With the goals of furthering his education and pursuing a career in police work, David Hiebert joined the U.S. Army in 1995, getting a head start on his military career by completing basic training in Fort McClellan, Alabama, between his junior and senior year of high school.
Not only has he recently completed his master’s degree and is the first in his family to do so but he has also had opportunities to work as military police, and in his civilian career, he has been able to work as an Idaho State Trooper, in the juvenile detention center, and most recently in security at the Idaho National Laboratory.
“It’s been a good experience. The Army was good to help me get in police work and achieve my degree,” he said. “But it is a sacrifice, like having two different lives. My wife and children support me, but you miss things.”
Born and raised in Paul, Idaho, Hiebert spent 10 years in the Idaho National Guard and was a part of Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. He helped reinforce security at the Gowen Field in Boise. He was about to deploy to Afghanistan for a year, but those plans changed and he was able to get about a year of schooling while serving in the reserves and working another job.
In January 2005, he reenlisted into the U.S. Army Reserves into a drill sergeant unit. He was certified as an instructor and graduated from drill sergeant school in 2006. Almost seven years of Hiebert’s career was as a drill sergeant.
“At basic training, we had to teach soldiers how to be ready for war and find the best way to get their adrenaline pumping and their brains moving. I was extremely direct with soldiers — especially in the red phase — their first couple of weeks of training. To me, it’s about the teaching moment, whether it’s how to take care of their uniform or combat maneuvers. When it clicks, their face changes and they get it. I liked taking that mentorship to show them how to do things and why and how they fit in the bigger picture. I take a lot of pride in teaching soldiers the right way. Then they can always fall back on that training,” he said.
“We train hard so we can keep each other safe. We train this hard so we don’t die for our country — they do,” Hiebert said.
In 2009-2010 he was mobilized to go teach basic training full time at Fort Knox, Kentucky. He was also called up to each again for eight months in October 2010-June 2011 and promoted to senior drill instructor at Fort Jackson, N.C. He was also promoted to first sergeant in the U.S. Army.
He was transformed to a unit in Fresno, California, and served as military police in that area for two years.
He was ready for deployment to Afghanistan but his assignment was changed to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as the detention camp supervisor.
“It was very interesting — very high profile dealing with terrorists and anti-combatants,” he said.
Not only did they have to house the prisoners they also had to facilitate tours for the media and dignitaries both within the U.S. government and other governments. He walked around and showed them everything he was authorized to show them.
“The U.S. is extremely transparent, and they wanted to know how we do things,” he said.
He managed the facility making sure everything was done correctly, including transports. He also made sure the soldiers kept current on their military training and police and weapons qualifications.
“None of that stops when we’re deployed,” he said.
In 2015-2017 he went into retirement, but the Army called multiple times asking him to come back. They wouldn’t take no for an answer. So, he deployed again to GITMO. This time he went as a first sergeant instead of as a camp leader.
“Ironically they transferred responsibilities, so I ended up doing the same things like training, management and tours,” he said.
He also looked out for the basic living needs of the soldiers.
“It’s intense to be inside detention facilities, and so they need to be able to relax when their shift ends,” he said. “Some prisoners are waiting for an international court for trials for war crimes. Some are not the best people, that is why they are there. Lots of stressful things go on. They had a riot before we showed. We had to deal with the aftermath and the frustration of the detainees.”
Hiebert explained that they had to become more restrictive because of daily aggressive actions.
“Some soldiers had to be taken to the hospital,” he said. “We were lucky not to have anyone get really, really hurt, but some did. One soldier shared the story of a guard who was stabbed and ended up dying. We prepared for that. It was stressful. You never know if someone will talk nicely, or if you’ll get yelled at or things thrown at you. We were stuck in there however long our shift was. “
So, afterward, some of the soldiers liked to run or go to the gym, or fishing or scuba diving. They worked hard to take care of each other,” Hiebert said.
“Everything happened in the middle of the night. We were literally five levels down from the president. Things there were a spotlight for the world. We briefed every day. I needed to be ready. My soldiers needed to be ready. All of my soldiers served honorably. They did extraordinary work,” he said.
Before that 2019 deployment, he transferred in 2018 to a unit in Oakland, California. Ideally, he is supposed to work a weekend a month and two weeks in the summer.
“I think I do Army stuff every single day. The Army calls it leadership. I call it a lot of work for free,” he said.
He enjoyed the different dynamics of people that naturally came with a different geographic area. He felt enriched by the cultures he interacted with and enjoyed working with people from different parts of the world.
He worked on his master’s degree while deployed. “The world is always moving. You might as well move with it. It all pays off in the end,” he said.
He will take his family and attend his retirement ceremony on July 12 in California. He has spent 26 years serving his country and looks forward to spending more time with his family.