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Shelley coach adjusts to life after Afghanistan

November 11, 2011

Lt. Col. Dwight Richins is one of thousands of brave men who served his country and recently returned home after a year-long deployment in Afghanistan with his unit in the U.S. Army Reserves.
Dwight Richins, like many of our brave soldiers, volunteered to serve his country, a noble and very brave decision for one of the finest high school football coaches in all of Idaho.
“I threw my name out there as a person that could go,” Richins said. “My youngest son Chase had just graduated and I felt that it would be a good time to let it be known, instead of standing there waiting to get picked, that I was ready to go.”
Richins, who has served in the military since 1982, had just come off of a state football championship—the fifth in his illustrious career—when he was deployed. Richins was unavailable to the Russets in their inaugural year at the 4A classification but was able to follow along as close as he could with limited resources.
Being away from the program that he built, his community and family was no different for him than any other soldier, but certainly his coaching background helped in his deployment.
“When you’re in a war zone it is all about teamwork, the team concept, and you are always working as a unit,” Richins said. “Everybody is a very integral piece to the unit which is very similar to football. There are a lot of things in war that aren’t very pretty, but the physical hardships along with the mental hardships gives you some comparison to football. The long hours and the hard work, the teamwork and learning to look out for each other and have each others’ back—are very related in both the war zone
and on the football field.”
While in Afghanistan, Richins had the opportunity to see that teamwork element up close and worked hand in hand with soldiers on the front lines as he kept the logistics, support and supply lines flowing to those brave men in the trenches.
“The real heroes over there are the young soldiers who put their lives on the line every day,” Richins said. “When you’re on that road on convoy or in a helicopter flying on patrol, your life is at risk and those people on the FOB’s (forward operating bases) are at risk every day because they are getting mortared or
rocketed.”
Upon completion of his duties overseas, Richins returned home and, despite the advice of several, he made the decision to return to the sidelines this season, rather than taking some time off to recover from his time in Afghanistan.
“I had to make a decision early in the summer whether I was going to coach or not,” Richins said. “If I was going to coach there was going to be no rest. I would have to jump right back into it.
“I had a lot of advice telling me that I was crazy doing what I was going to attempt to do,” Richins continued. “It’s hard coming home. You have to get your relationships back with your wife, your kids and your family. It’s weird and hard to go right back into work without having that downtime with your family. I still wonder if I made the right decision.”
The transition has not been easy, but through the support of his family, team and community every day continues to improve both on and off the field.
“It’s been hard, especially the first month as I tried to get my bearings and get my relationships right,” Richins said. “I didn’t realize just how hard it would be coming home. I was really short-tempered and short of patience and I struggled with that and am still struggling with that more so than I ever have in the past.
“Most everybody has been very good and patient with me though,” Richins said.
Looking back on the overall experience, Richins was able to reflect and was able to pass along a message that is applicable to every soldier who is serving or has returned from service.
“This war, it doesn’t affect anyone except someone who has had a loved one who has gone,” Richins said. “We need to keep remembering that there are men and women who are out there on the front lines everyday. They put their lives on the line every day for us and we need to keep them in our thoughts and prayers all the time. They are 9,000 miles away so it can be easy to forget, but they’re out there in the heat, the dirt and the crap and their lives are on the line and I realize that more than ever now that I’ve served there.”

This story and more are featured in the November/December issue of Bingham Magazine. Pick up a copy at newsstand around town, at our office or view it online under Special Sections.

 

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