Leading a quieter life

Katherine Colucy

ROTC training officer enjoys family, job after time in Iraq

Captain Aaron McPeake, assistant professor and training officer for the Army ROTC, speaks with Brandy Maistros, senior psychology major and third year cadet, at a cadet-led training session behind Taylor Hall. McPeake recently came back from a 13-month t

Credit: Jason Hall

Returning home from a 13-month tour in Iraq was bittersweet for Capt. Aaron McPeake, an assistant professor and training officer for the Army ROTC.

While he came home to a wife and family that loved him, he also came home to his 16-month-old daughter, Ella, who did not know who he was.

“She was about three months old when I left and when I got back she was 16 months old,” McPeake said. “It was really hard because my wife was doing everything. She was definitely a mommy’s girl, and now she was like, ‘who’s this guy?'”

McPeake said after being home for a few months, his daughter learned who he was and started playing with him.

“It was hard because you miss out on a lot of firsts,” McPeake said. “The first tooth, first walk and first words. When I left, I was holding her in my arms. Next thing you know, I get back and she’s walking, babbling and talking.”

While in Iraq, McPeake was a company commander at Camp Speicher in Tikrit.

“I was in charge of about 45 guys with eight black hawks, which valued at $52 million dollars,” McPeake said. “As a company commander, you have a lot of power, but you also have a lot of responsibility.”

McPeake said his company flew all the general officers to meetings or anywhere else they needed to go.

“It was stressful. It was physically and mentally tough,” McPeake said. “You worked every weekend, and you were putting in anywhere between 14- to 18-hour days. We were working non-stop.”

McPeake said his battalion commander eventually forced him and his company to take a day off once a week.

“It came to a point where we knew if we keep doing this, we were going to kill somebody,” McPeake said. “We were going to do something unsafe that was going to hurt soldiers.”

For his service in Iraq, McPeake received the Bronze Star Medal and an Air Medal.

McPeake said his family stayed in Germany, where he was stationed, while he was deployed to Iraq so that his wife could be the family support leader for the other soldiers’ families.

“You want to take care of the soldiers’ families,” McPeake said. “A lot of the wives only know that their husband is going away, and I’m the guy that is taking them there.”

McPeake said he was grateful to have 24-hour phones and Internet, so he could talk to his family and give his wife information to pass on to the other families.

“You try to put out as much information as you can about the welfare and the morale through monthly newsletters, phone calls and meetings,” McPeake said.

When he was finishing up his time in Iraq, McPeake said he began to inquire about working in an Army ROTC program. When he was a cadet at the University of Akron, he knew he wanted to be an Army ROTC instructor someday.

McPeake, who is from Akron, said he began calling universities in the area to see if there were any Army ROTC positions available.

McPeake was selected to come to Kent State and said he very happy to be so close to home.

“I know the area,” McPeake said. “It’s great because this is home for me. We were in Germany for three years, and I was in Iraq, so it’s great.”

Lt. Col. Dean Costas, director of the Army ROTC, said he feels lucky to have McPeake on his staff.

“I think what Captain McPeake brings to the staff is a combination of intelligent, efficient work and a tremendous amount of practical and combat experience,” Costas said. “Aaron is exactly what ROTC needs. We need smart, hard-working officers who have a very broad range of experience, especially combat experience.”

McPeake said the best part about his job is the opportunity to interact with Army ROTC cadets.

“I like sitting with them and talking about Army stuff,” McPeake said. “I know that I have a lot of information I can pass along to them. Everything they are doing, I’ve done. I like the mentorship. They can always come to me with a problem.”

McPeake said he also enjoys having most evenings and weekends to spend with his family.

“It’s great family time now, especially since I haven’t been with my family for a long time,” McPeake said. “It’s a great area and a great job.”

Contact ROTC reporter Katherine Colucy at [email protected].