KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – Staff Sgt. Peter King was a 21-year-old Army specialist on Christmas Day in 2001 when he arrived at Mazar-e-Sharif for his first deployment.
At the time, Operation Enduring Freedom was just kicking off. The airfield where King and his fellow 10th Mountain Division soldiers landed at had few signs of war. There were no latrines and no dining facilities.
“There was a field, and tents needed to be put up,” King says.
It was the start of what would become a roundabout journey in Afghanistan for King, one that spans much of his Army career.
Staff Sgt. Peter King talks to his soldiers at Forward Operating Base Lindsey, Feb. 5, 2014, after a mission in which he and his soldiers provided security for Australian Army Brig. Gen. Patrick Kidd, Regional Command (South) deputy commanding general for force development, as Kidd met with Afghan leaders and observed training. King has been serving on his third deployment in Afghanistan and says he is proud to see the Afghans are ready to take control of their country. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Antony S. Lee)
More than 12 years later, King is back in Afghanistan. He is at Kandahar Airfield on his third deployment as a staff sergeant with 4th Infantry Division. Sandwiched between his first and third deployments was one in 2003 to Kabul, where he served as a team leader with 10th Mountain Division.
“I was here at the beginning; I wanted to be here at the end,” King, a Little Compton, R.I., native, explains.
King is the platoon leader for the Regional Command (South) personal security detail, a group that protects and provides transportation for the RC(S) commanding general and deputy commanding generals.
During his first deployment, King was a squad automatic weapon gunner and driver, serving in Afghanistan on the heels of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
“When I came in 2001, there was no Afghan National Army, no Afghan National Police. Now, 12 years later, they have a sustainable government and military, and we're about to hand over their country to their government and their military. It's a huge difference.”
A lot has changed since King first arrived in 2001, beyond the presence of a sustainable government and military.
“The first time I was in Afghanistan, I asked myself, ‘Why are all of these children not at school?'” he said. “Now, kids are going to school; women have more rights; and they're doing elections.”
King first joined the U.S. Army in July 1999 – before the United States was at war – to get money for college, he says. He has continued on with his military career, however, because he was “proud of what we were doing” in Afghanistan, he said. King has been an infantryman the whole time.
As the platoon leader for the RC(S) personal security detail, it is his job to help coordinate, plan and execute the movement of a handful of International Security Assistance Force leaders within the regional command group. It is also his responsibility to make sure his Soldiers are safe and doing their jobs efficiently – including planning the routes, coordinating with the traveling personnel and providing dismounted security.
King's job regularly takes him to destinations within Kandahar Province such as Kandahar City, Camp Hero, Forward Operating Base Lindsey, Forward Operating Base Walton and the Joint Regional Afghan National Police Center. The platoon has logged about 2,000 miles so far with about five months left on their year-long tour. So far, there have been no incidents or encounters with the enemy, King says as he knocks on wood.
“That's a testament to the good work we're doing and the good work the Afghans are doing,” he said, adding that it also demonstrates that the people of Afghanistan are ready to take responsibility of their own country.
King says his faith and his Family have been keeping him strong. He has a wife and two sons, 7 and 6 years old, who live at Fort Carson, Colo. He says they motivate him to finish his third – and likely last – deployment in Afghanistan strong.
“I'd really like to be here when we finish,” he said. “I am proud to see the Afghans are ready to take control of their country.”
By U.S. Army Sgt. Antony S. Lee
Provided through DVIDS
Comment on this article