Truckee police sergeant heads to Middle East | SierraSun.com

Truckee police sergeant heads to Middle East

Renee Shadforth

Truckee Police Sgt. Dan Johnston was packing up for a vacation in Cabo San Lucas on July 10 when he received his orders for deployment to the Middle East.

He will report to his 1-19th Special Forces unit this Thursday.

Just a few months ago, Johnston, 43, signed up for the US Army Reserves for the second time in his life. This week he will fly to Utah and report to his unit, which was recently ordered into one year of active duty by President Bush.

The orders came much sooner than Johnston and his police department had expected.

“Everybody’s in shock a little bit, but they’ve been very supportive and helpful,” Johnston said from the police station Monday. “It’s sad to leave. This is a very well-run town and a well-run police department.”

A few days after he reports in Utah, Johnston expects he will be somewhere in the Middle East, probably Iraq or Afghanistan.

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“There’s a lot of rumor and speculation about where we’re going to be,” Johnston said. “But [the military] doesn’t get into that.”

However, even with the death toll in post-war Iraq rising on almost a daily basis, Johnston said he has no apprehension about his deployment.

“That’s the hazard of the job. I’m going to take it one day at a time,” said Johnston, also a reservist for 10 years until the early ’90s. “You never quite know what the military is going to do with you.”

As a corporal in Special Forces, Johnston and the 200 or so soldiers in his unit will most likely be assisting units in the Middle East, helping them develop their warfare.

Although Johnston is fairly optimistic, his co-workers in the police department haven’t taken the news of his deployment so well.

“It was so quick. Less than two weeks before, and we find out that he’ll be leaving,” said Cmdr. Scott Berry, Johnston’s immediate supervisor. “We’re very proud of him – proud of what he’s doing. He’ll be greatly missed.”

Johnston, who was the head of the department’s detective unit, contributed a lot to the department’s community policing philosophy, said Chief Dan Boon.

Boon said he has “mixed emotions” about Johnston going to the Middle East.

“I have great concern about him getting into this situation … but I also appreciate his patriotic duty,” said Boon, who served in the Vietnam War.

Boon said he has been giving Johnston words of “encouragement, inspiration and caution.”

“[Johnston] is going into an area where there’s a lack of communication, where English is not a common language. He might be relying on individuals from other countries to translate – individuals he may or may not be able to rely on,” Boon said.

However, based on Johnston’s performance with the department, Boon said he expects his sergeant will be successful.

“Under the conditions they’ll be in, I think they’ll have one hell of a soldier working with them,” he said.

Over the last couple days, Johnston has been preparing for his deployment – training his replacement, Sgt. Jeff Nichols, and trying to get all of his belongings in storage.

He said he’ll miss his girlfriend (“She’s a little torn up about this,” he said) and the department (especially the citizens’ academy), but he’s also looking forward to going overseas.

“There’s always a sense of excitement to do something new and different in a new location where you haven’t been,” Johnston said. “I’m not hesitant to do this at all, other than some personal matters.”