Afghanistan. During his tour, the Police Station where Ken and his team were living was hit twice by suicide bombers, both times killing a number of Afghan National Police Officers whom Ken’s team was mentoring. As Ken later noted, it was sheer luck that neither he nor his Marines were injured or killed, as the building was nearly destroyed by the force of the blasts. After each bombing, the Afghani Police rebuilt the station, which still remains a favorite target of insurgents.
Since meeting each other as young Lieutenant’s in 1988, we have managed to stay in touch and have since served together in a variety of units and locations. In 2005, I ran into Ken in Fallujah, Iraq, where both of us had deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. At that time, Ken was serving as a mentor to the Iraqi Border Police, which later became the subject of a story I wrote and subsequently published in Leatherneck Magazine. A draft version was posted to this blog in 2006 - Leatherneck Border Story
As Ken glanced up from his salad-filled plate, we couldn’t help but laugh aloud at our surprise encounter. For the remainder of the evening, we swapped stories and quickly caught up.
In Iraq, Ken joked that based upon our assignments at that time, he was a “meat-eater,” whereas I was simply a “leaf-eater” (similar to the long-standing argument that grunts, or Marine infantry, are superior to Marines in combat service support roles). This time, however, Ken acknowledged that our chance meeting at the salad bar was a sure sign that he too had finally become a leaf-eater.