Alpine County soldier on leave from Iraq
The quiet man with bulging biceps turning hamburgers at the grill was Sgt. Ray Payne Jr.
It is Memorial Day, blue skies, snow-capped peaks, and lush Lampe Park as the Washoe soldier cooks for his family.
A Markleeville resident, Payne is home on two weeks leave from his second of tour of duty with the U.S. Army in Iraq.
His extended family gathered to thank him for his service to the county.
“My skin is light,” he said, “because I am inside 14 hours a day. Otherwise I would be dark like them.”
He points to his Wahsoe family, parents Marilyn and Raymond, grandmother Hazel, and dozens of cousins. Payne would rather talk about his family or his bride, Maria, but he was willing to answer a few questions about his life in Iraq.
Payne commands a jailing facility in the green zone. His title is senior sergeant of the guard.
He said his platoon was trained for Special Weapons and Tactics duties. He spent months alongside FBI agents learning sharp shooting and specialized military techniques, including recovering evidence.
The platoon was then assigned to the jailing facility.
The elite training and his integrity allow him to handle criminals from third-country nationals, which include Al Qaeda infused countries such as Lebanon and Iran.
He said he knows the “cases,” the crimes the accused have committed. He spent his first tour in Iraq watching similar crimes wound and kill his countrymen.
Yet he may not touch the inmates. He does not tell the two dozen men under his command anything about the crimes.
If an inmate was mistreated, Payne explained, “it would come back on me.”
So, he behaves like a drill sergeant. He has help from an interpreter, but knows the Arabic for commands such as “quiet” (spelled phonetically Escoot), “get up,” and “face the wall.”
The prisoners are allowed to keep religious traditions, such as praying five times daily and have clean or pork-free meals. Payne spends 14-hour shifts reviewing detailed records of the inmates and supervising a minimum of eight soldiers each shift.
At night, Payne and his platoon sleep in a palace that Sadam Hussein built for his wife. There is a gym in the basement and showers with filtered water. He can stay in touch by e-mail.
He said he feels pretty safe there.
Outside of the palace, there is a mud hut inhabited by a family of 20 Iraqis.
The platoon has adopted the family, sharing the food they are sent and bringing toys for the children.
There is little education, he explains, and the country is so poor.
Payne said he intends on leaving the service in the next year and hopes to find work in law enforcement.
— Joyce DeVore is one of four columnists taking over for Gina Gigli on the Alpine County page.
Anyone interested in writing Payne, or sending donations to his unit’s adopted family may do so at:
Sgt. Ray Payne Jr.
APO AE 09358