I thought I would wait till tomorrow to post this, but I just couldn’t wait. I got this newspaper article in an email this afternoon. It is about my cousin, Ross, who recently returned from Afghanistan. I have posted this picture before, but it is also the one that was in the newspaper. He is a police officer in Conroe, Texas, just north of Houston.
He left Afghanistan on Valentine’s Day. His wife said that was the best Valentine’s gift she could get.
Chief Warrant Officer Ross Hovey poses with his Apache helicopter at the U.S. Army base in Bagram, Afghanistan.
Man with a Mission: Conroe cop wears second hat as soldier
by Howard Roden
Conroe Police Officer Ross Hovey does not consider himself a hero, even though he pulled off a unique and daring night rescue of his fellow soldiers in Afghanistan last summer.
To Hovey, the officers who patrol the streets of Conroe are “every bit as much a hero” as he was that day when he refused to abandon the pilots of a downed helicopter.
“I’m uncomfortable with that label,” he said. “There are heroes over here, too. I’m not the only guy in the police department that has served overseas in combat.”
A member of the U.S. Army Reserve’s 7th Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment “Charlie Troop,” Hovey, 36, is appreciative of the city’s support of its “warrior citizens.” When the city of Conroe was inadvertently overlooked at the unit’s welcome home ceremony earlier this month, he took it upon himself to present Mayor Tommy Metcalf and Police Chief Charlie Ray the Army Reserve’s employer awards at the City Council meeting Thursday.
“I wanted to express my gratitude of how the city of Conroe treats its military service members. Sometimes we forget to be grateful,” he said. “I know guys who work for other police departments who have to fight to retain the rank and benefits they’ve earned before going overseas.”
Hovey said the city helps in other ways, such as letting the Conroe regiment use the city firing range for small arms qualification.
“In the past, when the unit practiced convoy operations, the police department provided us escort through town,” he said.
Ray admitted he got a “little teary-eyed” when Hovey presented the awards.
“We’re proud of what they (reservists) do for our country and what they do for our police department. It does us proud when they go over and serve,” Ray said. “What he did Thrusday shows what kind of person he is. It speaks for his character.”
Hovey’s character was evident one day last summer when he responded to a call for assistance from troops north of Kandahar, who were attempting to root out Taliban and al-Qaida insurgents frm their mountain strongholds. Hovey and Charlie Troop had been deployed to Afghanistan as part of the Army’s 10th Mountain Division.
En route to the area, the other Apache flying alongside Hovey’s developed a potentially serious mechanical problem and was forced to land in a hostile area. Hovey notified the base in Kandahar, and then circled overhead to provide cover while waiting for help to arrive. But after 2-1/2 hours, Hovey was still waiting for help and his helicopter was perilously low on fuel.
Climbing to 10,000 feet in order to contact the base again would have used so much fuel that it would have doomed Hovey and his aircraft as well. Leaving the downed soldiers in order to refuel some 35 miles away was never an option, he said.
“It was getting dark,” he said. “We were in one of the most hostile areas. We knew if we left them behind they would have been captured and probably would have been killed.”
The solution on that dark, moonless night was to land and literally strap the two men to the stubby wings of Hovey’s Apache. Although not a standard maneuver for Apache pilots, it is technically authorized by the U.S. Army. Normally, the pilot is required to get clearance for that type of maneuver, but Hovey had neither the fuel nor the time to obtain official approval, he said.
Hovey flew the men to the nearest fire base, got his aircraft refueled and returned to provide protection for a security team and a maintenance crew that replaced the damaged part on the downed Apache.
“I don’t call it the most rewarding time, but it did feel good to rescue our guys,” he said. “A couple of times we had the infantry guys tell us we saved their lives. That’s probably the most rewarding.”
Married and a father of four, Hovey expects to return to active duty within the next four to five years. He regards it a small price to pay when compared to the combat time put in by active duty soldiers.
“Some of the guys with us had been back from Iraq less than a year when they were brought to Afghanistan. That’s commonplace in active duty,” Hovey said. “We consider our jobs in the National Guard and the Army Reserves to help those guys. Hopefully, what we did will provide a little more relief and time home.”
Wearing Two Uniforms
Members of the Conroe Police Department who also serve in the military reserves:
Tom Taylor, crime scene officer. Texas National Guard with one deployment to Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Doug Johnson, patrol sergeant. Texas National Guard with two deployments in Bosnia and Kosovo.
Mark Goodman, patrol officer. Texas National Guard, still deployed to Operation Iraqi Freedom with return scheduled in June or July. Also deployed to Bosnia and Kosovo.
Ross Hovey, patrol officer. U.S. Army Reserves with one deployment to Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.
Nathan Crenshaw, patrol officer. U.S. Army Reserves.
Cristi Williams, communications supervisor. Texas Air National Guard.
There is a good possibility that the officer named Nathan Crenshaw is also related to me.
I’m very proud of Ross for what he did, but I’m also very glad he’s home. Just before he left for Afghanistan, I dreamed that he was in a helicopter crash over there. Once last year, he was shot at and the bullet went into the back of his seat in the helicopter. It went through the glass of the windshield. He was given the piece of the windshield with the bullet hole, cut into the shape of Afghanistan. He sent it home to his wife, and she told me about it back in January.