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   from the issue of November 10, 2005

UNL Police captain extends military service


Working a Nebraska basketball game in March 2003, days after returning from a five-month mission in Saudi Arabia, Carl Oestmann, a UNL Police captain, couldn't help but savor the moment.

Carl Oestmann stands next to a Humvee during his service in Saudi Arabia. Courtesy photo.
 Carl Oestmann stands next to a Humvee during his service in Saudi Arabia. Courtesy photo.

"One day I'm in Saudi, then three or four days later I'm at a Husker men's basketball game," said Oestmann, an Air Force reservist who served in a security role during the pre-Iraq war build-up in 2002-03. "I remember the National Anthem giving me chills, as it always does. I just stood there looking at all the fans, thinking how great it was to be there and wondering if all those people knew how lucky they were to be there watching a basketball game."

Fresh off a four-year enlistment with the Air Force, Oestmann was hired by UNL police in late summer 1984. His full-time military career started after high school graduation and carried Oestmann to Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines for his first assignment as a K-9 handler.

"I was 17 when I started looking at the military," Oestmann said. "I wanted to be a police officer, but in Lincoln you have to be 21. I did the next best thing, joined the military and got the training."

Trained in security forces, Oestmann served overseas from 1981 to 1982. He returned to the states, serving out his final two years at Lackland AFB in Texas.

"I was a K-9 handler on narcotics there too," Oestmann said. "We searched the halls where military members slept, other certain buildings and vehicles coming on to or leaving the base."

In 1983, Oestmann and his dog were featured in a military publication. The following year, Oestmann was selected as the Lackland security police officer of the year.

During his tenure in Texas, Oestmann also was selected to join the emergency services team - the military version of a SWAT team.

While he could have stayed with the military, Oestmann opted to return to civilian life, came back home to Lincoln and joined UNL.

"I didn't go into the military to stay for my whole career," Oestmann said. "I wanted to try something different and becoming a member of university police was something I really wanted."

However, missing the camaraderie the military offers, Oestmann joined the Air National Guard in 1994 and is a member of the 155th Security Forces Squadron based in Lincoln.

The 155th has served in a number of roles over the last decade, including a stint in Aviano, Italy just prior to United Nations-led military intervention in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the 155th was called into action on Sept. 12. Knowing Oestmann served as a police officer at UNL, his commanding officer didn't call him back to military duty until Sept. 14.

"They knew I was a policeman on campus and we had a job to do here at that time too," Oestmann said. "When I reported to base on orders, I was activated and on active duty for almost two years."

In that time, Oestmann and members of the 155th served security rolls in Lincoln while members of their squad rotated through similar duty in Saudi Arabia.

Oestmann's turn to serve in Saudi Arabia came in November 2002. The day after Thanksgiving, he left his family behind and wouldn't return until March 3, 2003.

While in Saudi Arabia, the members of the 155th served as a security force for American troops at Prince Sultan Air Base. During the first week, Oestmann helped patrol the outlying areas of the desert around the base and maintained secure flight lines. Experience in patrol operations shifted Oestmann off that duty and positioned him in a control center, directing security responses.

While away from home, Oestmann said he knew his family was being taken care of and that allowed him to focus on his duty. He said UNL officials helped with the transition to full-time military. Superiors on the police force helped Oestmann take care of insurance issues prior to his departure. The University of Nebraska Federal Credit Union also helped the family as Oestmann's wife took over money matters and power of attorney.

"The university was really good to me," Oestmann said. "That was very important. It wasn't like I had a choice about going over there. But, it made it easier knowing that my family was being taken care of."

That kind of support is important to all soldiers.

"When you are over there, to hear that families are being supported means a lot," Oestmann said. "You may not agree with the politics, but you should support the soldiers and their families.

"Remember, it's not the soldiers' fault. And, that the public has a way of taking care of things through votes."

He continues on as a member of the guard and is now training to become a first sergeant at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Ala. He will graduate into the new rank on Veteran's Day, Nov. 11.

"That's going to be an extra special day for us," Oestmann said. "To hold that ceremony on the 11th and get my diamond (the symbol for first sergeant) on that stripe in front of a group of veterans is going to be tremendous."

And, while his duty has taken him away from his family in recent years, Oestmann still has no regrets toward his military experience.

"It has been an honor to serve," Oestmann said. "Sept. 11 changed everyone's lives. Whatever I can do to make sure that won't happen again, I'm going to do.

"If that means I have to go serve far from my family so that my children and their children are safe, then I'm going."



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UNL Police captain extends military service