Officer returns after year-long deployment
— Officer Reynolds Peele of the Chestertown Police Department had a week’s notice of his deployment.
“You’re always ready to go,” he said in an interview Monday at the police station. “I’m kind of seasoned, so the mental part is just get ready, get set, go.”
That was about a year ago now. In June 2016, Peele was deployed by the U.S. Army Reserve as a staff sergeant in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, stationed at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
“I was with a great unit — 314th out of California,” he said.
Similar to the short notice Peele received before his deployment, there was uncertainty as to when he would be back. He speculated to Police Chief Adrian Baker that it could be May.
He arrived back in Chestertown on May 31, which Baker joked was “cutting it a little bit close.”
“I was sitting in the lunch- room and he walked in and there he was,” Baker said. “It was the best day of my career. For him to return healthy and ready to go — it’s emotional for me. You don’t know what he’s going through — and he makes light of it and he has a great personality — but it was quite a sacrifice I’m sure.”
Peele, 41, has been in the Army Reserve since 2007. Prior, he served in the U.S. Marine Corps and National Guard. He describes him- self as a “military man. That’s it.”
Peele’s father is a Marine — a “full bird colonel” — and Peele followed after him in the Marines in 1995.
“The Marine Corps, I credit that for instilling the honor and the courage and the commitment that kind of rule my life today,” he said. “It was a great thing for me. I’m glad that I had the ability to do it.”
Peele stayed in the Marine Corps until 2004.
“I wanted to go home, experience a little life,” he said. “I kind of felt like I was missing something from when I was away from home.”
He equates those years in the Marines with college life.
“As a private, you’re broke just like college students. You’re all broke together, though,” he said.
After some time away from the Marines, he decided to join the National Guard.
“It seemed like I couldn’t get without that camaraderie of the military,” he said. “It was a certain bond that I missed and that the police department gives to me now. I just need that in my life.”
At the Guard, he served as a supply technician. He
described it as being closed in a room where people could come and retrieve items while he would order supplies.
“There’s a little bit more to me than sitting in an office like that,” he said. “The people were great, but I just needed a little bit more activity in my life.”
For that reason, he decided to join the Reserve. The Reserve offered him a chance to be a drill sergeant and an officer of the military police.
“Just to be a part of the camaraderie of the people who give themselves for something more than themselves — that’s the wonderful, wonderful thing,” he said. “You’re meeting young kids with that mentality and being a mentor and guiding them. ... It’s an honor to be a part of something like that.”
The dilemma for him, however, became how to apply what he did in the military to when he was home in the United States.
“I like being around people,” he said. “I want to do my best at what I was sworn to do — do the things I do in the military with the people out here. As far as being a protector, I have this whole fantasy aspect of life. The knight in shining armor type thing — I believe in that. I believe in trying to make the world a better place still.”
That, Peele said, put him on the road to law enforcement.
Baker said hiring someone with military experience is a natural step.
“If I have the opportunity or option to hire somebody with military experience, I consider that a great value,” he said. “In my opinion, from the outside looking in, to some degree there are similarities between military service and working at a police department. It would certainly be fair to call the police department a quasi-military operation. We have a rank structure just like the military; I think we have a similar honor code just like the military and in the end our basic goal is the same and that is: that we serve.”
Baker attended Peele’s graduation from the police academy at Anne Arundel Community College in July 2014, where they spoke highly of Peele. He officially joined the force in October 2015.
“It was honestly from the grace of God that I met up with the chief,” Peele said. “I was lucky and fortunate. ... I just wanted to express my gratitude by doing a great job, keeping a good attitude every day.”
Peele’s absence did cause a bit of a strain for a department that, at full strength comprises 14 officers.
“It does impact a small department like this,” Baker said. “We pretty much compensate by overtime, by the other officers working more hours.”
An added issue, Baker said, is a concern for violence against police officers.
“We no longer will have a shift — if we can ever help it — where there’s only one officer working. We have at least two officers working. That again is a demand on manpower. But we want to make sure our officers are safe,” Baker said.
Even with the possibility of Peele’s deployment, Baker said that the agency benefits from the experience in training and the discipline that the military provides.
Peele said the police department was understanding.
“It felt like leaving home,” he said. “I knew home was going to be intact when I came back; it helped me concentrate on the mission.”
Upon his return, Peele underwent a brief period of working with another officer as a way to make sure he was back on track and comfortable. Monday was his first day “cut loose,” according to Baker.
“We are very proud of our officer representing us overseas and in armed services,” Baker said. “I’m just very proud of him. He’s very sincere; doesn’t use his words lightly when he says ‘honor’ and ‘pride.’”
PHOTO BY BROOKE SCHULTZ Chief Adrian Baker, left, and Officer Reynolds Peele of the Chestertown Police Department talk about Peele’s service in an interview on June 26.