Capt. Matthew Toomey, the new commander of the Marysville-based Army National Guard 585th Military Police Company, said he's looking forward to serving his fellow Ohioans after a tour in Iraq.
Toomey, 31, returned on Aug. 10, following a tour in Iraq's Anwar Province training local police forces in advanced investigative techniques. Toomey took command of the 585th on Feb. 6, succeeding Captain Kevin Harold.
"Before I deployed to Iraq in 2009, I came back over to take another position with the company. Captain Harold and I have been friends for six or eight years, so when the vacancy came open here it was a natural choice for me to come over and deploy to Iraq with him," Toomey said.
As commander of the 585th, Toomey will oversee its operations.
"I was essentially a platoon leader (in Iraq); as a new commander I am basically responsible for the overall success or failure of this company," Toomey said. "I make sure that we continue to train to support our local, state and federal missions as they arise."
Maintaining that readiness will be important this year, as the 585th will prepare this spring to aid in disaster response in Ohio, particularly helping Ohioans recover from the flooding that has recently occurred in the southern reaches of the state.
"One of the big things we're gearing up for in the spring is probably flood work, or other sorts of responses we can offer to our local population," Toomey said. "There's a group called a Quick Reaction Force (QRF), a military police company that's set aside to be the first response to a local disaster, whatever it may be. In August, we'll be taking that mission over. So a lot of our training is in preparation for that validation in August. So after August, we can be called to anywhere in Ohio, able to respond in under eight hours, to respond to basically 'fill-in-the-blank.'"
Toomey has experience with that sort of work, helping with flood relief in Belmont County and St. Clairsville, a portion of the state prone to severe spring flooding.
"Any situation where the local, civilian enforcement gets overburdened, we would be called out for," he said.
A graduate of St. Charles Catholic School in Columbus and Franklin University, Toomey joined the military after graduating high school. He was promoted to the rank of captain while serving in Iraq last year.
During the 585th's tour in Taqaddum, Anwar Province and Ramadi, Toomey's approachable personality helped in training local police forces, particularly in overcoming the language barrier.
"We were basically helping to Westernize the Iraqi police force, teaching advanced investigative techniques like securing evidence and taking finger prints, along with teaching combat lifesaver courses," he said.
With only two Saudi interpreters to get their words across, Toomey would occasionally start off a class by thanking the Iraqis for attending the following deep underwater scuba diving training - the interpreter would deliver the message after looking closely at the captain, and the Iraqis would often bust into laughter.
"I was something of a lame joke, but sometimes we had to break the ice," Toomey laughed.
Toomey said that while he has served for more than a decade in several different communities, he has yet to work with a community as welcoming as Marysville.
"I just want to thank everyone in Marysville and Union County for the support they offered when we moved here, for our going away, our coming home, holiday meals - everything they've done," he said. "I've been in the Guard for 14 years, and this is the only community that does this. These guys do it right."