Soldier defines service from Kentucky to Africa

Story by Staff Sgt. Steve Tressler, Task Force Longrifles Public Affairs

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Maj. Michael Benton of Task Force Longrifles tends to a young girl at the wound clinic in Djibouti City, Dec. 8, 2012. A former medical officer, Benton volunteered at the clinic during his off duty hours while deployed to the Horn of Africa. (Kentucky National guard photo by Capt. Daniel Van Horn, Task Force Longrifles Public Affairs)

CAMP LEMMONIER, Djibouti — What do you call someone who goes from being a medical officer to a nuclear chemical biological officer to armor officer to an artillery officer?  Easy, we call him Maj. Michael Benton.

Benton has done this ‘military thing’ for the better part of three decades now. He began his military career in July of 1983. In that time he’s seen a lot. From Desert Shield to Desert Storm; from Afghanistan to Iraq to Egypt and finally to Djibouti.  And now his newest mission, here has taken him almost 8,000 miles away from his home.

Being in the Horn of Africa isn’t easy by itself; the temperatures reach over 130 degrees in the summer with over 80 percent humidity daily.  Plus, to say it’s not your typical ‘military mission,’ is putting it lightly. The tasks here for his men, Taskforce Longrifles out of Kentucky’s 138th Fires Brigade, stretch from Entry Control Points on base to force protection to teaching English to those wanting to learn; And there are many who do.

While the full extent of his job duties deals with Soldiers on a day-to-day basis, he uses his free time to volunteer.

One such occasion was Thursday Nov. 2 2012, when Benton volunteered to go on yet another volunteer mission.  This time to a place called the ‘Wound Clinic.’  It was literally 30 seconds from shutting the van door that he was bombarded by local people seeking medical attention. The first in line was a man who had open sores and lesions up and down his legs. With a Navy surgery team from the USS New York by his side, Benton found himself wearing scrubs and latex gloves, and cleaning the Djiboutian stranger’s wounds and applying clean dressings. Not a typical day for a ‘former National Guard medic’ who day-to-day as a civilian works at the Smuckers-Jif plant in Lexington, Ky.

However that is exactly why the members of the Kentucky National Guard are so unique. They are among you every day. Talented, willing to help, relevant and ready for anything.

MAJ Michael Benton

Maj. Michael Benton (Photo courtesy of Task Force Longrifles Public Affairs)

Everyday citizens who write blank checks to the people of this country regardless of race, religion and everything else, are payable up to and including time with their own family and in some cases even their lives.

When asked who he wanted to say a special hello and thank you to at his job back in Lexington he responded, “I don’t have time to thank them all, too many people have been there for me. It’s my turn.”

Michael Benton will retire from the military after 30 years of service when he returns home next year at the completion of his deployment here in Africa.

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