Operation Tribute to Freedom

OTF Soldier Story for February 8, 2010 - Staff Sgt. Matthew Groppi

Staff Sergeant Matthew Groppi

Current Unit: Individual Ready Reserve
Current Position: Military Police Officer
Component: Army Reserve
Current Location: Milwaukee, Wis.
Hometown: Waukesha, Wis.
Years of Service: 7

After sitting in classrooms for many semesters learning about endangered species preservation and wildlife regulation enforcement, Matthew Groppi had the chance to apply his knowledge in the great outdoors working for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. However, just months into his job, the Army Reserve staff sergeant was called to serve his country and apply the lessons learned in school during a deployment in Afghanistan.

"Being that I am a recent college graduate, I wanted my role in the military to be applicable to my civilian job. I wanted my employer to benefit from my time overseas too," he said. "My time in Afghanistan gave me an international application to what I had learned in class and in the U.S."

While deployed to Afghanistan with the 330th Military Police Detachment from October 2008 to August 2009, Groppi and his unit were responsible for law enforcement patrols, specifically to ensure compliance regarding customs regulations. In conjunction with his law enforcement patrol duties and tying in his natural resources background, he was responsible for training Soldiers about wildlife conservation and threatened or endangered species native to Afghanistan. Since animal furs are a popular tourist export, the Soldiers were responsible for ensuring that outgoing customs items were thoroughly checked.

Although much of his deployment was spent within the wire regulating customs and training his fellow Soldiers, Groppi had the opportunity to visit a national park in Afghanistan, which he says was the highlight of his time overseas.

"It was the most beautiful place I've ever seen. The landscape was quite striking and very beautiful," Groppi said. "After seeing it, it was hard to stay on base knowing what was out there."

Groppi also deployed to Iraq in 2004 with the 330th Military Police Detachment. In June 2004, while the unit was performing a mission at the Police Academy in Mosul, a suicide bomber attacked the academy with a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device. Two of the Soldiers were killed and six Soldiers, including Groppi, were wounded in the incident. Groppi returned home a month later to undergo surgery for his injuries and was awarded the Purple Heart. He has since made a full recovery.

After returning from Afghanistan in August 2009, Groppi continues to work as a conservation warden for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and is responsible for traveling throughout the state to enforce hunting, fishing, environmental and RV laws. In the coming months, he will be finishing his probationary period with the DNR that was put on hold during his most recent deployment. The Soldier is a graduate of Waukesha North High School and received a Bachelor of Science from the University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point.

Telling the Army Story: Community Relations

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