Charlie Kotcher will always remember the first day at his new Air Force Reserve unit. That’s the day they told him he was being deployed overseas – again. At least he wasn’t being sent back to Afghanistan. This time it was to Kyrgyzstan (just a hop to the northeast over Tajikistan from Afghanistan), where he would turn 50 while on the mission.
Kotcher is a Roeland Park police officer who has the distinction of being sent overseas with two different reserve units only 11 months apart. Kotcher had served on active duty with the U.S. Army from 1986-89 and then went on inactive reserves for a few years. When his time was running out, he decided to join an active reserve unit again.
That choice landed him in helicopter maintenance with an Army unit based in Olathe. In March 2011, the entire reserve unit of more than 100 was called up and sent to Afghanistan and Kotcher spent a year at Bagram Airfield, not far from Kabul. Rocket attacks were a frequent occurrence, Kotcher said, and he only left the base twice for helicopter missions.
Back home, Kotcher worked a case with a KCK detective who happened to be in a military police reserve unit at Whiteman Air Force Base. Since he was a police officer and had been with military police on active duty, Kotcher wanted to get back to police services work with the reserves. He transferred units. And he ended up in Kyrgyzstan at the Manas Transport Center where lots of supplies move through on the way to Afghanistan.
A more pleasant experience because he could leave the base and see the country, Kotcher said, but his deployment in February of 2013 was less than a year after his tour in Afghanistan. Hoping he is home to stay after returning in November, the odds of being sent again are pretty slim, Kotcher said.
The best part of the deployments: meeting people and making friends from around the world. “It was the most fun talking to people from other places.” The worst: the 12 hour work days, six days a week in Afghanistan. “It was like Groundhog Day.”