By Bruce Frazier Dalton Police Department
Dalton Police Department Officer Brian Early isn’t one to brag about his achievements at his “other” job in the Army Reserve. That’s why it took a few months before his fellow police officers learned Early was honored this past summer with a Bronze Star following his most recent deployment to Afghanistan as part of the Army’s 179th Military Police (MP) Company.
Fortunately, his wife Sonja isn’t as shy.
In the days leading up to the Dalton Police Department’s annual Veterans Day lunch to honor the agency’s military personnel, Sonja Early contacted event organizer Capt. Tom Phillips to tell him of the honor for Brian Early (known to the U.S. Army as Staff Sgt. Brian Early). When Phillips announced the honor to Early’s fellow veterans with the Dalton Police Department, the news came as a surprise.
“I first heard about the award the day before,” said Dalton Police Chief Jason Parker. “I was really proud for him, but after thinking about his demeanor, I was not surprised. Officer Early has had several deployments over the last few years, and although he would rather be here with his family, he was ready to go there.”
Early started his third Middle East deployment in October 2012 serving as a squad leader. He was later promoted to platoon sergeant. The promotion meant being responsible for making sure his military police platoon was always ready to take on a variety of missions.
“We call MP ‘multipurpose’ because of all the different jobs we do,” Early said, explaining his platoon’s role as part of the Western Kabul Base Cluster Quick Reaction Force (QRF). The QRF is tasked with being ready to respond to any situation in the area within minutes.
“Our job is to be ready within 15 minutes’ notice any time of the day 24/7 to go to respond to an incident,” Early said. “We had to be ready for anything whether it was bombs, bomb threats, attacks, just depending on whatever was going on.”
The QRF’s role included rapid response to any situation in the Kabul Base Cluster area, convoy support, personal security details for high-ranking officers, high rise building assessments and more. Under Early’s leadership, the QRF never missed a departure time and never missed responding within its assigned 15-minute window. According to a narrative provided by the Army, Early was also instrumental in developing and planning the QRF’s movements and planning and submitting briefings on convoy operations to his commanders.
Early also served as patrol leader for more than 60 missions outside of his duties with the QRF.
“We were constantly on the road doing what we called ‘rocket box patrol’ which is where we go out and check the area to see if anyone was setting up rockets to attack the bases with,” Early said, detailing some of the various duties his platoon would take on. “Or we would go out on rescue missions to help people who were having problems.”
Asked what he’s most proud of, though, there’s no hesitation. During its deployment, the 179th Military Police Company did not lose a member.
“That, to me, is the big thing,” Early said. “I took my platoon of 20 people and nobody died. We had a couple injuries and ... we sent a couple of guys home to get fixed. But that was my best thing, making sure that I lost nobody.”
The Bronze Star is the fourth highest individual honor bestowed by the United States military. It is awarded for acts of merit or acts of valor. Early was told by one of his lieutenants that he was being considered for the award as the deployment began to wind down, and then received the honor in a ceremony marking the end of the mission. Early says that he’s proud of being recognized with the Bronze Star and pleased to have his hard work noticed by his commanders.
This is Early’s second military career. Before moving to Dalton from his native Ohio to work for Shaw Industries and later the police department, he served an active duty tour with the Air Force. Early was inspired to join the Army Reserve after 9/11. While Early has enjoyed his deployments (once to Iraq and twice to Afghanistan), he’s happy to be home and does not expect to be sent overseas again.
“I don’t think we’re taking any more trips, but you never say never,” Early said.
With Early’s return in July, the Dalton Police Department once again has all of its military reserve personnel back home and back on duty. Between 2003 and 2012, the department often had as many as five officers deployed at the same time.
“We have about 25 military veterans in the department, and many have seen combat action in the last two decades,” said Parker, an Army veteran. “I feel humbled to work alongside them.”