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Spc. Troy Green, of the 233rd Base Support Battalion in Darmstadt, Germany.

Spc. Troy Green, of the 233rd Base Support Battalion in Darmstadt, Germany. (Ward Sanderson / S&S)

Spc. Troy Green, of the 233rd Base Support Battalion in Darmstadt, Germany.

Spc. Troy Green, of the 233rd Base Support Battalion in Darmstadt, Germany. (Ward Sanderson / S&S)

Spc. Troy Green, a member of the Missouri National Guard called up to work as a military policeman in Darmstadt, Germany, shows his softer side as he goes through a box of toys donated to needy children.

Spc. Troy Green, a member of the Missouri National Guard called up to work as a military policeman in Darmstadt, Germany, shows his softer side as he goes through a box of toys donated to needy children. (Ward Sanderson / S&S)

DARMSTADT, Germany — In his job as Missouri prison SWAT team sergeant, Troy Green has experienced things that film director Quentin Tarantino would see as good, gritty material.

Green sees it as sick reality.

“I’ve been knocked out,” he said. “I’ve seen guys use their wives, mother, their kids to smuggle drugs in. Stabbings. It’s a pretty negative place.”

An inmate in solitary confinement once kicked a food tray through a slot and into Green’s groin, sending him lights out from the pain. He’s been called in to emergency duty when prisoners mounted padlocks to belt buckles and opened up guards’ heads.

“It makes you see people in a different way,” Green said dryly.

But the 33-year-old specialist in the Missouri National Guard, called up last year to work as a military policeman in Darmstadt, seems a sunny character around post. His buddies don’t associate him with batons so much as with toy drives or the Special Olympics.

Before 1999, it wasn’t that way.

Green said that back in the day, he was a hard guy.

“I was mean,” he admitted.

His special tactics and response team at Crossroads Correctional Center in Cameron, Mo., specializes in riots, hostage stand-offs and manhunts. Hostage situations are Green’s turf. The maximum security, all-male prison was the first in Missouri to put up a lethal electric fence.

Then five years ago, the Missouri Department of Corrections decreed that he and his colleagues would carry the Special Olympics torch in a law enforcement relay from Cameron to St. Joseph, about 36 miles. There would be corrections officers like him, sheriff’s deputies, highway patrolmen, city cops, too. The race would end in the parking lot of a Wal-Mart.

Green did the run because he had to.

“When we got to Wal-Mart — I don’t know anything about Special Olympics,” he said. “I didn’t really care.”

Then the kids swarmed around the cops at the finish. They waved a welcome banner. They wanted to hold up the polished brass Olympic torch. They treated Green like a rock star. There was a whole other world out there, a world where people didn’t respond to bad breaks by breaking the law, but by reaching for gold.

His hard heart went soft.

“If you give the kid a Coke or shake his hand, it’s a big deal,” Green realized. “They don’t get the breaks you or I do.”

Green has done the torch run ever since. And he’s twice done the Missouri Polar Bear Plunge, a February dip in the Lake of the Ozarks to raise money for Special Olympics.

“You’ve got to run in,” Green said. “They don’t let you plunge in, because of shock.”

When he moved to Darmstadt in January, he immediately looked up the 233rd Base Support Battalion Drug Abuse Resistance Education officer, Sgt. Joseph Ward, to volunteer. Green has dressed up as McGruff the Crime Dog. Now, Ward is pushing to have Green nationally certified as a DARE officer himself.

“He’s definitely one of the livelier McGruffs I’ve seen,” Ward said.

“If you can not be the severe MP, as a lot of people see us sometimes, kids will come up to you,” Ward said.

In May, Green volunteered as a morale-boosting “buddy” for Special Olympics athletes competing in Kaiserslautern.

“A lot of these kids, if they didn’t hit a ball or whatever they’re doing, it can crush their day,” Green said.

He was also the point man in a toy drive for Iraqi children. The Darmstadt community donated more than 300 pounds of toys. They’re trying to get more now.

“He’s been really good with that,” said Green’s platoon sergeant, Sgt. 1st Class Charley Ramsey.

All the good deeds can be tough on the scheduling, Ramsey admitted.

“But as far as the people in the community, they see him out there, and usually he takes one of his squad members with him, and they get to see my MPs out of uniform, not just pulling people over.”

One of the squad members is Sgt. Billy Bunch, himself a former sheriff’s deputy from Springfield, Mo.

“I think it’s a positive role model for younger troops as well,” Bunch said. “It’s their first time away from home. There’s more to do than just party.”

Back home in Missouri, Green has a wife and three kids. The oldest, Madison, is taking tough-girl lessons from Dad. Last year, she took fourth in her division of the tae kwon do world championship tournament in Little Rock, Ark. The 7-year-old keeps her little brother in check. But Green wants to instill a respect for gentler things, too.

“My wife and I try to teach our kids strong family values and basically being a good person and helping people,” Green said.

And you can learn that from what may seem the most unlikely of sources. Such as the Army officer’s preschooler who brought her bike to Green to give to a kid in Iraq. She struggled to give up the sentimental wheels, but did so without a tear.

Or from the Special Olympics kids that day at the Wal-Mart five years ago, happy despite life’s hard knocks, shouting and smiling and waving at a tough guy named Troy Green.


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