Imagine spending half a year separated from your family, with the only visual communication coming from face-to-face Internet calls. That’s how the past six months have been for Weston Police Sergeant Michael Ferullo.
In 2011, he was called up on involuntary deployment by the Coast Guard Reserves, and spent the past six months as a deputy unit commander in Kuwait.
With his tour finished last month, he returned to his job as a Weston police sergeant on Monday, Sept. 10. And he’s happy to be home.
“It was really tough being away from my family. Thank God for Skype and texting. I missed simple things like looking at grass. I’m glad to be back,” he said.
Police Chief John Troxell is also glad Sgt. Ferullo has returned to Weston. “I’m very happy Mike is back safe and sound. I’m anxious to have him back on the job,” he said.
“I’m very pleased Mike’s back too,” said Police Commissioner Beth Gralnick. “He has been a wonderful member of the police department for many years and will bring the force up to a full complement of men. I missed having him while he was deployed,” she said.
While in the Middle East, Sgt. Ferullo was the deputy commander of Task Group 56.5, a port security unit of more than 200 troops, that worked jointly with the U.S. Navy Maritime Expedition Security Group 4. The joint group was overseen by the Navy and provided combat support and waterside security for critical cargo going into combat. “Our job was to keep the sea lines of communication open,” he said.
His service earned him several military honors, including the Port Security Unit Insignia Pin, Navy Expeditionary Warfare Specialist Insignia, and the Navy Small Craft Command Pin.
As a leader, one of the biggest challenges Sgt. Ferullo faced was keeping troop morale high in a small confined space in the Kuwaiti desert. “The men and women couldn’t go anywhere. They couldn’t just get into a car and go to town. Plus they also had to be careful with relationships. We were under Army command general order number one — no relationships while you are in theater. So I had to find a way to keep morale high and the group mission ready,” he said.
The troops were very motivated to do a good job, Sgt. Ferullo said, and they sacrificed a lot to be there. None of them were allowed to go home while they were deployed or to take liberty leave. “The wives of two of my guys had babies while they were away so we set up some special private Skype sessions for them so they could see the birth of their children,” he said.
He was grateful that everyone in Task Group 56.5 made it home safely.
The experience gave Sgt. Ferullo a deeper understanding about the Kuwaiti culture and people. “Family is so important there. Although women do not have the standing that men do, there are often three generations of one family living in one household. Women are the bosses of the family. Don’t mess with mom,” he said.
Wearing two professional hats, Sgt. Ferullo has been a member of the Weston Police Department since 1982. He also holds the rank of commanding officer in the Coast Guard Reserve.
No stranger to active duty, in 2002, his unit was deployed to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as part of Operation Enduring Freedom, and in 2003 he was deployed to Rota, Spain, for three months as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
During Hurricane Katrina, he served as the Coast Guard’s deputy incident commander and operational executive officer for inland search and rescue.
He called his latest mission to Kuwait “an amazing experience” that allowed him a lot of personal and professional growth. He’s now trying to ease himself back into civilian life and professionally with the police department, where he was out on an excused military leave of absence while he was deployed. Now, he can not be ordered into involuntary duty for at least three years.
“When I got back to the PD, I went to my locker and couldn’t remember the combination right away. I’m not jumping into things. I’m just going to ease my way back into my job,” he said.
He credits his family for their support during his deployment. “I was very lucky to have the support of my family while I was gone. We go and do the mission and we’re able to focus on that one thing. What a lot of people don’t think about or realize is we are the lucky ones because our spouses/significant others have to handle the burden of all the ‘stuff’ that comes up during everyday life. Without their support, there’s no way we can accomplish our mission and I was extremely fortunate, and I’m extremely grateful, for how they supported me,” he said.