Acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Deploying to Afghanistan
Christopher Gramiccioni, Acting Monmouth County Prosecutor, ordered into active duty and shipping out by fall
The interim head of the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office has been ordered into active military duty and will ship out to Afghanistan by fall, officials said on Thursday.
Acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni, a Navy Reservist, has been ordered to report for duty in August for combat zone orientation and training. He ships out for a nine-month tour to an undisclosed area in Afghanistan in September, Gramiccioni said.
Gramiccioni, a Judge Advocate General Corps officer in the Naval Reserves, got word of his deployment in January. He is assigned to detainee operations as part of the effort to withdraw U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan at the end stages of a war that has so far lasted more than 11 years. Most foreign troops will leave by the end of 2014.
Gramiccioni, a Wall Township resident, said in an interview Thursday that the initial shock of the news has worn off and the reality of it is beginning to sink in.
“One day, this (the Afghanistan War) is going to be a line in our history books,’’ Gramiccioni said. “And I want to be able to say that I played a role in that.’’
It was unclear Thursday if Gramicioni, who took the helm as interim head of the office in July, would be confirmed as the official Monmouth County Prosecutor before his deployment.
Gramiccioni said he would continue to monitor events at the office from the war zone, but that Richard E. Incremona, first assistant prosecutor and Kevin Clark, deputy first assistant prosecutor, would be running the day-to-day operation of the office.
“The truth is this office can run just as well whether I’m here or 7,000 miles away,’’ he said.
Gramiccioni, who left active duty as a JAG officer in the Navy in 2002, took over as interim head of the Prosecutor’s office less than a year ago. Prior to that, he was First Assistant Prosecutor to Peter Warshaw Jr., who was named to a judgeship.
In Afghanistan Gramiccioni will be assisting with setting up legal procedures and helping to establish a Western-like judicial system for detainees, he said.
The issue of how to deal with Afghan detainees is a sticky one for U.S. forces.
A United Nations report issued earlier this year said Afghan authorities are torturing prisoners despite previous promises of reforms. The country's intelligence service earlier had denied any torture in its detention facilities.
Incidents such as hanging detainees from the ceiling by their wrists, beating them with cables and shocking them with electricity were among the abuses documented in the report and human rights activists worry that torture will ramp up as international forces draw down.
While his deployment is involuntary, Gramiccioni said he was aware it was a possibility when the Navy put out a call for volunteers for the JAG positions in Afghanistan. When there weren’t enough, the Navy began calling people up.
Gramiccioni is a Lt. Commander, the Navy equivalent to an Army Major, who has a high security clearance – factors that made him a likely candidate for the deployment, he said.
He was driving one afternoon in January, on his way to a parent conference at the school of one of his three children. There was call. It was Gramiccioni’s commanding officer. He did not have good news.
“I nearly drove off the road,’’ Gramiccioni said.
Gramiccioni, whose father was a decorated Army Colonel and Special Forces soldier, said that despite his military background, he was unprepared to tell his children their father was going to a warzone.
He sought advice from the Navy’s support services, and from veterans who had done it before. Suggestions on helping to make the transition easier on his young children were abundant, from a Sesame Street DVD specifically tailored to explaining deployment to youngsters to age-appropriate activities for the kids during the time he’s away. Gramiccioni did it all.
And he’s been writing notes to his kids, one for each of the 270 days of his deployment. Gramiccioni’s wife is tasked with reading each one, each day, to remind the children that their father is still around and thinking about them
“I tell them that there are people over there who need help,’’ Gramicioni said. “That’s what the military does is help people.’’
He did have to sweeten the pot a little, however.
“I told them when I get back we’re all going to Disneyland,’’ he said.
Gramiccioni said he thinks he's mentally prepared for the deployment and for the job. The long lead time doesn’t hurt, he said.
“I can’t say the timing is perfect,’’ Gramiccioni said. “But I feel like this is really going to make me a better person.”