Sgt. Drew Adkins has good cause to be proud of his accomplishments.
A military reservist with the 41 Signal Brigade, Adkins was one of the brave Canadians who served in Afghanistan and today continues to support Canada’s military by mentoring younger soldiers in the reserves.
Adkins was in Afghanistan from April 30, 2011 to Dec. 6, 2011 and said he is very proud to have been a part of that operation.
“It was special to be a part of that,” said Adkins. “It was an honour.”
Adkins joined the reserves in 2001 just before he turned 17.
He said he always had an interest in the military. As a young child, he enjoyed playing with G.I. Joe action figures and has always had an interest in war movies.
It was Adkins’ father who suggested he join the reserves. Adkins said at the time he was starting to think about a career path and his father suggested he try the reserves to see if a career in the military was the route he wanted to take.
Adkins said he went to basic training that summer and quickly fell in love with the job.
However, he opted to stay in the reserves rather than pursue a full-time career in the military. Today, he lives in Red Deer and works full-time in Lacombe as an Emergency Medical Technician.
Although Adkins’ specific jobs in the military and as an EMT are quite different from each other, he said they are similar in terms that they are both fast-paced high-stress environments. He said the two roles have some transferable skills that have made him better at his job.
“I find I’m able to stay a lot calmer in the high-stress situations then maybe I would if I wasn’t a soldier,” said Adkins.
Prior to the reserves, Adkins said neither he nor his family had any real experience in the military.
Adkins said he thinks his interest in the armed forces was sparked as a child when he and his family used to visit the Moose Jaw Air Show every summer.
“That was probably the most significant interaction I had with the military prior to getting involved.”
Adkins said that one of the biggest misconceptions people have about the military is that all soldiers are front-line fighters. He added that for every combat soldier in the field, there are a number of staff providing support.
“That’s a small portion of what happens out there,” said Adkins. He added that while he was in Afghanistan, his job never required him to leave the base at Kandahar airfield.
During his time in Afghanistan, Adkins was responsible for managing digital data and other information regarding Canada’s involvement in the war effort.
It was his job to make sure all of that information was catalogued and safely sent back to Canada where it could be retrieved.
Adkins said he felt relatively safe at the headquarters of the Kandahar Airfield despite being in the middle of a warzone.
He said that life there went on much as it would here in Canada, with people stopping at Tim’s for morning coffee, heading to work for the day and participating in recreational activities like hockey in the evenings – with the exceptions of constantly carrying weapons and periodically dashing to a bunker for protection from a rocket attack.
“It’s almost a surreal experience where you try to fight becoming complacent,” said Adkins. “You couldn’t walk around all day always worried about something so you definitely got comfortable being on base.”
For Adkins, the most difficult part of his time in Afghanistan was dealing with survivor’s guilt.
He said working behind a desk in an office and drinking an iced cappuccino while he knew many of his fellow soldiers were fighting and dying outside the perimeter wall of the headquarters was difficult.
What allowed Adkins to work through that feeling was reminding himself that everyone in Afghanistan was working towards the same goal, and his job was just as important as those of the frontline soldiers.
Of course, the other difficult part of being a soldier is time away from family. Adkins said he has been with his wife almost as long as he has been a reservist. He said that his work in Afghanistan would not have been possible without her support.
Adkins added that he also received tremendous support from the friends he has gained through the military. He said the network of friends he has built within Red Deer, Alberta and across Canada is one of the reasons that he continues with his military involvement.
“I really enjoy that camaraderie.”