Here in Gardez, Afghanistan, I’m helping Afghans develop their own security forces and ensure their safety. I spend every day except Friday, which is their holy day, mentoring Afghan general officers, senior officers and enlisted personnel. I find they are an engaging, caring, friendly people, and I enjoy working with them.
I was raised in Columbus, Ohio, in a working-class family. I had been interested in flying since the first time I saw an airplane and knew what it was. When I was 14, I started riding my bike out to an old country airport and got a part-time job there. I soloed an airplane the summer I turned 16 and planned a career as a military pilot.
However, life got in the way. I worked full time in high school and also while attending night classes at Franklin University in Columbus. I started out as a business administration major, but I really enjoyed accounting and made it my major. I graduated cum laude in 1978 after seven semesters. I did an internship with Coopers & Lybrand my senior year and then was hired full time upon graduation.
After two years, a military recruiter who had talked to me before got in touch with me. After a lot of soul searching, the choice between my budding career as a CPA in public practice and military aviation was easy. I flew Lockheed P-3 Orions for more than 3,000 hours, first hunting Soviet ballistic missile submarines and then providing intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance for combat forces on the ground in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.
After the Cold War ended, I continued flying and deploying overseas in the Navy Reserve while I resumed a career in accounting. I worked two years in industry before being hired by the then-new Defense Finance and Accounting Service’s Cleveland office. I managed the Navy’s Financial Reporting System, then took over as head of their Internal Review office.
In 2007, I was promoted to my current civilian position with the Department of the Army, U.S. Army Forces Command, at Fort McPherson, Ga. There, I run the Internal Review office, doing financial and performance reviews, managing compliance with the Federal Managers Financial Integrity Act and providing liaison to numerous external audits.
I volunteered to be mobilized to Afghanistan for 15 months and re-entered active duty last July. I was approaching 30 years as an officer in the Navy and retirement. However, I felt that all my training and experience could be used one more time to help win the global war on terror. Being here and doing the mission has reaffirmed for me that it was the right thing to do.
The biggest challenge is the Taliban and insurgents from foreign countries that are against the Afghan people being free to choose to educate their sons and daughters, vote for their representatives, go where they choose—in short, to enjoy life. Most Afghans instinctively know this, I believe, but in many places the danger from the insurgents is great. With the efforts of the Afghan people, the Afghan National Security Forces and the coalition forces, I believe this will be overcome in time.
I am 54, married to Darcey Mitchell, my wonderful wife and soul mate, and have an adult son and daughter, David Jr. and Kelly, both of Columbus, Ohio. My heart and soul belong to my 6-year-old daughter, Kerianna, and I look forward to many years raising her with Darcey. I enjoy flying, volunteering with organizations like the Civil Air Patrol and spending time working around our home.
I was appointed to the AICPA Government Performance and Accountability Committee just after I was mobilized and look forward to being able to meet with members in person upon my return from supporting the Afghan National Security Forces in bringing peace to their country.
—As told to Paul Bonner