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Washington County deputy deployed to Iraq

September 02, 2008|By HEATHER KEELS

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- The Washington County Sheriff's Department will be down one member for the next few months, but Deputy 1st Class Todd Crowder's time off from the law enforcement agency is no vacation.

Crowder, 28, of Clear Spring, deployed last month to Iraq, where he was to perform supply duties at Sather Air Base near Baghdad. The deployment is part of Crowder's service in the Air National Guard, a reserve component of the U.S. Air Force, where Crowder has trained two days a month for about a year.

Crowder, who is assigned to the Williamsport area, is one of several Sheriff's Department deputies currently serving double-duty in law enforcement and military Reserves, Sheriff Douglas Mullendore said. The department supports its members' participation in the military, which supplies deputies with many skills that cross over into police work, he said.

"When they deploy to Iraq, they get additional training in survival, weapons and etcetera that definitely benefits the Sheriff's Department," Mullendore said.

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Reached July 31 on his cell phone at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, where he was training before deploying, Crowder said his unit was practicing convoy operations, land navigation with compasses and GPS units, drills for rolling over in Humvees and Improvised Explosive Device (IED) attacks in Humvees, urban training and weapons training.

"A lot of this training is all kind of relevant," said Crowder, who also serves on the Washington County Special Response Team, a SWAT-style force that responds to high-risk situations.

His unit, the Air Force Special Operations Command 193rd Special Operations Wing, is based in Harrisburg, Pa., and Crowder is a staff sergeant in the security forces squadron. Generally, the security forces perform flight-line security, air base guard defense and security police work, Crowder said.

Balancing military service with the Sheriff's Department job and family life can be "chaotic at times," said Crowder, who sometimes works 10 or 12 days in a row between the jobs.

He said he joined the Air National Guard because he missed the camaraderie and sense of purpose he experienced during his four years as an active-duty Marine.

"I kind of felt obligated," he said. "I had the means and the family support to go back and do it."

He said he has confidence in his unit but worries about the impact of his deployment on his wife, Angie, and his children, ages 1, 2 and 4.

Angie Crowder said that because of her husband's work with the Sheriff's Department, she is used to some level of risk. Still, she said the distance involved in the deployment adds an element of nerve-racking uncertainty.

"With the Sheriff's Department, he's at least in Washington County," she said. "I can at least turn on the news. I will never know what's going on over there."

She said she and the children have plenty of support from family and plan to stay in touch with Crowder through picture mail, cell phones and Web cams.

Despite the anxiety, she said she supports her husband's service because she knows he believes strongly in its importance.

"Just having a strong faith is the only thing you can do at this point, because somebody has to be there," she said.

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