Veterans Voice Gary Adamek
Veterans Voice: Gary Adamek
Retired Master Sergeant Gary Adamek of Cameron entered the Army National Guard in March of 1988. While he has always been stationed in St. Joseph, he has been on a number of deployments, including a year in Afghanistan. He and his unit were embedded with the Afghanistan Army as they attempted to secure the country from the Taliban, although in 2004, most of the focus was still in Iraq.
He and his unit were first based outside of Kabul, and a major mission was building and securing polling places for Afghanistan’s first election, and to secure the “counting houses” where the votes were tabulated. During the election, U.S. forces kept a low profile to avoid any appearance of interfering with the election results.
He says that the Afghanistan troops were hard workers, but most were unable to write, although they could read at some level. He added that they would steal a lot from the U.S. supplies, particularly diesel fuel and vehicle batteries, which they would sell. Some would even sell part of their uniforms and then ask for replacements.
Sanitary conditions were very poor with streets filled with sewage. Even Kabul had little electricity and no running water. People went to the bathroom in the streets, and it was not unusual for Afghanistan military personnel to hop out of the vehicle and go to the restroom along the side of the road. U.S. personnel could only drink shipped-in bottled water.
With the streets filled with human waste, heavy rains would wash it into the river where people gathered their drinking water. He said the river smelled like a sewage lagoon. It was normal to their culture, but diseases such as cholera, typhoid, and human parasites were rampant. Life expectancy was relatively short. There were few medical clinics, and they were ill-equipped. There was no assistance for anyone losing a leg or arm as a result of war.
Gary said the average farmer made one dollar a day, but Afghanistan troops, thanks to U.S. assistance would earn $500 a month, plus food, clothing, and shelter. Many people joined simply for the money and benefits. It was not rare for an Afghanistan citizen to fight for the Taliban during the summer months but join Afghanistan forces during the winter in order to receive clothing, shelter and meals. U.S. troops had to be cautious around everyone.
The St. Joseph unit also spent time near Kandahar, working with active duty forces to clean out Taliban forces and running regular patrols, both by foot and vehicle.
Gary’s worst military experience occurred on Holy Saturday in 2005 when four U.S. soldiers were killed when their vehicle hit a land mine, on a road they travelled almost every day. He said that troops became accustomed to explosions as most U.S. bases came under rocket fire every night, especially when the weather was good. In fact, there would be nightly bets as to what time the rocket attacks would begin. He was very happy when their rotation ended, and he returned to the U.S.
Gary was also deployed to Guatemala on a humanitarian mission. He was a First Sergeant at the time, and they joined with the Seabees in building schools, hospitals, and water wells for the people. They also built and maintained medical clinics which were always busy with as many as 500 patients a day. In addition to general medical care, they offered pediatric care, pregnancy care, and dental care. He said that the sanitary conditions in Guatemala were almost as bad as in Afghanistan and took a toll on the people. Many died from infections from decayed teeth, as well as dysentery. The water was bad, and the people wanted sweet drinks which only added to the tooth decay.
He said that as word spread, the daily number of patients increased daily. Every patient received a shot of antibiotics as well as medication to kill parasitic worms which were in every patient. They also provided prenatal care for pregnant women. He said many patients walked all night in order to receive treatment.
Gary and the St. Joseph Guard unit were also active during the 1993 flood, assisting St, Joseph police in patrols to aid people and prevent looting. They also deployed to Joplin following the devastating tornado in 2012, doing clean-up and helping people wherever they could. Gary says his best memories of his time in service was when they were able to provide humanitarian aid, especially to our own citizens.
Gary and his wife raised their children in Cameron and plan to retire soon to a home they purchased near Springfield.