CEDAR RAPIDS — Next week will be the start of many “firsts” for Patrick Reinert as he leaves a career he started preparing for as a ROTC cadet at Iowa State University.
As of Saturday, Reinert, 57, will have only one full-time job. He’ll get to take spring break with his family, and, maybe, learn how to golf again.
Reinert, a U.S. Army Reserve major general, is retiring after 35 years of service that included such prestigious assignments as an intelligence officer, judge advocate and military judge in Iraq and Afghanistan. For the past three years, he has been the commander of the 88th Readiness Division, which provides services and base operations to more than 55,000 Army Reserve soldiers, civilians and families across 19 states.
His other job has been — and will continue to be — as an assistant U.S. attorney and deputy criminal chief in the Northern District of Iowa office based in Cedar Rapids.
It’s a life that’s allowed him to mesh his two loves — the law and the military — into a successful dual career.
“I started this (law) career in 1990 after leaving active duty and also started serving in the Reserves,” Reinert said.
Reinert told The Gazette this week he decided to retire from the Army Reserves now because his assignment as commander with the 88th just ended. He could have taken another 18-month assignment but doing so, he said, would have held up a one-star general’s promotion until he, as a two-star general, retired.
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“By serving both his country, as both a military officer and an assistant U.S. attorney, he had made the country and the Northern District of Iowa safer for all of us,” U.S. Attorney Peter Deegan said.
Reinert, who grew up on a farm in Cherokee in northwest Iowa, came from a family of service men and women. His grandfather served and his sister was an Army nurse who retired as a lieutenant colonel.
Reinert’s father dropped out of school at age 14 to run the family farm when his father died and was drafted during the Korean War, working as a tank mechanic stationed in Germany.
“Dad was so proud of his military service,” said Reinert, smiling as he remembered. “He carried his ID card in his wallet long after his service.”
Reinert was commissioned in 1983 as an intelligence officer and then entered the University of Iowa College of Law. He served as a military judge in Germany, Italy, Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan in 2005-06, presiding over 98 trials in 11 months.
“As a military judge in Iraq, I did a little bit of everything — soldiers who were absent without leave, court martials and even premeditated murder cases,” he said.
During his second deployment in 2013-14, Reinert helped train Afghan prosecutors and judges, ran the National Security Justice Center — a detention center — and was part of a coalition to reinforce the Afghan criminal justice system and promote the legitimacy of its government.
At the time, Reinert was commander of the Rule of Law Field Force, a coalition comprised of Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine and Coast Guard members and military personnel from Afghanistan, Poland, Denmark, Finland and the Netherlands. The coalition helped build the Afghan court system’s capacity and efficiency and increase access to dispute resolution while fighting corruption and promoting the Afghan government.
He even worked with the man who wrote the Afghan Constitution after the Taliban fell.
Reinert said he would discuss the law and other issues with the man, who spoke in parables. The conversations were sometimes challenging, but they gave him insight about the Afghan culture and society.
Reinert also worked with Afghan prosecutors on how to use evidence such as DNA and fingerprints, who were not familiar with or collecting that evidence. The fact that the Quran talks about Allah being able to identify a man by the tip of his finger — unique to each person — helped Reinert drive home the importance of this valuable evidence to identify suspects.
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“Their Constitution is similar to ours in many ways and has similar protections, but it doesn’t separate church and state,” he said. “Religion is very much part of their government.”
Reinert was not in combat but security challenges were numerous because many courthouses were built in contested territories, he said.
“We would hear rockets and mortar blowing up outside the courthouse multiple times a week. That wasn’t unusual,” Reinert said. “It was usually IEDS (improvised explosive devices) in Afghanistan. Everybody took their weapons into court, even defendants, but the court bailiffs kept the ammunition. It was just stacked up in the courtrooms so we could get to it in an attack.”
Reinert still wears a black bracelet in honor of two civilian contractors he worked with in Kabul.
“They drove left, and I went right. They hit an IED and were killed. It could have been me,” Reinert said.
Serving has been a sacrifice, as it is for all families who have loved ones in the military, Reinert said. You miss the swim meets, first dates and proms. He’s hoping to make up for some of that now with his wife, Maria, and their five children and three grandchildren.
“I always use the analogy it’s like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers,” Reinert said. “Fred Astaire is known as the greatest dancer of all time, but she did everything he did (only backwards). Families also sacrifice.”
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