BACK ON THE BEAT: After a year-long military deployment along the southern border, GPD officer is glad to be home

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Officer Caleb Freeman talks with a driver during a traffic stop. “I’m really ready to be back at it,” Freeman said of the end of his year-long National Guard deployment. “This kind of work suits me.”

Tom Russo | Daily Reporter

GREENFIELD — It had been about 14 months since Officer Caleb Freeman had been on patrol for the Greenfield Police Department. But on his first traffic stop of the night, he arrested someone who is now being charged with possession of narcotics.

While Freeman, 32, may not have been serving on the streets of Greenfield for over a year, that doesn’t mean he wasn’t working to keep people safe. Freeman is fresh off of a year’s deployment with the Indiana Army National Guard, working border patrol duty in the San Diego area.

After finishing up service, for which he volunteered, Freeman, a 10-year veteran on the police department, took two months off before returning to work. Even though his military service was rewarding, Freeman said he thrives working the streets for the GPD.

“Who I am and what I like is doing things like having a career with the police department even more so than being in the military,” Freeman said. “I like keeping drugs off the streets and keeping people safe here in Greenfield.”

In October 2020, Freeman, who worked under the rank of military police staff sergeant, began a 12-month deployment with his Indiana Army National Guard unit along the southwest border supporting the efforts of the U.S. Border Patrol in Operation Guardian Support.

“Our unit was charged with helping the Border Patrol from the southwest corner of the U.S. watching for illegal crossings and drug movement,” Freeman said.

In all, Freeman noted his unit was responsible for over 100,000 apprehensions of people trying to cross the border illegally south of San Diego.

Freeman and his wife knew what kind of hard service he was getting into, but he still volunteered to serve the full year. Freeman has been a member of the military since 2010 and has had challenging deployments before, including a tour in 2015 in Afghanistan.

His military contract, however, is up at the end of this year, and his family is discussing whether he’ll sign up for more service or dedicate the rest of his career to law enforcement.

“We’re just going to take our time and figure out what is best for our family,” Freeman said. He noted the hardest part about his deployment was being away from his family, including his K-9 partner, Ace.

Deputies with the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department worked with Ace during Freeman’s absence.

“He worked the whole time I was gone,” Freeman said. “I was really glad to see him.”

Some of Freeman’s fellow officers with the GPD have been curious about his time working the border, particularly since it’s been such a hot topic.

“I feel like you can’t really get a feel for what is going on there unless you go there and see it for yourself,” Freeman said. “I feel like the patrols are doing a pretty good job, doing the best they can with what they are allowed to do.”

As for his police work for GPD, Freeman began working with the department in July of 2011 and is considered to be an experienced officer who loves to serve the community. However, his love for his country is just as strong, and that’s why he said he knew he had to serve when the National Guard asked for volunteers.

GPD deputy chief Chuck McMicheal said the department is proud of Freeman, but they hated losing him for so long.

“It is tough to lose a guy for a year on a military deployment,” McMichael said.

His deployment came at an especially hard time for the department. In 2021, seven officers left, mostly to retirement, and it took most of the past year to get the positions filled and new officers trained.

“We also have another officer that is on military deployment from January of 2021 until later this month,” McMichael said.

Add to that officers who’ve had to enter quarantine for COVID-19, and it’s easy to see why the department is so pleased to have an officer like Freeman back on the streets.

“Like they say with most things, it’s like riding a bike,” McMichael said of getting Freeman back on the job.

McMichael noted Freeman has been training with Ace since he returned home in October.

“I’m really ready to be back at it,” Freeman said. “This kind of work suits me.”

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