OKEECHOBEE — Marty Faulkner was born and raised in Ozark, Ala. His stepfather was a Green Beret. He was a helicopter and fixed wing pilot at Fort Rucker, and Mr. Faulkner was raised in a very structured, disciplined environment. He really wanted to get out of that environment and chose to do that by joining the military, but really, he said, he went from one frying pan to another. He joined the Army in 1977 as a combat engineer. He was 17 and thought he wanted to blow things up and do all the cool stuff, he said. Being somewhat of a defiant kid, he was tired of dealing with rules at home. It was a bad time to join though, because Vietnam had just ended, and Americans were anti-war and anti-military. He was stationed at Fort Riley most of that time. He went to scuba school and did a few other things training wise, he said. He did three years and then got out.
He stayed out for many years and then joined the reserves in 1999. He worked at the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office, and joined the reserves to supplement his income. When he went back in, he went to the Military Police Corps, because he had a law enforcement background. He thought he would like it more, and he did.
When 911 happened, he was deployed and sent to Fort Stewart, Ga. in support of combat operations. They moved the active component forward so his group took up the slack at the post itself. He was there for a year, and then was sent home, but within about 60 days, he was mobilized again. That time, he went to Savannah, Ga., to Hunter Army Airfield. He ended up being in charge of law enforcement operations for that post the entire 10 months he was there. They did a few special ops while he was there as well, and then he was sent home again.
At this time, he and his wife had four children. Their youngest was only about 16 months old when he left the first time and by the time he finally returned, he was almost 3. During that time, O.L. Raulerson was the sheriff, and he was very supportive of the family while Mr. Faulkner was away. He made sure the family was taken care of which was a big blessing for him, he said. “When you are gone and you have a wife and children, it means a lot.”
He came back home for a few years and went to various schools while still in the military, and then in 2007, he was promoted to first sergeant. He was sent over to take charge of the 320th MP Company out of Saint Petersburg. They were tagged for deployment to Iraq, and from 2008-2009, he was over there. They went for military police operations in Iraq. He had a company of about 187 soldiers which was a very large combat force for a company of MPs, he said. They were stationed at a post called COB Speicher. It was right outside the town of Tikrit. They did combat operations as MPs. Many people don’t realize MPs do combat operations although they are a combat support type MOS, he said. They owned their own battle space — 200 miles of battle space in that case. They would go “out the wire” from Speicher (their protected zone) on a daily operation and engage the enemy during their route to Tikrit or wherever they would be within their battle space.
Their main function and purpose was to go out to city and village areas and talk to the locals, the Iraqi police, do training operations with them, help them in their education with learning to be a police officer, keeping security, patrol and making the area a safer environment for the Iraqi people. They also went to their high crimes jail to ensure they were taking the right precautions to run it as a prison should be run. His MPs were all law enforcement officers, corrections officers and investigators in civilian life. In a combat operation like they had in Iraq, it was an insurgent war so they were dealing with a criminal element that didn’t want things to be the way they were in that country, he explained. There were a lot of good people living there who were forced to deal with this criminal element too, so it’s like bringing in a task force to eliminate that criminal element. During their time there, they had no casualties, but they did have quite a few injuries from IED attacks and harassing fire and things like that, he said. He felt very blessed to be able to come home with all his men. Most of their injuries were the concussion type, loss of hearing, things like that, some back or neck injuries from the jolt of an IED. They were attacked two or three times a week, but the saving grace was their vehicles, he said. Those vehicles gave them a lot of protection past generations didn’t have.
They spent time with the local sheiks, who are very powerful within their communities. They control a lot of what happens there, so they had a lot of meetings with them discussing topics to help better their community and to help eliminate the criminal element.
They had a whole platoon dedicated to the small town of Owja, the birthplace of Saddam Hussein. Sgt. Maj. Faulkner would go periodically to visit and show support because he was in Speicher with the other three platoons. The platoon always wanted to show him around and take him to see the town of Owja, and whenever they went, he noticed there was only one way in and one way out which is not good, and he noticed no one would look at them. They would look at a wall versus looking at them. The U.S. government built a nice police department building there for the Iraqi police, and that was one of the reasons they went there. As they were leaving, no one would ever wave. In Tikrit, some people would wave, but no one ever waved in Owja. One day, he had a weird feeling, there were no kids on the street playing, and then as they were leaving town, two men waved at them. When they waved, he made the comment on coms to the gunner and the driver, “they waved,” and they all said the same thing at the same time, “THEY WAVED!” After they said it, BOOM BOOM! They had thrown RKG3s at them. They were little grenade type things but would have punched through their armor. They were very deadly. Fortunately the one they threw at his vehicle bounced off the back of the Humvee and blasted outward. If it had blasted inward, he wouldn’t be here today, he said. The other one slid underneath the vehicle and out the other side. That was just one of many situations they dealt with while they were there.
He was deployed for 423 days and returned home. He had been blessed enough that all the operations he was in charge of had been successful, he said. Because of that, he received the Bronze Star. He was very humbled by that, he said.
He continued on with his military career and with a lot more schooling and training. The military is very school based, he said, very much about education. The premiere school he went to was the Sergeant Major Academy. It’s a senior leadership course based in El Paso, Texas for all military branches. To make E-9 in the military, you have to be qualified and go through that school. It’s 11 months long. It’s a masters’ based program and is based on military operations, tactics and leadership. It teaches you how the Army really works and how it integrates with other branches of service and with international forces. It’s very in depth, very difficult. The school has been in existence since the early 1970s, and he was class 64. Anyone who has gone to Sergeant Major Academy should be able to tell you what class they were. Now they are up to about 70. It’s an insider thing. People who did not go, might say something like, “Class of 1987.” He said it was a very eye-opening experience, and he was very honored to be selected to go there. He went as a resident student and lived there for 11 months.
When he returned from Sergeant Major Academy, he was promoted to that rank and ended up being the state of Florida sergeant major for military police school operations. His job was to ensure that military police officers or soldiers were educated and went through the academy to be a military police officer or soldier in the state of Florida through the Army mandates. His job was to oversee those operations for the state of Florida. There are over 1,000 MP soldiers in the state of Florida. He was the chief instructor for military police training.
He also took on the role of command serrgeant major and did that on numerous occasions throughout his career as a sergeant major.
Over the years, he was deployed stateside in support of some operations but was not deployed overseas again. He is not able to discuss any of those missions.
When he retired, in July of 2018, he retired with 30 years of service. He had a few breaks in between, but they all added up to 30 years in the end. He retired from the sheriff’s office in 2017, but after about six months, he decided to go back to work and went to work for the Seminole Police Department.
He wanted to add, “During all the time I was gone, a month, a week, a year, all the things I had to do, my wife was there, and she was my rock. She kept the kids, two boys and two girls, under control. She kept the house squared away. She kept it all organized while I was gone, so having a strong wife made my job a lot easier while I was serving my country. I couldn’t have done it without her. I don’t think any soldier truly can be successful either on the battlefield or in garrison duty or anywhere without a good wife.”