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Local News

August 9, 2011

Cincinnati native, Henkle, returns home after tours in Iraq, Afghanistan

CINCINNATI — Having an opportunity to interview a soldier home from war is a great honor. During a delicious early morning breakfast at the Konvenience Korner in Cincinnati, one of America's newest generation of warriors shared his military experiences with an aged veteran of the Vietnam War.

Sergeant Jared Henkle is a 12-year veteran of the National Guard, and he recently returned from a year's tour in Afghanistan. The son of Rick and Debbie Henkle, he was born Aug. 14, 1982.

“My parents still farm south of Cincinnati,” he said, “and that occupation became a major part of my life. I was a member of the 4-H for many years, and when I was 10 years old I bought and raised five head of cattle.”

While attending Centerville High School, he played on the Big Red football team as a lineman and graduated in 2000. Prior to his finishing school, he joined the National Guard in 1999.

“There wasn't anything going on in the world then,” he explains, “and the Guard offered me college opportunities.  I took my basic training at Fort Knox, Ky., but then 9/11 happened.”

Like all members of the Guard, Jared attended training one weekend a month and two weeks in summer on military posts.

“One year we went to Nevada,” he mentions, “and the last two years we trained near the Black Hills in South Dakota.”

Before his most recent tour in Afghanistan, Jared was sent to Iraq in 2004-2005 to participate in Operation Iraqi Freedom.  His unit, the 2168th Transportation Company, stayed a year.

“We were stationed in Kuwait,” Jared explains, “but our job was to truck supplies through the desert to the American forces in Iraq.  Our job was to provide forward support for the infantry.

“Our biggest concern was the improvised explosive devices. I saw some explode, but I didn't run over any. On our last mission, a truck in front of us ran over one. In Iraq, the enemy planted their IEDs alongside the roads because digging on the road surface was hard as cement.  We also received some small arms fire. In Afghanistan, the IEDs could be anywhere”

Asked about the civilians, and he replies, “Some were friendly and some not. If they didn't like us, they would sometimes throw stones, tomatoes and other objects at us. Actually, we experienced the same civilian hostilities in both Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Jared reports that Iraq was a lot hotter climate than Afghanistan. In both countries, the Rules of Engagement that are written rules governing use of firepower were often frustrating and subject to change in accordance with the threat levels.

“I carried an M14 [rifle] in Iraq,” he says, “but in Afghanistan I was armed with an M4 [rifle] and 9 mm pistol.  Tunnels and caves were in both countries.”

During the two tours, he and every service member is allowed to fly home for two weeks of rest and rehabilitation.

“That makes being there a bit more tolerable,” he offers with a grin.  “Going back is the hard part.”

Upon returning from Iraq in 2005, he mentions that Becky Maxwell, pubilsher of the Daily Iowegian, asked to interview him.

“I wasn't ready for that yet,” he states, “but let me say that Becky is a very nice person.”

In 2008, Jared's unit was again called to active duty and sent to Louisiana to help with the Hurricane Katrina disaster.

“We hauled equipment for Centerville's National Guard unit,” he offers. “The area was devastated. We also hauled house trailers for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.”

In July 2010, Jared was sent to Afghanistan to participate in Endurance Freedom to fight America's war on terrorism. He returned on July 19. A few days later, he won the main event in the Demolition Derby at the Appanoose County Fair.

When I inquired about the people there, he replies, “The younger generation speaks English a lot, but we couldn't trust our interpreters very much. We told them only what they needed to know about our missions. Actually, one of them told us he didn't want to know anything.”

Before Jared went to war this time, he worked for Dairi Concept in Allerton. He reports, “My job is waiting. Federal law says I have ninety days before I have to return to my job. I'm trying to catch up with the life I've missed, like my family, working on vehicles in my garage and helping Dad with his farm work.”

Jared's family includes two younger sisters. Tara is married to Mike Campbell, and they have a son Chase. Tonya, the youngest, attends college in Cedar Rapids. Patiently and anxiously waiting for Jared to return from war was his girlfriend, Jamie Stallman. A graduate of Moravia High School in 2002, she currently works in the business office at the Putnam County Memorial Hospital in Unionville, Mo.

Since he is a 12-year veteran of the National Guard, I asked him if he planned to remain for a career.

He answers, “War isn't fun and games, regardless of the job you do. I'm not a big fan of leaving all the time. I haven't decided.”

American warriors of every American war will say that fighting wars requires men and women in every military specialty to accomplish missions. Whether they are truck drivers, disbursing clerks, medics, cooks, helicopter crewmen or infantry, everyone is an integral part of the American team.

To Sergeant Jared Henkle, I say for all of us, “Welcome home soldier.  Thanks for your service.  And happy birthday.”

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