USA, NY, Jan 9 (syracuse.com) - Syracuse City Court Judge Ted Limpert had some unusual duties over the past four months.
Instead of handling criminal and traffic cases in Syracuse, he logged thousands of miles traveling around the Middle East and Southwest Asia helping unravel legal issues faced by Air National Guard and Reserve troops stationed in the region.
He ended up being the last such Air Guard Advisor dispatched to Iraq given the recent withdrawal of U.S. troops from that country.
“It was an historic time to be there,” said Limpert, who returned to his City Court duties this week. This is the first time since 1991’s Desert Storm that there are no air missions being flown over Iraq, he noted.
Limpert, a colonel with the New York Air National Guard assigned to the Adjutant General’s Staff in Albany, was diverted from his judicial duties at the end of August when he was deployed to a U.S. base in Qatar.
“It was 110 degrees in the shade,” he noted.
His assignment was to assist Air Guard and Reserve troops stationed throughout the region in resolving any problems they had with deployment orders, pay, benefits, health insurance and family issues, Limpert said. Such advisers are regularly rotated through the region, he said.
With troops rotating through the base at Qatar, Limpert and a lieutenant colonel from Virginia spent about half their time holding information sessions and dealing with problems with the troops passing through there, he said.
But they also visited bases in Kuwait, Oman, Iraq, Afghanistan and Kyrgyzstan, Limpert said.
The first night of a three-week stint traveling to four military bases in Afghanistan, two enemy rockets slammed into the base, he said.
“We heard the explosion and then there was the alarm,” he said, noting his first question after hustling into the safety of a bunker was to ask wasn’t the alarm supposed to precede the explosion.
A second trip to Afghanistan to visit a fifth base – and to jump across the border to visit the base in Kyrgyzstan – ended with a similar incident, although they didn’t know it at the time, Limpert said.
He and his partner later learned that moments after their flight left Afghanistan that last time, a rocket struck the air field where the plane had been sitting just before taking off, he said.
Those rocket attacks are generally random and “more of an annoyance” than a threat, Limpert said. The real threat is to the troops who are deployed outside the confines of the bases, he noted.
Limpert and his partner never left the confines of most of the military bases they visited for safety reasons and most of the travel between the bases was done on military planes, Limpert said. They only traveled by ground vehicle between a couple of bases in Kuwait, he noted.
They also got to visit the neighboring city where the bases in Qatar and Kyrgyzstan are located, Limpert said.
Limpert -- a veteran of 52 air missions during Desert Storm in 1991 and 54 more during deployments in 2003, 2006 and 2008 -- said he had flown a number of missions over Afghanistan in the past but had never been on the ground there. This trip provided him that opportunity, he added.
“You see progress over there. You definitely see progress,” he said of the region. “That’s the good news.”
The hardest part of the assignment was being away from his family and the deployment kept him from sharing Christmas with them, Limpert said. But he was able to make it home for New Year’s.
Limpert said it was especially moving to see the 200 or more people who gathered at the airport in Baltimore last week as part of a “Welcome Home Maryland” movement to greet any troops arriving home. He said he called his wife and asked if she had any plans that would top that for his arrival back in Syracuse.
Limpert said his Air National Guard days are drawing to a close. He faces mandatory retirement in July upon completing 30 years of service, he noted.
But he also said he was looking forward to getting back to court here in Syracuse after four months of having his judicial colleagues covering his duties.
Limpert said he was so anxious to get back on the bench that he showed up for work Monday morning without realizing it was a court holiday. He said he immediately called Judge Kate Rosenthal -- who was scheduled to have the holiday arraignment-court duties -- and volunteered to fill in for her since he was already at the courthouse.