This is the seventh in a series of posts that tell the story of how Air Force Office of Special Investigations (OSI) counterterrorism operations evolved in the Middle East and my role in orchestrating them. This is a story about powerful leadership lessons and experience I gained, experience that toughened me for future command and leadership positions.

It is also a story about developing hands-on operational concepts and techniques in complex international crime operations that prepped me for my next station in life, as Sheriff of El Paso County. Our county has seen a growing problem with foreign criminal elements: gangs like MS-13, drug cartels, and criminal illegal immigrants. I am the only candidate in this race with the background and skill set to tackle these complex and dangerous problems.

In this installment, I briefly discuss my main takeaways from this experience and how it shaped me to become a better leader and a more seasoned law enforcement officer.

My Takeaways

I learned so much from this period of my life. I grew. I matured. I learned many leadership lessons in the crucible of the desert. I had to forge relationships, develop CONOPS, make real life and death decisions, care for my troops, care and feed for two bosses with stars on their shoulders, and round up and ensure justice for terrorists.

I dealt with death. I lost one troop over there and still agonize over his loss. Later in my career as I went on to command new and larger units, I would have to make decisions about deploying people to the sandbox. They were all painful decisions since I knew I was putting each of these fine Airmen in jeopardy.

Korean Presidential Medal and National Police Agency Medal of Cooperation, presented in Seoul, 2005The CONOPS we forged in the Middle East served me well in future assignments. When I arrived in Korea to take over the OSI squadron there, I trained my folks in SD/CS/CT. These efforts led to the successful identification and neutralization of a Middle East terror cell operating in Seoul.

We stopped an attack before it occurred, and for that operation, the Korean President and National Police Commissioner personally decorated me. It is an honor I am incredibly proud of today.

Up next, the conclusion to this series. I will tie it all together to my current quest to become the next Sheriff of El Paso County. How did my experiences prepare me for this next chapter in my life? What leadership and real world lessons did I take with me from those hot desert days in the counterterrorism business? I’ll pull it all together in the next post.

Prior Posts in the Series, ‘Evolution of OSI Counterterrorism Operations’

Part 1, Background

Part 2, The Call & The Politics

Part 3: Commander’s Intent

Part 4: Rice Bowls

Part 5: Birth of Counterterrorism

Part 6: The Aftermath and the Future