March 5, 2010
Four weeks ago, U.S. Air Force Capt. Shane Cordrey stood in the dusty desert of Kandahar, teaching Afghan soldiers how to shoot gas-powered machine guns.
This week, Cordrey has been watching ROTC cadets march at Indiana State University.
And next month, he'll be in San Antonio, Texas shopping for a new house.
When the 36-year-old enlisted in the military, he wasn't expecting his life to be predictable. But the last 17 years as a soldier have taught him that "home is wherever you're living," he said.
Most recently, that meant Cordrey found himself at home avoiding nightly bombings from Taliban soldiers in Afghanistan. Cordrey spent one year mentoring Afghanistan National Army Air Corps soldiers and assisting the country in its efforts to build and strengthen its military forces.
"As a member of the security forces, you're usually defending your area and blowing things up instead of being the warm and fuzzy guy," he said.
But that's what he says he spent most of the last year doing while war was going on around him. He found his role reversal to be surprisingly rewarding work. When he arrived in Kandahar in January 2009, there were 13 men in the military unit he was training. By the time he left Kandahar last month, there were 300 Afghan soldiers in that same military unit, he said.
While his unit experienced some success with its work, he believes the United States has far to go in its efforts to stabilize and strengthen a country where running water is scarce, residents have little to no income and government and infrastructure are nearly non-existent.
"Essentially, our job is to get the country to the point where it can sustain its military," he said. "But it's going to take a long time. It's not something that will happen overnight."
For now, though, Cordrey is turning away from his international humanitarian effort to focus on domestic matters. He's particularly looking forward to living with his wife. Since their marriage nearly a year and a half ago, the couple has shared the same roof for only four weeks, he said.
The two met while they were both stationed in England. They were dating in March 2006 when the Air Force sent Cordrey to ISU. They married just before his deployment, and when he went east to Afghanistan she went west to California.
Next month, when Cordrey's assignment as an ROTC instructor at ISU ends and he heads to the Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, the couple will finally reunite.
"I've been living in a motel for the last month," he said, "so I'm looking forward to putting down some roots.
"I'm ready to settle down for a while."
Cordrey says settling down also means leaving behind the combat and the long hours he works as a university-based recruiter and instructor to "go back into the real Air Force."
At Lackland Air Force Base, Cordrey will be in the home of Air Force special operations providing advanced security forces training, combat skills and marksmanship training to all basic military training recruits.
Cordrey says he'll miss the opportunities he's had to see students at ISU mature through the duration of their college careers. But unlike the ROTC cadets with whom he's accustomed to interacting, the airmen on the Texas base are more seriously committed to the military, Cordrey said.
"If I tell an airman to do something, there's no question. He does it," Cordrey said.
Cordrey's commanding officer at ISU, Lt. Col. Randy Schramm, hopes he'll be able to replace Cordrey, but he says it won't be an easy task.
The cadets "see me as the old guy," Schramm said, while Cordrey "gives them a different perspective ... His enthusiasm is something they need to see."
Even before Cordrey leaves ISU, he's already thinking about the job after next. He says he'll retire from the military in three years and begin studying for a second and equally unpredictable career as an emergency room doctor.
When the time comes, giving up military life will be bittersweet, he said.
"With the military in general, the next community is pretty much the same as the last community you left," he said. "But home feels like wherever you are."
Cutline: Capt. Shane Cordrey shows an Afghanistan National Army Air Corps soldier how to correct an M-240B machine gun malfunction during weapons familiarization training Jan. 4 at Kandahar, Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Manuel J. Martinez)
Contact: Shane Cordrey, assistant professor of aerospace studies, Air Force ROTC, Indiana State University at 812-237-4229 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Writer: Rachel Wedding McClelland, assistant director of media relations, Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University at 812-237-3790 or email@example.com.
ISU ROTC Instructor and U.S. Air Force Capt. Shane Cordrey has returned from a one-year deployment in Afghanistan just in time to make another move to Texas.