Editor’s note: Andrew McDaniel is the son of Daily Chronicle reporter Debbie Behrends.
GENOA – Sgt. Andrew McDaniel is eager to step off the battlefield and into a classroom.
McDaniel, a Genoa-Kingston High School graduate and Army explosive ordnance disposal technician, is stationed at Fort Campbell, which is on the Tennessee-Kentucky border.
He served two tours in Afghanistan, one from May 2010 to May 2011 and another from November 2012 to August 2013, but he is looking forward to turning in his military boots in July in exchange for a chalkboard.
McDaniel recently spoke with reporter Andrea Azzo about his future plans.
Azzo: What kind of work do you do for the military?
McDaniel: Normally in the states, we just do training, but we’re a military bomb squad. Occasionally, we get called out on local military missions. We have to respond to it. One call was a World War II veteran who died. His family found a grenade in their attic, and we had to go take care of it. We had to make sure it was safe to handle, and we detonated it. We put our own explosives on it and, in a controlled detonation, got rid of it.
Azzo: That sounds nerve-racking.
McDaniel: Here in the states, it’s not as nerve-racking because it’s a relatively controlled environment. There’s police on scene, and firetrucks and parademics are on standby. We can look up to see how to disarm it. Overseas in Afghanistan, they’re trying to kill us, and they know how we operate. They’re making roadside bombs. It’s extremely nerve-racking. Overseas, you have to do it really quickly because the enemy will know that you’re there and will start shooting at you.
Azzo: What’s the difference between the explosives here and overseas?
McDaniel: Typically in the states, you find military stuff where it’s manufactured in a plant. Overseas, you find homemade explosives where you can buy all the stuff you need to make it. The stuff over there is more sensitive: If you rub it the wrong way or smoke around it, it’ll blow up. Here, you have guys who need to haul it around. It has to be less sensitive, but it still goes boom nonetheless.
Azzo: What are your post-military plans?
McDaniel: My plans are to attend NIU and get a bachelor’s degree in elementary education then try to find a job as a middle school teacher. One program I’ve enrolled in, Troops to Teachers, helps the military get licensed to teach.
Azzo: Why teach middle schoolers?
McDaniel: I love seeing lightbulbs go off and ideas click in people’s heads. With younger-aged kids, they want to learn and the passion for learning is still there, but they’re not quite at the speed I want to teach at. With high school kids, I know how rebellious I was in high school. The only throwback in middle school is puberty and that flood of hormones and emotions. That might be the only drawback I can see so far.
Azzo: What would you want to teach your students about your experience in the military?
McDaniel: I would give them some sense of responsibility. In the military, they break you down completely just to build you back up. For the first few months, they feed you at a certain time and put you to bed a certain time. It gradually becomes your own doing. Once they feel you’re responsible enough, they’ll promote you higher and higher. The sky is the limit with the military. As long as you show the drive, the sky’s the limit.
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