Officer Robert Rench is the only person currently working for our agency who participated in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
He was a member of the United States Marine Corps for four years and joined the Lodi Police Department in 2006. Many Iraq veterans are finding careers in law enforcement once they are discharged from the military. Officer Rench shared some of his experiences with me recently.
Q: Why did you enlist in the Marine Corps at 17 years old?
A: I wanted to gain life experiences and I wasn't really ready for college yet.
Q: What was your job in the Marines?
A: I was an intelligence analyst for the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines, 1st Marine Division. I wanted to become a military police officer but I was too young. I enjoyed my assignment because I received a lot of infantry training at the same time I was learning about military intelligence. I was eventually promoted to sergeant.
Q: When did you deploy to Iraq and where were you assigned?
A: I was in Kuwait from January 2003 until we entered Iraq on the first day of Operation Iraqi Freedom. My unit was assigned to secure the Basra airport, then move north farther into Iraq. We stopped at small towns along the way to Baghdad. We paused briefly outside Fallujah then moved on to Baghdad. I was there when Sadaam's statue came down and have a piece of the statue at home.
Q: I understand you were involved in several infantry operations while in Iraq. What else did you do there?
A: I flew the Dragon Eye unmanned aerial vehicle, which is a small, lightweight battery-powered plane with a four foot wingspan. The plane was launched using a bungee cord, and flown via a laptop computer. I flew the Dragon Eye aerial vehicle ahead of our unit to see if there were any enemy soldiers or tanks in our path. I used it over Baghdad to monitor the situation on the ground. It saved us time and I'm sure it saved lives.
Q: Tell me the story about the time you repaired the plane's damaged wing.
A: We were practicing landing the Dragon Eye just before Operation Iraqi Freedom began. A Major wanted to demonstrate to several Army officers how I could land the plane in a very tight space. He told me to land it in a small area between two armored personnel carriers. I respectfully notified the major twice that the space was too small for the Dragon Eye but he insisted I land it there. As I attempted to land the plane, a gust of wind came up and the Dragon Eye hit one of the armored personnel carriers. A wing broke in half and I used popsicle sticks to repair the wing.
Q: What will you remember the most about Iraq?
A: Many of the Iraqis I came in contact with shared their stories with me. They told me how much they suffered under Sadaam's regime and how thankful they were for what we had done.
Q: Why did you decide to come to work for Lodi PD?
A: I was born and raised in the Lodi area. I took classes at Delta and was impressed by the professionalism and the knowledge of the Lodi P.D. officers who were instructors at the college. I went on a ride along with LPD and loved what I saw.
Q: How did military life prepare you to be a police officer?
A: The Marines helped me realize I could do more mentally and physically than I thought I could. My experiences in the military prepared me to deal with the troubling things I see as a police officer.
Q: What do you like most about working in Lodi?
A: I enjoy the people of the city. They take the time to wave and or just come up to say hello. We appreciate their support.
Comments, questions or advice for Behind the Badge can be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or mailed to Jeanie Biskup, Lodi Police Department, 215 W. Elm Street, Lodi, CA 95240, phone (209)333-6864.