This is the third time in seven years that Hayden Police Chief Ray Birch's Air Force reserve unit has been deployed overseas.
Hayden Hayden Police Chief Ray Birch will head back to Iraq this summer.
The Air Force reservist said his security forces unit is likely to be mobilized by July 1 and in the country in August. This will be the third time Birch's squadron has deployed since the Sept. 11 attacks, and it will be its second tour in Iraq.
This time, Birch's stepson Andrew Statz will be in Iraq, too. The reserve naval corpsman will serve his first Iraq tour starting in August. Statz is heading in with a Marine Corps unit, Statz said.
His uncle, the brother of Birch's wife, Marlene, is also in Iraq, Statz said.
"It's interesting because we're all in different parts" of the military, Statz said. Birch "is in the Air Force, my uncle is in the Army, and I'm going to be with the Marines."
Statz, 21, graduated from Hayden High School in 2005. Birch said he had told Statz, who volunteered for deployment, not to be in a hurry to go overseas.
"He seemed pretty eager to deploy : we're proud of him," Birch said. "We're sure proud of him. We know he's going to be with the best."
Marlene Birch said she was not thrilled that her husband and son would be in Iraq at the same time but understands they are doing the right thing.
"They want to go," she said. "I'd rather have people who want to be there than those who are apprehensive. I'm extremely proud of both of them."
Ray Birch said the Hayden Police Department would be in good hands during his six- to seven-month absence. Sgt. Gordon Booco will take over many of Birch's duties. Officer Carla Steele will handle his administrative tasks, Birch said.
Part-time officer Kelly Brady will go to full-time status, Birch said. Funding the position won't be a problem, he said, because Birch will draw a salary from the military and not the town while he is deployed.
"I think what's important is that people know we have a plan in place," Birch said. "The officers here have been here an average of 10 years. : They're very engaged in the community, very capable of taking over while I'm gone."
Birch, who served in the Marine Corps, has been with the Air Force Reserves since 2001 and is now a master sergeant. He said he would be operations superintendent for his security forces unit.
The unit also worked security the last time he was in Iraq, in 2004 and 2005. This time, Birch, 50, will take more of a supervisory role, he said. The Hayden chief said he looks forward to helping troops with less experience. Birch has logged 18 years of military service.
"It's one of those things where I'm pretty passionate about looking out for younger troops that are serving," he said. "I've been in for a long time, and it's a neat opportunity for us to go in and keep them safe, regardless of politics, regardless of what you think about what's happening."