Friday, November 9, 2001
Thinking about the war in Afghanistan on Veterans Day 2001
by Marilyn Harte
It's late Friday afternoon and Josh Klein has just returned to his home on Lowell Street after one of the many business trips he must make each week as an executive for IBM's Global Services. He'll spend the rest of the day and evening with his wife Colleen and their four young children and then the next morning he'll be off to Newport, Rhode Island for his monthly weekend meeting of naval reservists. What makes this a noteworthy weekend for Klein, age 38, a commander in the naval reserves, is the expectation that his unit will be recalled to active duty.
Recall to active duty
After the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, President George W. Bush authorized a recall to active duty of up to 50,000 reservists and National Guard members. By mid-October, Klein had heard unofficially that his unit of 40 men was to be activated by the end of November. The order, Klein explained, would call the men to duty for one year, in the United States or overseas, and it could be extended.
As we sat in the small study off the Kleins' kitchen, a room with naval memorabilia and photographs of naval vessels prominently displayed on the walls, Klein talked about his interest and career in the navy.
Klein was born and raised on Beacon Hill in Boston. He can well remember the stories that his grandfather and great-uncle, both naval officers, told about their experiences as commanders of U.S. destroyers during the Second World War. "I grew up with those stories," he recalls.
After graduating from Middlebury College in 1985, Klein applied and was admitted to Naval Officers Candidate School in Newport Rhode Island, where in 1986 he was commissioned as an ensign in the U.S. Navy. Then it was on to Surface Warfare Officers School for eight months before setting out to sea on the USS John King (DDG-3), a guided missile destroyer. The ship, 447 feet long with 350 men and 22 officers on board, was deployed to the Caribbean and later circumnavigated South America.
Serving in the Gulf War
By 1989 Klein, still on active duty, was back on shore and assigned to teach Naval ROTC at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (R.P.I.) in Troy, New York. With the advent of the Gulf War of 1991, Klein volunteered for duty abroad. He served for the final four months of the buildup and war, based in Abu Dhabi as naval liaison to the United Arab Emirates. Then it was back to R.P.I. to finish his tour of duty and to receive a master's degree in business administration.
By 1992, after six years of active duty, Klein chose to join the naval reserves. Except for a brief recall to active duty in Haiti in 1994, he has spent the last ten years in the naval reserves.
Klein explains that reservists in the navy are not extras. "There are not enough active personnel to perform all the missions, so specific missions are left for reservists to fill." Later in our conversation Klein pointed out that of the current U.S. population over the age of 18, only six percent have served in the military.
Since joining the reserves, Klein has been in a number of different reserve units. They have included harbor defense command, damage control and support for training. In 1997, Klein's unit served in supporting the USS Constitution in its first sail in 116 years. "It took months and months of preparation to ready her for the two-day sail out of Boston Harbor," remembers Klein.
Asked how he felt about serving in a war in Afghanistan, Klein responded, "It's my duty, it's my obligation, it's part of what comes with a job in the military. The professional accomplishment of my life that I'm most proud of," continues Klein, " is serving as a naval officer, both in active duty and in the reserves."
A military family through and through
"It's a great sacrifice for my family," reports Klein. "Being in the naval reserves, there's always the potential for a recall." When asked how his wife Colleen handled marriage to a naval officer, Klein reports that both he and his wife come from military families. In addition to having two naval officers in the family, Josh's father served in the army and was stationed in Berlin. Colleen's brother was a fellow naval officer of Klein's. Her father was a naval officer in the Cuban Missile Crisis, another brother is in the Air National Guard, and Josh and Colleen met at a naval officer's wedding.
Now with the possibility of being called back to active duty, Klein has nothing but praise for his wife and family. "My wife is amazing. She has been fully supportive...I couldn't ask for a better partner."
Sunday evening, November 4, two days after our interview, my phone rings and it's Klein.
"Our unit has been called to active duty. We'll be leaving sometime at the end of the month."
I can still remember his final words two days earlier, as our interview was about to end: "It will be an honor to serve."
© 2001 The Carlisle Mosquito