Timothy Joseph Newman

By Paul Wood

Photo By Robin Scholz/The News-Gazette

FISHER — In his 18 years as an officer — so far — Timothy Joseph Newman has earned two Bronze Stars, one while serving as a platoon leader in Iraq and another for serving as a brigade battle captain in Afghanistan.

Lt. Col. Newman, 38, continues to serve in the Illinois National Guard while working as director of facilities for the University of Illinois Electrical and Computer Engineering Department.

Besides Iraq and Afghanistan, among his accomplishments are road improvements in the Dominican Republic; military-to-military relations in Botswana, Africa; construction work in Germany; engineering service all over this country; running all transportation for the 2012 Chicago NATO Summit; and setting up a new National Guard unit, the 1886th Engineer Facility Detachment.

He was born in New York City, but moved around a lot. Newman’s father served for 30 years in the Coast Guard. Several family members served in World War I and World War II.

He graduated from O’Fallon Township High School.

“While in college, I knew that I wanted the military to still be a part of my life, but wasn’t sure if I should go active duty. So I joined the Army National Guard my junior year in college and haven’t regretted a thing,” he said.

Operation Iraqi Freedom “was a roller coaster of emotions.”

“While serving there, initially you have a fear of the unknown and as you grow into your mission set, you gain confidence and an understanding of what you are doing and the impact that you may have upon the Iraqi people,” he said.

“As world events unfolded, I happened to be on a deployment to Kuwait (his third overall deployment), when ISIS captured Mosul and areas where, at the time 10 years ago, I had soldiers within my unit killed for that land, which we gave to the Iraqi Army/government to hold.”

It was a hard lesson for him.

“While you have an initial reaction of trying to understand if it was worth the cost 10 years ago, you snap back into knowing that what matters is protecting human life and the same populace from another evil,” he said.

He led engineers but also worked in tanks.

“As engineers, our motto is ‘Essayons,’ which means ‘Let us try.’ While in Iraq, I served as a combat engineer platoon leader. We swept roads for IEDs, searched for weapon caches and built base towers. But we also served as tankers, patrolling the roads in M1 Abrams tanks. We also performed security patrols as infantry, and trained Iraqi police and Army forces,” Newman said.

For all the danger, “my favorite memories (of Al Anbar province) are actually those of soldier camaraderie and antics,” he said — including lengthy games of tag.

Even after daily mortar/rocket attacks on his forward operating base, direct fire engagements while on patrol “and constant threat of IEDs exploding on our movements,” he said, soldiers need to maintain a sense of humor.

A belief in the power of prayer also is important, he said.

In Afghanistan, Newman helped a Polish unit.

“I essentially was an air-traffic controller and 911 operator for the Polish Brigades area of operation,” he said. “This was quite a different experience than Iraq, as my job was tied more to a base, and I was the person you called when you needed help. I coordinated, orchestrated and tracked all battles and units operating within Ghazni Province, providing the needed air and ground forces to ensure we accomplished the mission.”

He had to adjust to a different culture.

“There were more remote areas and villages tied to their own tribe versus to the country of Afghanistan. It’s a culture of what can you do for me today, rather than a longer outlook,” Newman said.

In Kuwait in 2014, he switched branches, from engineer to logistics.

“I oversaw the external support to 25,000 military and contractor personnel over 10 countries throughout the Middle East,” he said. “Also, during this time, ISIS took control of Mosul, pushing toward Baghdad, so we had to quickly adjust and add to our mission, providing logistical support to units moving forward into Iraq, as well as humanitarian aid to the Iraqis in areas like the Sinjar Mountains.”

He considers it a “joy and honor” to serve the country.

“I feel that I have accomplished a lot and made an impact, but I still feel I have a lot more to give. For me, this means to maintain a positive attitude in what you are doing, and this filters down to others who serve with you and under you,” he said.

He and his wife, Evie, have a son, Jameson. She has been active as a Family Readiness Group leader for each one of the units he has deployed with. She has also served as the chair and a founding member of the Joint Family Advisory Council for Illinois.

Do you know a veteran who could share a story about military service? Contact staff writer Paul Wood at pwood@news-gazette.com.