Rebounding from Iraq

Sunday, April 30, 2006

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - What a difference a year makes.
From January 2004 to January 2005, Roy Adams was in Iraq as a combat engineer with the 153rd Engineer Battalion Bravo Co. of the South Dakota National Guard. He trolled through Baghdad and other cities for weapons caches and destroying them. In two month's time, he helped find some 60,000 pounds of explosives buried in the ground or hidden under false floors.
"(The Iraqi insurgents) were only limited by their imagination," said Adams, a 36-year-old regional manager with Sioux Valley Home Medical Equipment.
In Iraq, Adams also rode in an armored personal carrier (APC), clearing the streets of improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
"Every day, you just went out and hoped you didn't find one that went off," he said. "Our vehicle was hit once. They ignited the device right next to the APC. We felt it; we got tossed around quite a bit."
Adams returned to Sioux Valley about a year ago this spring. Over the past 10 years or so, he has moved up the corporate ladder from delivery technician to site manager to his current position.
"I'd say Roy's totally back to normal," said Diana Bigge, the company's director. "His experiences in Iraq will be with him forever, but from a work perspective, he's back to normal."
The transition hasn't been easy, both Bigge and Adams concede.
Adams, whose contract with the National Guard expired while he was in Iraq, estimates it took him about four months to "get his groove back." There were new employees to get to know--and vice versa. There were new technologies and requirements to learn.
"We actually buddied him up with another staff member so he could get reacquainted with everything," Bigge said.
It wasn't long before a regional manager position opened up--a position with Adams' name written all over it, Bigge said.
With several months of working nine to five under his belt, Adams has begun to see some similarities between his military and civilian lives.
"In the military, you can be prepared for a plan but you have to be able to adapt to any obstacles that could come your way," he said. "In HME, you may have your day planned and you could end up doing something entirely different."
That's what attracts Adams to both: variety and, most of all, challenges that keep him on his toes. "It's like playing football or any other sport," Adams said. "Not everyone can do it. You take pride that you're one of the ones who can."