Retired colonel returns to service

Sandy Hull
Dan Swanson of rural Cambridge waits for helicopter transportation from Combat Training Center, Besmaya Training Center, to Washington Airfield, International Zone, Baghdad, Iraq.

    After retiring from the United States Army in January of 2001, Lt. Colonel Dan Swanson of rural Cambridge had served his country 23-1/2 years.

    But in January of 2007, Swanson felt the urge to serve his country once again. With the support of his family, church family, friends and neighbors, he decided to participate in the volunteer retiree recall program.

     “I couldn’t have done this without all of their support,” he stated. “My two sons, Mark and Matt, helped run the family farm, one harvesting the 2007 crop and the other one planting the 2008 crop. My wife, Tammy, understood my need to serve once again and was my biggest supporter.”

    In July of 2007, Swanson left for Fort Benning, Ga., where he was taught ‘Army’ again.

     “It was surprising how many things had changed while I was gone,” Swanson stated. “I had to learn a lot of new procedures and equipment before taking part in a one-week deployment training exercise.”

    On July 21, 2007, Swanson left the United States for Baghdad, Iraq, where he was stationed until June 17, 2008.

    “I served as the deputy director of Force Generation at the Multi-National Security Transition Command in Iraq (MNSTC-I) stationed in the International Zone (IZ),” Swanson stated. “We worked with the Iraqi Army Leadership and received direction from Prime Minister to base, recruit, train and equip the Iraqi Army to defend their country.”

    The supplies needed to train and equip Iraqi soldiers were made possible through foreign military sales and Iraqi Security Force Funds.

    “We helped build army brigades (a brigade consisting of 2,438 soldiers). We provided overwatch as the Iraqi Army trained the new Iraqi Army soldiers who are becoming stronger every day and Iraqi residents are feeling more comfort with the Iraqi soldiers being able to defend their country on their own. The Iraqi soldiers are taking pride in the work they are doing.”

    Swanson said Iraq is an amazing place.  “While over there, I built a network of new friends, friends I will keep in touch with whether they are still over there or they have come home. The hardest part about being overseas was being away from family and friends, Swanson stated.

    “I also missed the conveniences of home, like getting a cold drink of water and air conditioning. It was really hot over there and you had to drink a lot of water to stay hydrated. I used a lot of powdered drinks in my bottled water.”

    Swanson said he worked with a lot of great Americans who were in the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, National Guard/Reserves and other government agencies and contractors. He also worked with Iraqi translators and individuals from different countries.

    “Iraq stands stronger today, because of coalition support,” Swanson stated. “Their military forces are getting stronger every day and some day will be able to stand on their own.”

    Swanson typically worked seven days a week.

    “The days were long, but there was always a lot to do,” Swanson stated. “Most people worked long hours. You never had time to just sit around, but if you did, you really appreciated the care packages sent from home.”

    Swanson received care packages from all over Henry County and even one from Nashville, TN.

    “Everyone looked forward to receiving things from home,” he continued. “The magazines and the news, no matter how old it might have been was always appreciated even though we could keep up with national events on the internet.”

    Swanson said he also kept in touch with his family and friends through e-mail and a cell phone.

    After returning from Iraq, Swanson returned to his contractor job at the Rock Island Arsenal the third week in August.

    “My employer, SERCO-NA, authorized me a one-year extended military leave,” Swanson stated.

    Swanson is a 1977 graduate of AlWood High School and a 1995 graduate of Western Illinois University, Macomb.