Sgt. John Read embraces a member of the welcoming party at the Thunder Bay International Airport on Saturday.
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It’s safe to say that Sgt. John Read was not expecting the homecoming he received.
The look on his face made that much clear.
The Thunder Bay Police officer returned home to the Thunder Bay International Airport late Saturday afternoon after spending a year deployed in Afghanistan to a colour guard and bagpipes.
“It was a little surprising, taken aback but I’m very honoured by the support of the police department and my family,” Read said once he had a chance to catch his breath.
“It’s been a long, wonderful year and I’m honoured to have represented Thunder Bay Police, the city and Canada with the job I did over there.”
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Read worked primarily on incident management in different police districts of the Afghan capital of Kabul. He also assessed the capacity of the police in handling major incidents, as well as police reform.
The opportunity abroad, which was part of the International Policing Development, was spurred along by the RCMP. Read was one of 41 Canadian police officers working with the Afghan officers.
One of the biggest things he said he’ll take away from the experience is a new perspective towards his regular work challenges.
“I think the best thing I’ll take back from my time over there is that we have to appreciate the system we work in. As complicated and sometimes frustrating as it can be it pales in comparison to the obstacles some other people face,” Read said.
“I’m just quite certain that I’ll certainly approach my professional career with a lot more patience and certainly with a lot more gratitude for how we do our job here.”
Read is not the first Thunder Bay officer to serve in an international capacity, and deputy chief Andy Hay said the selection of local officers is a testament to the strong work being done in the city.
He said he’s happy to have Read home safely, and said the time spent away will be an asset to the entire department.
“He’s gained a lot of knowledge and I think he’s going to bring a global perspective to our force,” Hay said.
Read said the experiences the police in the conflict-ridden nation face trump the challenges faced by his home force.
“The obstacles that the police in Afghanistan face are something we will never, ever, in my lifetime see,” he said.
“It’s an austere, dangerous environment and I have full respect for the men and women that serve their country over there.”
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