Once a Marine, always a Marine. That’s the motto Capt. Kevin Snoddy upholds, even when he’s wearing an Army National Guard uniform in the dead of winter in Kabul, Afghanistan.
"It is what it is," the 46-year-old Henderson soldier said last week from snow-covered Camp Dubs, a hub for international security operations in southwest Kabul.
"I’m still very much a Marine, no matter what uniform I wear," said Snoddy, a physician assistant who is the sole medical provider for about 900 people at the Camp Dubs’ clinic.
After all, it was the Marine Corps lore that got him hooked on the military. He served in a Marine infantry unit from 1985 until 1989. He was honorably discharged about a year before the Persian Gulf War began and didn’t get a chance to fight in Operation Desert Storm.
"I’ve always felt I should have been there. It’s always kind of bothered me," he said.
With that thought constantly in the back of his mind, he tried to settle in to civilian life, working as an electrician and earning a biology degree at the University of Nevada, Reno.
Then while living in the Lake Tahoe area in 2000, he volunteered at Saint Mary’s Hospital in Reno and applied his military background and training to get his license and work as an emergency medical technician.
His hopes for returning to the military took a turn for the best when Touro University Nevada opened in Henderson in 2004, paving the way for him to become a physician assistant and later an officer in the Nevada National Guard.
"I volunteered to deploy with anybody," he said. "They cut my orders, and here I sit in Afghanistan."
Those orders came from a task force request from a National Guard unit out of Columbus, Ohio. The task required more soldiers than the battalion had, so the Ohio National Guard sought "cross-level" soldiers from other states who had specialties needed to fill the ranks.
On Sept. 11 — the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that thrust the United States into the war in Afghanistan — Snoddy’s unit mobilized for Operation Enduring Freedom. After a two-month training stint at Camp Shelby, Miss., they arrived in Afghanistan in early November.
Among his immediate family in Spokane, Wash., and his adopted families and friends in Reno, Henderson and Las Vegas, "Everybody thought I was crazy to go," Snoddy said.
"They’re all worried that I’m over here. They don’t want to see anything happen," he said. "But they understand why I came over here. I came over here to do my part. It’s about how strongly I feel about serving our country."
For Snoddy (pronounced snow-dee), it’s a big leap to go from being an electrician around Lake Tahoe to a physician assistant in the war zone though he hasn’t yet had to treat any wounded from combat. Nevertheless, he’s on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
"What I hope to get out of this is that I can help somebody," he said. "For me, this deployment is strictly to do my part.
"God willing nobody gets hurt, but if they do, I’m here to help out. Hopefully, I’ll sit here on my butt and not do anything."
Contact reporter Keith Rogers at email@example.com or 702-383-0308.