Since he was 10-years-old, Derek Zackary Imus has wanted to be a tribal police officer.
“I love being around Reno and I have always wanted to be a cop,” said Imus, a member of the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony (RSIC).
However, there is an age minimum, 21 years, to become a police officer, and after graduating from Spanish Springs High at 17, Imus had to wait before attending Peace Officer Stands and Training (POST).
“I sort of had a gap,” Imus said.
So, as his high school graduation approached, Imus sought career counsel from RSIC Tribal Police Sgt. Nida Harjo.
“I’m not really a school kind of person and Sgt. Harjo suggested that I explore the military,” Imus said.
That advice led Imus to enlist in the United States Army in 2013.
Now a Patriot Missile Operator, specialist Imus is ecstatic with his decision, yet he still has plans to return home and become a tribal police officer once he concludes his service to his country.
“Thanks to the Army, I have gotten to see so much; a lot more than most people,” Imus said, “especially since I come off the reservation.”
After his basic training at Fort Sill in Oklahoma, Imus has been stationed in two Middle Eastern countries,
Kuwait and Bahrain.
Kuwait is northeast of Saudi Arabia and south of Iraq. A low-lying desert where the temperatures can reach 126 F degrees, Kuwait is a little bigger than Hawaii, very sandy and barren, and about 85 percent of Kuwaiti citizens are Muslim. American troops first arrived in Kuwait in 1992, after the Iraqi invasion of 1990.
There are eight US military bases in Kuwait and Imus worked at Ahmed Al Jaber Air Base and Arifjan Army Base. Bahrain, also an island, is connected to Saudi Arabia by a causeway.
Bahrain, 34 miles long and 11 miles wide, has always been an important center of trade and recently, it has become an international financial center. However, conflicts between the Shiite and Sunni Muslims are a recurring problem. The US has a written cooperative agreement with Bahrain which calls for the US to operate a base in Bahrain, but there has been a US Naval presence in the area since 1948.
There are two US military bases in Bahrain and Imus worked at Naval Regional Contracting Center, Detachment Bahrain (NRCC) in Riffa.
Even though he works on weapons, Imus has never seen combat.
“I’m in the middle and everything is happening around us,” Imus said. “I did not see action, because my job involves a weapon which serves as a deterrent.”
Patriots are surface-to-air missiles which can shoot down other missiles or even aircraft.
As a Patriot missile operator, Imus focuses on maintenance of electrical parts. Imus said that the Patriot missile has four major components: communications, command and control, radar surveillance, and missile guidance. The missiles have an advanced aerial interceptor missile and high-performance radar systems which allow a Patriot missile to shoot down other missiles before those missiles have a chance to hit their target.
According to Raytheon, a leading technology company which specializes in military defense weapons, the Patriot Air and Missile Defense System is the world’s most advanced air and missile defense system.
With his Patriot missiles expertise, Imus said there are future job opportunities for him in Germany and Great Britain. However, with his discharge date just four months away, Imus is focused on returning to his RSIC community and finding a job in law enforcement.
“It was a big change when I joined the Army, I have loved seeing the different cultures, but I miss my family,” Imus said.
The son of Rita Imus, grandson of Kenny and Vicki Moore, Imus has two sisters, Shaylin and Danae Astor, plus he is very close to his aunt Veronica Imus and cousin, Terrell O’Neil.
Even though a three-year stint in the US Army has given Imus the chance to travel to foreign countries and learn about other cultures, he said now and again, he comes across other Native Americans.
“Pound for pound, there are more Natives in the military than other ethnicities,” Imus said in reference to the overall population of American Indians and their high rate of participation in the US Armed Forces. “Plus, you know instantly if another soldier is Native, you just can feel it.”
Imus said he has met some American Indians from the eastern part of the country.
“It’s nice because we have so much in common,” Imus said. “Going from the rez (reservation) to the military, we really understand the military’s cultural change, so we connect.”
Imus said that he has built another type of connection working with the same group of men and women for the last three years.
“I know each of them and they know me,” Imus said. “They are my second family.”
Of course, no group compares to his own tribe. “There are a few things about the military I don’t really care for—the food (rice and beans), the lack of privacy (group showers), and being away from my family is by far the worst part,” Imus said.
Much to his liking, on the first evening of a recent 9-day visit to Hungry Valley, he was welcomed back with a massive celebration including great food—tasty barbeque and 40 family members.