Brandon McRae is seen beside a military police vehicle during training with the 203rd MP battalion of Athens. McRae reports for active duty this weekend.

By Adam Smith

The North Jefferson News

Brandon McRae’s world will soon be turned upside down.

On June 18, he’ll report for active duty to the 203rd MP (military police) battalion in Athens. On Father’s Day, the father of four will leave Athens for Basra City, Iraq, where he’ll stay for at least one year. McRae said he’ll miss his friends and family, but he’s up to the challenge of overseas duty.

Though this will be his first trip to the Middle East, McRae’s unit has several Iraq veterans who can educate the first-timers. However, he’s still not sure what to expect when he lands in Basra, located near the Tigris River.

“It’s my job, so I have to go no matter what,” he said. “We kind of know what it’s going to be like, but you never really know until your boots hit the ground. It’s called adapt and overcome.”

For the last seven years, McRae has worked for the Gardendale Public Works Department as a truck driver. He’s also served as a reserve police officer in Gardendale and Fultondale.

On Friday, the public works department hosted a send-off party for McRae, complete with grilled hamburgers and hot dogs.

Gardendale Public Works Superintendent Jeff Holliyan said McRae’s presence will be sorely missed in his department. Holliyan described McRae as committed, disciplined and a quick learner.

“We’re going to miss him and there’s going to be a void there until he gets back,” Holliyan said. “We just collectively agree that we appreciate his service and what he’s doing for our country.”

McRae joined the National Guard nine years ago. He and his fellow MPs will be training Iraq’s police forces in an effort to make them more self sufficient. The unit will use S.W.A.T. (special weapons and tactics) techniques to clear buildings, teach Iraqi officers how to use weapons and train them on other law enforcement tasks.

The 33-year-old McRae is a Tarrant High School graduate and a true family man. He said he’s not the only member of his family to serve in the military, a tradition he’s proud to carry on.

Though he has a specific mission, his top priority is making sure his family is safe and taken care of. In turn, his family will take care of him while he’s gone. McRae’s sister, Crystal Bean, will look after his affairs while he’s in Iraq. Though separated in age by eight years, McRae and Bean are friends as well as siblings.

“As it gets closer for him to leave, it’s getting harder,” Bean said last week. “I’m very, very proud of him.”

McRae will use the phone and Internet to keep up with his family, though it will be several weeks before he’ll be able to make contact because of security concerns. The government will contact Bean once McRae’s unit lands safely in Iraq.

McRae hopes to be back on American soil within a year, though he predicts a long-term U.S. occupation of Iraq. However, he believes the ends will justify the means.

“As long as we’re helping them better their lives, I’m all for it,” he said. “The freedoms we have in our country aren’t free. There’s a price with it.”

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