KINGMAN – There are still more than 4,000 U.S. service members in Iraq. Kingman High graduate Gage Humphreys is one of them.
U.S. Army Specialist Humphreys, 21, is a military policeman with the 258th Military Police Company at Fort Polk, La. He’s currently part of a 30-person Personal Security Detail in Baghdad, assigned to the 18th Airborne Corps, the command responsible for Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR). Humphreys is in the third year of a five-year enlistment and has been in Iraq since the summer as part of a year-long deployment.
OIR is the U.S. military’s operational name for the military intervention against the Islamic State of Iraq, including the campaigns in Iraq and Syria. Defense Secretary Ash Carter recently announced the deployment of an additional 600 troops to Iraq to retake the ISIS stronghold city of Mosul.
Humphreys graduated from KHS in 2013. He wanted to pursue a career in law enforcement, but was short the 21 years of age requirement. He joined the Army less than two months out of high school.
“I wasn’t old enough to be a police officer yet,” he said. “I wanted to better myself.”
His parents lived in Kingman for about 12 years and have since moved back to his hometown of Conneaut, Ohio. His wife Gennifer is at Fort Polk.
Humphreys’ grandfather, Dick Trigg, lives in Kingman and spent years taking the boy to a secret fishing hole in Ohio. He speaks to the family often.
“I don’t talk to him as often as I’d like,” he said. The PSD escorts mainly the 18th Airborne Corps Commander – Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend – to various engagements with U.S. ally and Iraqi leaders and dignitaries. Humphreys is part of the PSD advance team that ensures a venue is vetted for security risks, making sure meetings go smoothly and that Stephens and other officials get to their designations without incident.
“We make sure the boss is never embarrassed, never harmed,” Humphreys said. “Make sure we get the mission completed.”
The detail gets an intelligence brief before every mission, so they know potential threats and trends to look out for. Some of those threats include improvised explosive devices, small-arms fire and potential suicide bombers. Humphreys said they haven’t come under fire – yet.
“Baghdad is a lot calmer,” said Sgt. 1st Class Jose Colon, an 18th Airborne Corps spokesman, on behalf of Humphreys. Colon is on his fourth deployment – three to Iraq and one to Afghanistan. He said the U.S. mission during OIR is training Iraqis to fight ISIS rather than American forces doing the dirty work.
“There’s still a threat out there,” he said. “It’s much different here than in Mosul. Our mission here is different than any time in the past. The combat mission is long gone.”
The intelligence report fills the PSD in on physical threats. They often hear explosions from IED’s and small arms fire from outside the wire. Boredom is a mental hazard, but Humphreys said the PSD keeps their eyes peeled.
“(We’ve got) a pretty good team, so everyone stays alert at all times,” he said. “There’s not much complacency.”
Humphreys was among hundreds of soldiers from U.S. Army posts who volunteered for the PSD mission. He is one of 30 selected for this PSD, which included a three week security detail school at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. He wanted the deployment experience.
“Back in garrison, you don’t do as much,” he said.
His family felt different.
“They weren’t very happy, but they knew I wanted it,” he said.
Humphreys briefly described the life of a deployed soldier. The smell of portable toilets and dust permeates the Iraqi air. The Forward Operating Base where he’s stationed is small, and the same faces are burned into his mind.
“I work with the same three people all day, every day,” he said. “If we have a problem, we usually talk to each other.”
A few amenities help break the monotony of the workload. There is a post exchange, laundry facilities, USO and a gym. To tune out the rigors of deployment, Humphreys goes to work out “with the same three people I’ve been with all day.” Then he goes to sleep.
He’s slowly gaining a new perspective on life as a soldier deployed in a combat zone.
“With everything going on, I don’t take anything for granted. I’m definitely more humble,” he said. “I think everyone has a part in the military. You don’t have to be on the front lines to matter. It’s the greatest Army in the world.”
Humphreys feels that his comrades are succeeding at their mission and their effort is worth it.
“Absolutely,” he said. “Everything has gone well so far.”
This being an election year, Humphreys isn’t registered to vote. The military does provide services for those who do want to participate.
“The opportunity is there,” Colon said. “We receive emails at least once a week from our voting assistance officer.”
Service members face many questions from civilians who don’t understand military culture. Humphreys summed up his job for anyone who might ask.
“My mission is simple,” he said. “I’m security for the general. I make sure everywhere he goes is secure and make sure he can do his daily tasks.”
Trigg is very proud of his grandson’s willingness to volunteer for the dangerous mission.
“I believe God is in control,” he said. “Nothing bad can happen to him.”
If he could speak to his grandson right now, “I’d start the sentence with, ‘I love you.’”
Humphreys assured his family and friends back home that he’s doing alright and everything is going well. He’s got a solid plan laid out for when he gets home. “Kiss my wife and eat some In-N-Out,” he said.