When we think of military men and women, we often think of the heroic individuals who risk their lives on the front lines for the sake of American freedom. Then, they return home with a job well done and finally out of harm’s way. For former Army Capt. Reginald Reese, service did not stop when he hung up his uniform. In fact, he continues to put himself in dangerous situations to save others through a mission here at home. He is a successful insurance agent and published author by day, but by night he searches the Missouri I-44 to rescue victims of sex trafficking.
Growing up military
Reese, a military brat, was born in Nuremberg, Germany. He’s always understood what service and sacrifice meant. In 2002, he was commissioned a 2nd Lt. in the Military Police Regiment from the Lincoln University, MO ROTC program. During his time in the Army, he held many billets including as Executive Officer for the 252nd Law Enforcement Detachment, and a platoon leader deployed to Honduras and Cuba.
During his 2008 deployment, Reese served as a police expert for a transition team to Baghdad, Iraq. He was selected by the Iraq Assistant Group Commander to lead the Iraqi Police Desk as the Chief for Multinational Corps—Iraq. This allowed him to work with members of the Department of State in developing the defense department’s exit strategy for Operation Iraqi Freedom. He would later use these skills in operations and police intelligence to save women and children who were victims of sex trafficking.
A different kind of war zone
Later, Reese encountered the founder of Tigerlili Resources, Meredith Mittelstaldt. The organization is committed to giving women the tools to create a better life for themselves. After hearing Mittelstaldt’s story of being a sexually trafficked survivor herself, Reese knew he wanted to get involved in efforts to save others.
“It lit a fire in me and all I could think of is the safety of my own children. I believe it was a calling from God for me to act and get involved,” he said.
Reese joined the Tigerlili Resources team, using his military intelligence and policing on street missions in East St. Louis. A documentary, called The Scarlet Line, provides a firsthand glimpse of one of the many night rescues they have pursued in the last year.
Military Families Magazine spoke with Capt. Reese about how his military career led him to being an advocate for women and children sex trafficking victims and what words of wisdom he would like to offer veterans soon to separate from the service.
Q: In what ways has your time in service shaped you?
The shaping of who I became in the Military started in the 1980s from my dad. He built me into the Leader I would need to be before I ever joined the Military. As a young Officer, my shaping came from taking the time to grow a professional relationship with my NCOs and leaning on their experience. I never pretended that I knew everything. I asked for help when needed and took responsibility for my unit and my decisions. I took the time to learn who my Soldiers were and was not afraid to ask to be taught and trained on skill sets.
During our Field Training Exercises, my platoon and I would rotate duties. I learned the responsibilities of my Platoon Sergeant, Squad Leaders and my Soldiers learned what it was like to be a Platoon Leader or the Platoon Sergeant. I learned what it took to be a Driver or a Gunner during our training. To other Platoon Leaders this seemed unorthodox, but I knew no other way of building trust and communication with my platoon as a new Platoon Leader. Ultimately, this method worked and we learned a lot from each other. While deployed to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in 2004, I asked one of my Soldiers, PFC Joshua Moore, to teach me how to operate the M2 .50 Caliber Machine Gun. PFC Moore and I sat in the sand and he taught me every detail of the weapon system. Many Soldiers from other platoons walked by wondering what this Officer was doing in the sand attempting to disassemble and assemble this weapon system; learning from a PFC. PFC Moore had never been asked to teach an Officer anything and so he gave me his best and I gave him mine.
From that day forward and years to come PFC Moore would always shout proudly when we cross paths “That’s my LT!”. At some point one of my Squad Leaders asked me at the chow hall, “Hey LT! I have never seen an Officer do what you do. Why do you march with us (SOLDIERS), get down in the dirt with us and train with us? Don’t you belong in the office with the other officers?”. I responded, “I want to walk like you, train like you and fight like you so that when I give an order in combat I already know how you feel. I had no idea that years later in 2008, I would be deployed on a transition team to Iraq; where ironically, I was assigned as a M2 .50 Caliber Machine Gunner. A few moments in the sand to be taught prepared me for a year in the sand ready to fight! Being teachable is what shaped me.
Q: What words would you give to service members as they transition out of the military?
I served almost 11 years as an Officer and was not prepared to be a civilian. All I knew is I was bred to Serve, Lead and Fight! The Military was what I knew as I wanted to follow in the footsteps of my Dad. When my career ended, I felt lost and I struggled with trying to figure out what to do with my life; I had no plan.
Capt. Reese’s three critical points:
- The military is not forever. One day your career will eventually end. Take the time to figure out what it is you want to do outside of the military. Preferably your Passion or Dream and not just a job. Too many Civilians and Veterans are in jobs that they don’t like and are not living out their Passions, their Dreams. Sit down with a Career Counselor, a Life Coach, a Business Owner and start writing out your transition plan now! Not now but right now! Once you have plan do a little bit of self-development every day to execute your plan in the future. Whether that is reading a book about a field of interest, attending a class for a specified skillset, etc. This will give you the confidence you need when you transition.
- Have a financial plan. Whether you are hoping to retire or not, put away a small amount of money every pay period and don’t touch it. If you have family members and you do not plan to use your Post 911 Education benefits; make sure you transfer that benefit to your family BEFORE you get out. This also goes for your life insurance. Set up a small supplemental life insurance plan for you and your family. This was something I learned the hard way. Insurance price is affected by age and health, keep that in mind.
- Family is important. Be there for your family and loved ones as much as possible. We used to have a saying, “Mission First, People Always.” I gave everything I could to serve; I would do it again if I could. However, somewhere along the way I lost track of the importance of spending time with my family. I worked late all the time trying to be the best, trying to get ahead. I would leave early for PT before my kids were awake and get home late after my kids were asleep. I believe now “Mission First, People Always, Family Forever.” Make time for your loved ones.
To learn more about how Tigerlili Resources is helping victims, visit the group’s website.Read comments