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Published: Tuesday, 1/20/2009

Rossford police chief set to resume duties

BY JULIE M. McKINNON
BLADE STAFF WRITER

After seven months serving at the Kuwait Naval Base - and marching in yesterday's Inaugural Day Parade in Washington - Robert Vespi will be back to his duties as Rossford police chief tomorrow.

Chief Vespi has been in the military since 1990, starting with the U.S. Air Force, and has headed up the Rossford police department's 12-member force since April, 2006.

"It will be good to get back to the police department," Chief Vespi, a 38-year-old married father of four, said last week.

Chief Vespi is a lieutenant in the U.S. Coast Guard's Port Security Unit 309 out of Camp Perry near Port Clinton.

He was one of 117 members of the reserve unit deployed from May 3 until Dec. 19, during which time the unit secured ports, patrolled waters, and provided security on land in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The recent Middle East service of Port Security Unit 309, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security, was the first major deployment of Coast Guard forces for several years.

It also was the first time that a port security unit had been fully integrated with the Navy's Maritime Expeditionary Security Forces.

While in Kuwait, Chief Vespi was in charge of small-boat operations while working with the Navy. Other unit members spent time in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East, he said.

"It was challenging - a lot of late nights, a lot of long days," said Chief Vespi, who has been with the Coast Guard since 2004.

He added of the deployment: "It was a great thing for the Coast Guard and the Navy."

Chief Vespi was to be among about 80 volunteers from Port Security Unit 309 marching in yesterday's Inaugural Day Parade after it was chosen in recognition of its recent deployment, said Lt. Scott Williams, the unit's project officer for the Inaugural Day Parade.

"We're the only reserve Coast Guard unit marching in the parade," Lt. Williams said.

Commissioned in 1995, the reserve unit also has been deployed to South Korea, Egypt, Portugal, Italy, and Haiti, and it assisted areas devastated by hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005.

Chief Vespi returned home in time to celebrate Christmas with his wife, Tina, and their four boys, Caleb, 14, Nick, 13, Adam, 9, and Ben, 7.

"My wife was the real warrior," Chief Vespi said. "She's the one who took care of everything back here."



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