Los Alamos Police Department Cpl. David Randleman in Egypt during his military service. Courtesy photo
David Randleman with his wife, Jessica, and their four children. Courtesy photo
David Randleman receives a challenge coin from the 38th Chief of Staff of the Army of staff of the Army General Raymond T. Ordierno. Courtesy photo
BY MAIRE O’NEILL
When Los Alamos Police Department Sr. Cpl. David William Randleman mentioned in passing that he had his appendix removed during his deployment to Egypt, it caught the Los Alamos Reporter’s attention. It’s not the expected response when you ask a U.S. military veteran where they served.
Randleman was born and raised in Aztec, New Mexico. He began his military career in March 2010 when he joined the U.S. Army National Guard in Farmington. He had completed two years of pre-med classes at San Juan College and wanted to join the military. After looking into other arms of the service, he decided he wanted to finish school and that the National Guard route would help him to do that.
Randleman was stationed with the 919th Military Police Company in San Juan County. He was sent to Fort Sill, Oklahoma for basic training for 10 weeks and then transferred out to Fort Sam Houston, Texas for combat medic training.
“When I got home, during my first week back, my platoon sergeant said, ‘Here’s your paperwork to complete; We’re deploying to Egypt in January’.” Randleman said.
When Randleman deployed to Egypt, he was part of the Multinational Force & Observers established under the Egyptian-Israeli Treaty of Peace, which established four security zones, three in the Sinai in Egypt and one in Israel along the international border. Limitations on military forces and equipment within each zone were stipulated in Annex I of the Treaty.
“There were 16 or 18 countries represented when I was deployed in 2012. At that time, the Muslim Brotherhood was trying to take control of Egypt, so there were a lot of threat level raises all over the place over there. That got a little heated and we were always doing drills on how we would leave if it came down to that, because the Muslim Brotherhood told us if they got into power, they were going to kick all American forces out so we had to be ready,” Randleman said.
There were about 500 Americans in Egypt at that time on the U.S. base.
“We were on the Sinai Peninsula which is technically Egyptian land, but through the treaty, Israel’s allowed to have forces there, Egypt is allowed to have forces there, and other countries are also allowed to have forces there – all in this little chunk of land. Our job was to make sure one side or the other wasn’t violating that. We did a lot of driving around in unmarked vehicles and counting how many military we saw,” Randleman said.
The Sinai Peninsula is a mountainous, thinly populated desert about the size of West Virginia. Israel and the Gaza Strip are on its eastern border.
“My specific assignment was as a medic for South Camp Reaction Team. There are two main bases – North Camp which is up on the Mediterranean Sea and South Camp right outside Sharm el-Sheikh which was the closest city to us. The city is actually broken into two – Old Sharm and New Sharm and our base is right in the middle of them out on the Red Sea,” Randleman said.
The base is in a beautiful area and has a private beach where the troops did their combat water survival training.
“My job on the South Camp Reaction Team was like Quick Reaction Force so anytime anything happened anywhere in our section we had to respond to it. It was squad-level missions out there, whereas normally it’s company-level. A squad leader and squad would go out to a big outpost somewhere and note how many planes they saw go by, what type of tanks they saw go by and keep a data log. Our job was any time we saw a threat or any big event in the surrounding area, we would have to go to the flight line, get in helicopters and try to handle whatever was going on and at least evacuate our guys if necessary,” he said. “We also did the recons through the two cities. We’d go through and count, how many military, how many police we found and what type of weapons we observed.”
By taking advantage of the military’s Morale Welfare and Recreation services, Randleman got to see the pyramids and go to Jerusalem. He has lots of stories to tell about the time he was there and some of the things he saw on the Sinai Peninsula, including bands of the nomadic Bedouin people.
“Sinai Peninsula is the most land-mined place in the world. There are thousands and thousands of unaccounted for landmines out there. All of our outposts and bases have giant signs in multiple languages that say, ‘Place Bomb Here”. You’ll see these big trenches and you’ll see these Bedouin people walking with a handful of landmines and just toss them in and keep going. They would have found them along their route and picked them up and they just tossed them in when they got there,” Randleman said. “Most of the time they probably knew more than we did about them because they have had to deal with them their whole lives, so I imagine they know, ‘This one’s an anti-personnel, so this one’s really easy to trigger, and this one’s an anti-vehicle so it’s harder to trigger’.”
He also told a story about one of his comrades who went out on a hike and fell off a cliff and broke his leg.
“There was a bad dust storm and they couldn’t get helicopters out, so the local medic went out and did whatever he could until the sandstorm could die down. Along came a group of Bedouins and they built their tents around him, fed him a hot meal and had him in a bed whenever the flight medics actually got out there. They were good people. They’d give you the shirt off their back even though they had nothing but what they could carry,” Randleman said.
Something he was not thrilled about over there was some of the wildlife. He recalled treating a guy who got stung on both hands by the same scorpion.
“He tried telling me over and over again that he just picked up a sandbag and there was a scorpion and it stung him so fast, but I think he was trying to catch it to fight it because guys from a lot of the other countries would do that. You’d walk past their barracks and see them fighting scorpions and stuff,” Randleman said, adding that there were also tiny scorpions over there that were very deadly.
He also spoke about the sand viper snakes in the region. Sometimes when he would get off night shift at around 4 a.m. he would run on a perimeter road on the base.
“One morning when I was running, I saw something move. I must have looked like one of those cartoon cats because I jumped right over that snake that was coming at me. I think we killed 10 or12 of them while I was there just in that perimeter section. They weren’t big but those sand vipers were super deadly,” he said.
Finally, Randleman described the events surrounding his appendicitis and subsequent surgery performed by an Egyptian doctor in the South Sharm el-Sheikh Hospital.
“Unfortunately, in the military if you have anything go wrong like that medically, there’s good and bad with not being able to sue each other. The good part is as a medic in the military, I could do anything my physician’s assistant would allow me to do up to and including surgery. If he felt comfortable with me doing a surgery and he had trained me on it, I was able to work under his license and I could do anything he could do,” he said.
He said unfortunately it was the call of the doctor that was there and at the time he was admitted to the hospital he didn’t even know whether the doctor was American or not at that point.
“I was pretty out of it. My appendix had actually ruptured so I was starting to get a pretty high fever and stuff. They sent me to that hospital and I woke up there with one of my guys standing over me. He said, ‘I went in and made sure they did what they were supposed to’, but he wasn’t a medic so he didn’t know. He said one of the other medics told him, ‘They should be cutting here, and if they’re cutting anywhere else you probably should stop them’,” Randleman said. “It was kind of crazy waking up in a hospital where they were using old glass IV jars and a metal needle still in your arm not the catheters, and the doctor walks in smoking a cigar while he’s talking to you.”
He noted that it was a different world but that he can say he has had surgery in a hotel room because the hospital was a former hotel.
“We were supposed to go to Israel for any emergency treatment so they should have flown me to Israel but for whatever reason, the doctor approved it. I don’t know what he was seeing that made him make the call. There was an Italian doctor on duty when I first went in and I was in a lot of pain so they doped me up and put me in a bed. Then they put me in an ambulance and took me over to the hospital. I’m thankful. It could have been worse. I have had some minor blood pressure issues from when they tore up nerves in my throat while intubating me but that’s something that’s manageable,” Randleman said.
He recalled the last thing he saw before heading out on deployment was a group of bikers who were Vietnam War veterans that gave the troops a send-off at the airport, and the first people he saw when he got back were those same veterans.
“Having them there to wish us a welcome home that they didn’t get was the coolest experience ever. They were there to make sure we were okay,” he said.
Randleman met his wife, Jess in high school. They have four children. He said he couldn’t have done his military service without her.
“We got married a month before I left for basic and AIT and I’m gone for eight months. I come back home and she has Kit and four months later I’m gone for a year. She held down the house, made sure everything was good at home, made sure Kit was safe. When I left for Egypt, Kit was four months old and when I came back, he was a year and a half old. I missed his first everything. I don’t know how Jess puts up with me,” he said.
The Randlemans moved to Los Alamos in 2017 when David joined the Los Alamos Police Department. He has since left the National Guard.
LAPD Sr. Cpl. David Randleman. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com