PORTSMOUTH - After flying over the site where the World Trade Center towers once stood, air operations technician John Negrotti combined his anger, his sense of patriotism and his sense of duty to go to a desolate airfield in the Pakistani desert.
"I was the lone soldier," said Negrotti
, 47, of Plaistow."I was a long way from home.It was a bare-bones base."
A part-time member of the 157th Air Refueling Wing
at Pease International Tradeport, Negrotti
witnessed the remnants of the terrorist attacks from the cockpit of a KC 135 Stratotanker performing a combat air-patrol mission over New York City.
"I looked down," Negrotti
said."I didn't see the twin towers.I saw a big hole and smoke rising.Nothing surprises me anymore."
was at work on Sept. 11.
"Here I am 10 minutes outside Boston and I looked up at the sky and I said, 'What the heck is this?'" Negrotti recalled."'Why are these fighters flying so low?' ...Then I got to work and I said, 'What the hell is going on?'"
From there, Negrotti
went home to pick up his
"There were no smiles anymore," he
said."Getting them away from the TV was the hardest part.They said, 'Daddy what's going to happen next?'"
It wasn't long before Negrotti
volunteered to go overseas.
"Everybody was running scared - everywhere you went.It was easy for me to decide I wanted to go." He
took a leave of absence from his
job as an athletic facilities coordinator at Northeastern University
in Boston, was mobilized to full-time duty on Dec. 10 and deployed the next day.
Negrotti's orders were to assume command control of a tattered airfield - formerly a reserve base for the Pakistani air force
- and transform it into a re-supply depot for forward operating locations in Afghanistan.
...Negrotti was the sole member of the New Hampshire Air National Guard dispatched to that location.
was joined by Army soldiers, Marines and other National Guardsmen from around the United States. His
job included ensuring supplies (including food, water and aircraft parts) were moved in and out of the base to support missions on the front lines.His
initial tasks included airstrip reconstruction and installation of runway lights. Negrotti
slept in a tent city.He
awoke each morning to clear the runways of debris, check weather reports and prepare the flight crew schedules for refueling missions and training of fighter jets. Negrotti
admitted at times the location was intimidating.
"You don't know what's going to happen day to day, especially when you're in a foreign country.You try not to think about it.I just try to do my job every day.If something warranted a threat to our assets, then we'd deal with it at that time."
At the end of each day, Negrotti
Air Force instruction gave him the skills to survive.
"I'm just glad I took my training seriously to get home," Negrotti
said."That's the key.If you take it seriously you'll be able to get home no matter what the circumstances are." Negrotti
recently returned home to the 157th Air Refueling Wing
at Pease after four months overseas.
"You don't appreciate the things you have in the United States until you go away," he
Motivated to guarantee his
children, Alicia, 14, and Christopher, 9, the same liberties as he
had growing up, Negrotti
has signed up for another overseas tour.
"I want my children to have a life, too," Negrotti
said."I don't want them running around scared.If the chance comes, I'm not going to turn it down - I'll go."
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