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Johnston veteran learned about public service as kid

Submitted photo Jeffrey Greene, 51, of Johnston, joined the 324th Military Police Company of the Ohio National Guard in 1989, the beginning of a 22-year military career.

SOUTHINGTON — Lt. Jeffrey Greene learned about public service at a young age.

The 51-year-old Johnston native, who now is second-in-command to the northeast Ohio district encompassing eight state highway patrol posts and more than 200 employees, attributed this virtue to his dad.

“I looked up to my dad — Allan Greene — as a soldier, as a man,” he said. “He gave me some valuable life lessons from the start. Whether it was at family functions or his actions at home, I saw him as being a part of something that was bigger than himself. I was very grateful for that.”

The senior Greene, who has three sons and now lives in Ravenna, was retired from the Ohio Army National Guard and worked as a mechanic at the old General Electric plant on Dana Street. His son Jeffrey went to Maplewood High School and at age 16 became a junior firefighter for Johnston.

“I was impressed with the camaraderie there and the idea that there was something bigger going on,” Greene said.

Greene also was impressed with the state troopers with whom he interacted, whether it was on rescues or accident scenes. He also laughed when his middle school teacher was pulled over by a trooper for speeding.

“I guess I was impressed with his professionalism, and I wanted to be a part of that,” Greene said.

But first, Greene followed in dad’s footsteps and joined the 324th Military Police Company of the Ohio National Guard in 1989, the beginning of a 22-year military career that took him to battle fronts in Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan.

“Over the years, we saw a lot of changes, whether it was the way the war was fought, the climate, tactics, changes in equipment,” he said.

During Operation Desert Storm, Greene took over the machine gun post left behind by the late Spc. Brian K. Spackman. Spackman, 22, was a Niles native who was part of the 324th and suffered a fatal heart attack while training in January 1991 at Fort Bragg, N.C.

“It was an honor to replace that great man, and I wanted to mention it so he can be remembered,” he said.

While with the military police unit in war situations, Greene said the duties included escorts of prisoners of war and night patrols, but the memories come from the humanitarian tasks performed by the soldiers.

“There always is great opportunity born out of tragedy. You can grow from it if you look at the positives,” he said.

He remembers one time in Afghanistan near the end of his tour when the guard members had a chance to step out of their roles of “self service.”

“We were on an escort detail and there were some mattresses and plastic shoes — the kind you usually find at a discount store — and we gave them to some orphans located at a remote outpost. The response from those kids was remarkable. They sobbed and cried over this act of kindness,” Greene said. “Sometime when you measure the success of a mission, you have to look at its significance. Giving something to these kids in a war-torn region.”

In Afghanistan, Greene said he often wondered if Americans were welcomed.

“We were appreciated by them because they often told us that with us here, the Taliban had to stay in the hills and not burn their homes and steal their stuff,” he said.

While in country, Greene said he experienced a change of attitude from Afghan people who often learned their lifetime impressions from the knee of their grandparents. He said while mistakes were made, he welcomed many lessons learned in foreign lands.

The National Guard experience, Greene said, also took him to some disaster areas in this country, including places like the areas devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and flood-ravaged areas of Monroe County in Ohio.

“We were able to use our equipment to get to places and help people that other vehicles couldn’t get to,” Greene said.

He especially was honored to serve those locally.

“These are our neighbors whom you now have an opportunity to serve at a time of disaster,” Greene said.

During his years with the Guard, he saw the mission of the organization change from being a “bunch of weekend warriors” to a well-trained unit that can respond at a moment’s notice to any type of situation.

“I’ve taken some of these lessons with me into my job at the patrol, the things like discipline and life experiences are invaluable. Giving people places to sleep, being able to help people was a phenomenal experience,” he said, summing up his Guard experience.

The guard also allowed him to continue his law enforcement career because when Greene was not overseas, he was just required to serve the Guard one weekend per month and two weeks in the summer.

In 1999, Green fulfilled a lifelong dream and attended the Ohio Highway Patrol Academy. His first assignment was at the Ravenna post later that year. He later transferred to the Southington post, where he was part of special response team that took part in criminal investigations and assisted area law enforcement task forces.

He was promoted to lieutenant in 2016 and became Ravenna post commander in 2018. In March, he was promoted and moved back to Trumbull County and become assistant district commander. Greene said he applies the lessons learned during his military career almost every day as he serves the more than 200 people employed under his command.

“I’ve got to do more than some, but it wasn’t always a great time, but it has always been a great ride.”

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