On Leave: Senior airman talks about serving in Iraq

October 8th, 2005  
Team Infidel

Topic: On Leave: Senior airman talks about serving in Iraq


By David Brensilver
Published on 10/7/2005

East Lyme - Asked how she reacted when her son, 23-year-old Jacob Taylor, enlisted in the U.S. Air Force three years ago, Niantic resident Anna Stadnick recalled, "I was afraid. I was terrified."

But, she said, he insisted on signing up.

"He was clearly disturbed with the Sept. 11 events," Stadnick said, adding that Taylor's decision to enlist, back in March 2002, was also based on the same military perks that might determine whether he re-enlists in 2008. "The education thing was a real big sell" for Taylor, said Stadnick.

On a sunny morning last week, Taylor was anything but busy in the middle of a month-long leave from duty. He'd just woken up and hadn't showered. Dressed in shorts and a T-shirt, Taylor embodied relaxation. But talking about what he's been up to of late elicits a very different image.

From January to July, Taylor, a senior airman, was deployed to Iraq from the Aviano Air Base, in Italy, where he was stationed some two years ago. Prior to his deployment, he spent two months training at Fort Lewis, Wash.

Taylor worked with a prison detail at Camp Bucca, an internment facility near Um Qasr.

Asked about reports of prison abuse in places like Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, with regard to his job at Camp Bucca, Taylor said that, while he saw "none at all" where he was, it was talked about incessantly.

"That's all they talked about ... because of the scandal that happened," Taylor said, and that he and those he worked with were constantly told to watch their step.

Taylor, who was part of the 586th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron, described Camp Bucca.

"The internment facility is just a holding tank," he said. "I'm there to guard detainees and personnel."

As a matter of example, Taylor talked about transferring detainees to intelligence facilities, and standing outside to make sure personnel are safe, and "to make sure detainees aren't abused (or) hurt."

He declined to opine about whether he believes prisoner abuses have been isolated or systemic. "It's not my place to say that," he said.

Stadnick said she talked to Taylor about her concerns about prisoner abuse, and he assured her that the U.S. Air Force had trained and briefed him enough to make her sufficiently confident.

And though Stadnick said she has "very strong thoughts" about the war, she did say, in the context of her son being in the armed forces, "It really doesn't matter what my opinion is.

"I think he has a very good, noble sense of why we're there," she said, "much more so than I have."

The next stop for Taylor, in a matter of weeks, is Osan Air Base, in South Korea. Once there, he said, "I want to get on town patrol" to deal with "rowdy personnel." He said, "I like the cop work more than I like the security work."

If that doesn't work out, Taylor said he'll put in for an office job, which would allow him to work toward the education that's important to him.

"I want a degree," he said, and a career, should he decide not to make one of the military.

His mother said, "Before he came home he was dead-set on signing up again, on re-enlisting," but that, since he's been home, her son has felt some discouragement about not having had time, to this point, to work toward his degree.

Right now, Taylor said he's leaning toward not re-enlisting.

But for now, he's enjoying hanging out with friends, both old and new, and enjoying his "relaxation time."

Asked whether he was looking forward at all to leaving for South Korea, Taylor said matter-of-factly that it's his job, his career at this point, but that, "at the same time, there are things here that I just don't want to leave."

His mother can identify with that. She said she'd be "perfectly happy" if, in 2008, her son decided not to re-enlist, because she doesn't want to think about him going back to Iraq.