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photos by David Bedard/Fort Wainwright PAO
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Fort Wainwright garrison anti-terrorism officer Daniel Gilson lights his barbecue grill using a charcoal chimney Feb. 13 during the “BrrrBQ Arctic Cook-Off” at Fairbanks’ Big Dipper Ice Arena. Gilson competes in barbecue competitions statewide and imports his own charcoal and cooking wood.
Fort Wainwright garrison anti-terrorism officer Daniel Gilson speaks with Sgt. 1st Class Imre Puskas, U.S. Army Alaska operations, and Sgt. 1st Class John Keys, 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment, during the newcomers brief March 11 at Fort Wainwright. Gilson spoke with the Soldiers about the Ready Army emergency management program as part of his duties in advising the command concerning force protection measures.
Although Fort Wainwright garrison anti-terrorism officer Daniel Gilson has made a career providing security to Army installations and organizations, it was unlikely the New England native would make a career as a Soldier or Army civilian.
Born in Middletown, Conn., in 1964 and raised in South Newbury, Vt., Gilson never aspired to join the military.
Gilson, who grew up working on dairy farms, said he wanted to be a veterinarian, but his parents couldn't afford to pay for a college education.
However, he took the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery in what he called "a ploy to skip classes" and scored well, prompting the attention of an Army recruiter.
The recruiter offered Gilson training to become an Army veterinary assistant and the Veterans Education Assistance Program to pay for college.
Gilson said everything was set for his enlistment, save for one complication. It was discovered during the Military Entrance Processing Station physical examination that he is color blind, disqualifying him as a veterinary assistant.
Crestfallen, Gilson was offered a slate of military occupational specialties, none of which interested him until he was shown an intriguing photograph of a military police officer.
"(The recruiter) showed me a picture of a guy holding a radar gun," Gilson recalled. "Being the kid I was in high school, I thought, 'Wow, I could be a cop.'"
Although the Army offered two-year enlistments at the time, Gilson selected an overseas tour in Germany, which required a three-year, active-duty service obligation.
Gilson planned to serve the three-year tour before leaving the Army to attend college.
"Three years, big deal," Gilson said of his thoughts at the time. "I will be 21 when I am done."
In the summer of 1982, Gilson attended One Station Unit Training at Fort McClellan, Ala., combining Basic Combat Training and MP Advanced Individual Training.
Gilson said he quickly discovered MP duty didn't always conform to his initial impressions of solely fulfilling the functions of a civic peace officer.
"I learned that military police were not necessarily the guys running radar. They broke that out of me in basic training. I realized that the Army had several other jobs for military police," including battlefield security and the safekeeping of nuclear weapons, Gilson said.
Gilson was assigned to the 59th Military Police Company at the Husterhoh Kaserne in Pirmasens, Germany, in November 1982, where he learned his trade as a rookie MP.
Although Gilson planned to leave the Army at the end of his initial tour, he said he found Germany and duty as an MP to be rewarding. He re-enlisted in 1985 and transferred across the installation to U.S. Military Community Activity-Pirmasens to serve as a traffic and MP investigator.
Gilson said because he didn't want to separate from the Army overseas, he re-enlisted in 1988 for an assignment to Fort Hood, Texas.
In 1990, Gilson was offered his station of choice between Hawaii and Alaska.
"I thought about it for about 10 seconds and said, 'I am going to Alaska,'" Gilson said, recalling riveting conversations he had during his youth about life on the arctic frontier with people who returned to Vermont after working on the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System.
Gilson was assigned to the 6th Infantry Division Military Police Company at Fort Wainwright, where he met, Barbara Houger, a native
of North Pole, who he would later marry.
Gilson returned to Fort McClellan in 1993 to serve as a drill instructor training rookie MPs for two years before returning to the Interior in 1995 to serve as a training noncommissioned officer and physical security inspector with the Fort Wainwright Military Police Company.
Because he said he wanted to retire in Alaska, Gilson placed a request for an extension to stay at Fort Wainwright until the completion of 20 years of service. The request was disapproved and Gilson eventually accepted what he thought would be an 18-month assignment to Fort Polk, La.
He reported to Fort Polk's 258th Military Police Company, 519th Military Police Battalion, in early 1999, but deployments to Haiti in the first half of 2000 and Kosovo from November 2000 to May 2001 dashed his plans for an 18-month assignment.
The Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks also placed Gilson under stop-loss orders with a deployment to Washington, D.C. until March 2003.
Gilson said he finally retired from the Army in November 2003, returning to Fort Wainwright to accept employment as a civilian physical security inspector.
He was subsequently selected as the Fort Wainwright garrison anti-terrorism officer in November 2005.
"As the anti-terrorism officer, it is my job to advise the (garrison) commander on the matters of anti-terrorism," Gilson said.
To that end, Gilson works closely with garrison Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosives operations specialist Russell Ackerman in anti-terrorism planning, training and mitigation.
Gilson said he manages force protection conditions, ensures new construction complies with anti-terrorism building standards, manages the installation's mass notification system, educates the installation about anti-terrorism procedures and administers required anti-terrorism training for Soldiers, Army civilians and contractors.
"It's all in an effort to make the installation a more secure place for the people who live, work and play here," Gilson said.
He said he has adapted fairly well to Alaska and enjoys the state's outdoors by hunting and fishing throughout the year.
On one occasion, Gilson said he was hunting a black bear from a tree stand when an aggressive bruin decided to turn the tables and hunt him. The bear climbed up the tree in an effort to attack him, getting within two feet of the bow-hunter before Gilson shot it dead with his .357-caliber revolver.
"I let him get as close as I dared," Gilson said.
He said his favorite pastime is competing in local and state barbecue competitions, having won local competitions and placing as high as fourth in state championships.
"I am not a chef," Gilson clarified. "I am a barbecue cook by most rights and, to a certain amount, a chili cook as well."
Gilson imports his own all-natural woods and charcoals, having run afoul of store bought charcoals on several occasions.
"I had a bad Thanksgiving one year, because I couldn't get a hold of any good charcoal," Gilson recalled. "I ruined a turkey, so I decided to import quality charcoal and cooking wood."
Gilson said he chose to settle in the Interior, because he would "have to remove (his) wife from North Pole with a crowbar," adding he couldn't have chosen another career apart from the Army.
"I was promoted to sergeant in 1985, and it is hard when you are a noncommissioned officer and not (taking) care of Soldiers," Gilson said. "I mean, that is what we do.
"Being able to work for the Army after I retired was a great thing; because, in a way, I am still able to take care of Soldiers," Gilson continued. "That's what we do as civilians supporting the Army."