Thursday, November 11, 2010
Potts Camp man makes difference in Iraq
A native of Potts Camp, Leslie Anderson, is using his leadership and supervisory skills to support our troops in Iraq while overseeing a multinational and multilingual staff. Anderson is a local hero who, for the second time, answered the call of duty.
He first answered this call soon after graduating from Potts Camp High School in the early 1960s when he enlisted in the Mississippi National Guard, and now he is fulfilling his patriotic obligation as a contractor providing logistics support in Baquba, Iraq.
Once Anderson made the decision to support our warfighters, he was challenged with a series of stringent security and medical screenings. The security screening ensured that he met all federal requirements to become a proud holder of a federal identification card issued by the Department of Defense (DoD) and commonly known as Common Access Card (CAC).
The medical screening that includes over ten different vaccinations, electrocardiogram, drug tests, and an overall physical exam is designed to ensure that candidates deploying to Iraq have the physical and mental stamina to handle stressful operations in a harsh environment.
“I am not a kid and I really got concerned when I saw that long list of medical requirements, but I made it through,” said Anderson.
As part of his pre-deployment preparation, Anderson also participated in over 14 military computer-based training sessions via the Internet in topics that include Combating Trafficking in Persons, Cultural Awareness-Iraq, Army Values, Subversion and Espionage Directed Against the Army (SAEDA), and Fraternization Policy.
All candidates aspiring to deploy to Iraq must undergo medical, hearing, and vision screening, and attend specialized training at the Continental United States (CONUS) Replacement Center (CRC) located in Fort Benning, Ga.
During this week, contractors and military deploying overseas for an extended period, participate in pre-dawn wake-up calls, and go through the traditional “hurry and wait” that characterizes large personnel mobilizations at military installations.
The activities during this week-long training and screening test the mental endurance and the resilience of those hoping to deploy.
Having met all of the CRC security, medical, and training requirements, Leslie and others left the CRC to serve our country with more than a great pride – each one of them signed for a 70-pound duffle bag with personal protective equipment (PPE) that included a bullet-proof vest, kevlar (helmet), and an NBC mask!
Anderson’s journey to Iraq with enough personal belongings to stay there for a year and the duffle bag full of government property was via commercial airline, and it was over 14 hours later when he landed in a completely different cultural world at the Kuwait International Airport.
Prior to his departure, he was briefed about what to expect and what not to do as he moved through a Muslim-controlled airport with many people wearing the traditional local attires.
“It was a different and surreal experience, and I was apprehensive due to what I have seen on the news, but the locals were nice to me and everything went very well,” said Anderson.
He moved from the airport to a U.S. military installation in Kuwait where he registered (manifested) for a next-day flight into Iraq, and was assigned a cot in a transition tent – after the long flight this cot felt like a great bed at a five star hotel.
The next day started with another pre-dawn wake-up and he was ready to get into a military aircraft into his first destination in Iraq, where he stayed two days before catching a ride on a military helicopter to his final destination in Baquba, Iraq.
As can be expected in the hectic combat zone environment, Anderson’s bags did not arrive with him and he received them five weeks later. In the combat zone, military missions and the warfighters have priority when using the limited resources and Anderson’s arrival coincided with a very hectic period resulting from the drawdown of combat troops in Iraq.
Anderson has been in Iraq since July and has endured sandstorms and daytime temperatures as high as 130 degrees, as well as mortar and projectile attacks to his installation – summer nights in Iraq are characterized by temperatures over 100 degrees and the constant sound of machine guns and low-flying helicopters.
He started providing logistics support at a military multi-class warehouse along with other Americans, his grandson Cory among them, and a bilingual workforce from Panama and Honduras.
He quickly mastered the intricacies of the military logistics system, and his interpersonal and people skills have served him well when bridging the cultural divide between the English and the Spanish-speaking workforce. Anderson’s site lead recommended him to the position of assistant site lead, a nomination that was accepted by the contract’s program manager in Baghdad and became effective in late September.
Our local representative in far-away lands where combat is the name of the game is making great strides and, in the process, letting the world know about the qualities that make Potts Camp a great place.
Anderson has exceeded the government’s security and health standards, and is now an unofficial ambassador of our great Potts Camp community.
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