Local police officers serve in Afghanistan, Iraq


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Coralville police officer Ben Hayden remembers invading Fallujah for the first time as a Marine in Iraq.

Sitting in a conference room at the Coralville police station, Hayden said his two deployments to Iraq have helped him to be a better police officer by improving his people skills.

“Military is fighting internationally, protecting our freedom,” Hayden said. “ I’d say police officers are the same way.”

Area police agencies have several officers currently serving in Iraq or Afghanistan, as well as others who have in the past. While training for the two jobs overlaps, and both help people, the temporary absence of officers means can mean fewer on local streets.

Hayden said he sees the two professions as one in the same — the most prominent parallel between officer and soldier is seeing the “small day-to-day changes.” He said many members of law enforcement feel a desire to serve.

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“If you do one deployment, the desire to serve doesn’t go away,” Hayden said.

Across the globe in Afghanistan, Maj. David Nixon — an Iowa City police officer — is working to stop crime by meeting with village elders and government officials for the mission of the 133rd Infantry, TF Ironman.

Nixon said via email that his police training helps him remain calm during high-intensity moments in Afghanistan, such as when he, as battalion executive officer, must direct resources for a unit during combat.

Three Iowa City police officers are deployed with the Iowa National Guard in Afghanistan. They all began active duty in August 2010 and are set to return this August, said Iowa City Police Chief Sam Hargadine.

One officer has recently returned from duty in Egypt and is back working at the with the Iowa City police, Sgt. Denise Brotherton said.

“Obviously, it brings our manpower down,” Brotherton said. “I don’t want to put it on the backs of the soldiers, because they’re doing their duty.”

She said the missing officers can affect the departments daily numbers and the police’s visibility in Iowa City, which can help keep crime down.

All three of the Iowa City officers in Afghanistan are veteran officers, and it often takes time to get a rookie up to speed when you lose officers who have been around for a while, Hargadine said.

The Coralville police have one officer deployed and four who have served in recent years, Officer Hanna Dvorak said.

Since 9/11, the Iowa National Guard has had its largest call-up since World War II. More than 13,000 National Guard, Army, and Air Force members have been deployed in support of the war on terror, Master Sgt. Duff McFadden said. Operations have been carried out in more than 35 countries.

And Hargadine said there’s a large chance many of those servicemen are police officers.

Police aren’t the only ones affected by the deployment of officers.

Cathy Nixon, David Nixon’s wife, wore a blue “Operation Enduring Freedom” sweatshirt as she talked about the difficulties of having a husband who is in both the military and the police.

She continually keeps herself busy with projects to ease her mind.

“They’re both dangerous jobs — that’s who he is,” Cathy Nixon said. “I told him he has a death wish.”
David Nixon and Marcus Mittvalsky are both in the 133rd infantry and work together frequently, she said.

Hargadine said they were both involved in a gunfight during their fourth day in Afghanistan.

“I do like not knowing all the details,” Cathy Nixon said.

For now, she said she’ll continue doing her projects, such as making purses out of her husband’s old uniforms, to keep herself busy until he comes home in August.

“Their coming home is the most incredible feeling — I can’t even explain it,” she said. “You think you’re so together until you see them, until you fall apart.”

With such large numbers of deployment in Iowa, this isn’t the first time the Iowa City police have had to deal with the issue.

“I don’t know that it’s routine; it’s just something that we’ve had to manage,” Hargadine said.

He said he stays in regular contact with the three Iowa City officers.

“My ending sentence is always, ‘Keep your head down,’ ” he said.

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