Ask a Veteran
These Museum staffers and volunteers once served their country in the armed forces. Now they serve in a different way.
- By Rebecca Maksel
- AirSpaceMag.com, November 10, 2011
Darrell Lawrence has great respect for the Predator drone and its ability to provide “real-time” reconnaissance. He was in Iraq, transporting prisoners from the battlefield, when a Predator provided intelligence that halted his convoy. “UAVs have saved my life and others in the Army,” Lawrence says. “Without it, we’re riding right into an ambush.”
In 1981, Lawrence joined the Army National Guard at the urging of his brother. He would spend the majority of the next 29 years in the military police. He spent time with the 274th Army National Guard unit in Kuwait during Operation Desert Storm in 1991, and recalls, “It’s so cold in the desert at night that the sand crystallized. But once the sun starts coming up, it comes up hard and fast. And it gets to 120 degrees in the shade.”
The heat was a challenge, he admits, especially wearing full body armor. “You have to wear it, just to survive,” he says. “We even had higher collars. You don’t want to give the snipers any openings.”
He served in Iraq for a year, and was also deployed to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, with the 273rd Army National Guard.
Lawrence did shorter deployments as well: His unit was sent to Lafayette, Louisiana, for three weeks after Hurricane Katrina. “That’s something I’ll never forget,” he says.
He’s been with Protection Services at the Air and Space Museum for the past 15 years. “It just goes hand-in-hand with my military experience,” he says. “I don’t want to be anywhere else. We’re like a family here.”
Does he miss anything about the National Guard? Well, yes. “I’m getting ready to go on a cruise,” he says, “and this is the first time in 29 years I’ve had to pay to travel. I’m used to getting paid to go places!”
Officer Lawrence is photographed with the MQ-1L Predator A, which is on display in the Military Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) exhibition at the National Mall Building.