Tuesday, September 21, 2010 at 9:10 a.m.
Allen West was more comfortable in military gear than in a teacher's civilian garb.
Followers of the Allen West congressional campaign have heard plenty about his career in the U.S. Army. But in building his personal narrative, the Republican candidate tends to skip over the job he took immediately after that career ended: as a history teacher at Deerfield Beach High.
It must have been a strange, disorienting transition for West. In August 2003 he was stationed at a base north of Baghdad leading the brutal interrogation of an Iraqi police officer suspected of withholding knowledge about an assassination plot against West. The lieutenant colonel staged a mock execution of the detainee, firing a gun just past the Iraqi's head. He narrowly avoided a court martial for the incident, which ended his military career.
Exactly a year after that interrogation, in August 2004, West found himself standing in front of a classroom full of Deerfield Beach High students. He must not have liked it, because nine months later, West resigned so he could head back to a war zone.
The resume that West gave to the Broward County School District describes the power that he had during his time in Iraq. He had been the commander of some 450 soldiers, 270 vehicles and a $1 million annual budget. It appears that West's soldiers were primarily trained in the nuances of multiple launch rocket systems; but they were asked to conduct patrols, armed reconnaissance missions and to coordinate civilian projects. In his resume, West describes "police stations, a medical clinic, schools, soccer fields, and major ice production facility" among those projects.
West left the military in November 2003, following an emotional hearing in which military officials opted to fine West $5,000, rather than court-martial him based on their findings from an investigation of the August 2003 interrogation. In 2004 the recently retired West gave an interview to the New York Times,
which contains this description of his post-military ambitions:
He is awaiting placement in a high school in Broward County and, he said, he prays that God will see to it that he gets a spot in one of the low-performing, predominantly black schools, where he can try to make a difference. Ever the striver, he plans to begin studying for a master's in education so he can advance into administration "within five years." he said.
Landing at Deerfield Beach High, West achieved the first part of that goal. But based on the personnel record on file with the school district, there's no indication why West gave up his goal of advancing into administration so quickly.
The file contains no disciplinary actions against West. The only evaluation found that he performed in a "satisfactory" fashion in all facets of the job. West signed that evaluation on May 26, 2005, adding this salutary comment:
It has been a wonderful experience and I will miss DBHS tremendously.
West's letter of resignation, which he submitted two days earlier:
It is with the deepest sincerity and humility that I must offer the resignation of my position at Deerfield Beach High School... I have enjoyed my time here at Deerfield Beach and will not forget the warm reception I received. However, there exists a higher calling and purpose for me to serve in this time of critical need.
Late last week I was offered a high level position which will require me to deploy to South Asia, Afghanistan. Although there is an imminent danger involved, as well as separation from those I love, I must accept the call and the challenge for a greater purpose, the safety and security of America and those seeking new freedoms.
It contains no mention of salary, but it's safe to say that West's new job, with military contractor MPRI, paid more than the $38,000 he was making as a history teacher at Deerfield Beach High.