Dodson home from AfghanistanPublished 7:49pm Thursday, October 25, 2012
Afghanistan is so dirty and dusty, it “rains mud” in the spring, with dramatic 30-degree temperature swings between night and day.
Tyler Dodson missed two duck-hunting seasons. He also enjoys fishing.
Dodson is subtly restoring order to his life, creating tasks (“I’m cleaning everything in my house”) and scheduling who to see, a birthday party Saturday, Halloween in Grand Rapids.
When he plays video games, “I can’t stay into it long. I have to be doing something more constructive, so I’ve been raking leaves in the middle of nowhere. We have 50 acres on Downey Street. The military made me motivated. I don’t procrastinate anymore. I get things done immediately.”
Last Friday, Dodson, 22, of the Michigan Army National Guard 126th Cavalry Squadron Alpha Troop arrived home.
More than 500 soldiers completed a 12-month tour of duty in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
While in Afghanistan, the squadron completed a variety of missions based on the needs of the theater commander, about which Dodson can say little.
Alpha Troop had a homecoming ceremony in the Caledonia High School gymnasium.
The squadron is headquartered in Wyoming, with units in Cadillac, Manistee and Dowagiac. As a scout, Dodson is attached to the Cadillac unit.
“My job is reconnaissance, security, bringing back information,” Dodson said. “I picked that specific job. My former boss is a great man and he was in the cavalry, serving 18 years and doing five tours. He talked a lot about being a scout.”
Dodson graduated from Union High in 2008.
Before enlisting in June 2011, he worked at the Pokagon Band’s Four Winds casino in New Buffalo for an internship.
He completed two semesters at Southwestern Michigan College toward a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice for security work. “My dream job would be U.S. marshal.”
“I wanted to see what it was like,” he said of his three-year commitment. “It’s dusty and seemed like the moon sometime. I wanted to deploy so I could say I did something with my life. I have another year and a half left. In August ’11 I Ieft for Fort Benning, Ga., for basic training. I came home in December. In January, I left for Camp Shelby, Miss., and deployed to Afghanistan in February.”
Dodson received a sort of hero’s welcome with his name in lights on signs around town.
“People at the gas station wanted to pay for my water. That was weird,” he said. “I think my mom did all that. She likes to embarrass me.”
“We immediately went out to eat, which was great,” he said at Foodie’s Thursday afternoon. “To have steak and beer, that was trippy. We came back to Dowagiac and four hours later I went back to Grand Rapids to see my buddies.”
Family in Dowagiac include his mom, Kim Cushway, and brother, Austin Zepeda.
“I’m on Guard status, so as far as I know, I’m not deploying any time soon,” he said. “I just have to go up to Cadillac one weekend a month until my contract’s fulfilled. By then, the war in Afghanistan should be over.”
He learned geography in a way never taught at DUHS.
“Countries like Turkestan and Kazakhstan, that you thought were made up, I now know they’re real,” he laughed. “It was really cold when we got there. We wrapped up a lot. In the summer it shot up to like 120 degrees. Right now it’s about 90/60. It’s dark until the sun comes up over the mountains. I saw a lot of snow. Snow and I aren’t friends anymore. Camel spiders aren’t as big as people think. If you see one on your chest when you’re sleeping, you squash them and they ooze green. That weirded me out the first time. I don’t like scorpions. A ridiculous amount of flies. And giant black balls of mosquitos.”
“I’m going to utilize GI benefits to go back to school,” Dodson said. “I think I deserve some time off relaxing. I just want to push the world away and unwind a little bit after all the go, go, go.”