'I loved every minute'
May 23, 2007
UK weekly edition, Wednesday, May 23, 2007
RAF CROUGHTON — Capt. Joseph Quinn has seen many things over a nearly 22-year Air Force career that has taken him all over the world.
Little of that, however, compared to what he experienced managing three Iraqi detention facilities during his tour last year.
“We had too many disciplinary problems,” he said. “Rioting, uprisings, unauthorized visitors, whatever. There was never a dull moment.”
The job required the 40-year-old Pottstown, Pa., native to maintain a delicate balance.
On one hand, he had to build a rapport with the detained chiefs of local tribes to maintain relatively amiable relations with prisoners. On the other, he had to remain vigilant for any prisoner poised to exploit the tiniest gap in security.
“If you have strong rapport with detainee chiefs, you can keep the others in line, but if you don’t, things can become very difficult very quickly,” he said. “But you can’t trust any of them. They play us like we play them. You have to remember they’re alleged terrorists.”
Quinn, who serves as the operations officer for the 422nd Security Forces Squadron, excelled at managing three of the 12 Iraqi detention facilities so well during his six-month tour in Iraq last year that he was awarded the Bronze Star Medal.
“Detainee ops were completely different than anything I had ever done in the Air Force, but I loved every minute of it,” he said. “And to be honored with a Bronze Star is something I will never forget. The deployment has been very good to me.”
The tour taught Quinn to view his job in a different light. A prison riot, for example, proved to be a valuable learning experience. Luckily for him, he was on hand for two of them.
“The best thing that happened were the riots,” he said. “We were able to utilize our training without losing control. We employed less-than-lethal force and maintained control without further complicating the situation.”
His Bronze Star commendation describes his actions:
“Capt. Quinn without hesitation responded to a large scale riot in a communal compound. He prevented ammunition shortfalls after the response force fired over 300 rounds during initial containment maneuvers,” the commendation states. “Capt. Quinn instructed tower guard video coverage that resulted in the enforcement of 600 days of segregation. His sound decision making skills and timely actions expedited the restoring of order.”
He also worked with the Marine Corps to help arrest several “high-value targets” while the suspects were visiting the detention facility and oversaw the training of 250 Iraqi correctional officers.
All told, Quinn excelled throughout his tour, and he did it all with a smile.
“I won’t lie, I loved every minute of it,” he said. “It was a blast.”