Jason Crabb will head to Iraq with the 116th Military Police Company for a 15-month deployment

Jason Crabb envisions a career in American law enforcement some day, but for now, he'll continue training Iraqi police officers.

In a couple of weeks, the 23-year-old will head to Iraq with the 116th Military Police Company for a 15-month deployment | his first since joining the Army in 2006.

He's nervous and excited, concerned with making his large yet close-knit family proud.

"I knew this would come eventually. I signed up in a time of war. ... I do and don't know what to expect," Jason said. "I've been trained and ready to go. It gets boring training every day.

"It's like practicing for football and never getting to play," he said. "But this isn't a game."

The 23-year-old graduated from Andover High School in 2002, where he was captain of the football and track teams. For Crabb, joining the military | with its promise of a free college education and travel | would get him where he wanted to be.

But his assignment came sooner than expected.

The military bosses originally calculated a 2008 deployment, but he ended up receiving his orders last month, his December marriage to a fellow soldier still in honeymoon mode.

"It was real quick," Jason said. "My wife understands. She supports me. We met in basic training."

His parents, Joyce and Michael Crabb, held a going-away party for him Saturday at their home at Casco Crossing | the climax to his 10-day leave from Fort Riley in Kansas. Crabb decided to spend his leave in Andover so he could catch up with his 16-year-old brother, Dylan.

The Crabbs do not support the war, but stand by their son's decision to join the military. Joyce Crabb said she cannot look at an American flag without thinking of her son.

"As parents, it's extremely difficult. I really worry, but I'm proud of him too. We support the troops," Joyce Crabb said. "Jason is a great kid ... It is what it is."

He looked over at his mother and said with a shrug, "Freedom isn't free."

Right now, Crabb is bit like a student getting ready to study abroad in that he's interested in seeing how much Arabic he can retain over there. However, he's also hoping time goes by quickly, and he's worried about the more than 100-degree temperatures, especially with all the body armor he'll have to wear.

"I took a couple of weeks' course on Arabic. Spanish is a cakewalk compared to Arabic," he said. "I can say, 'Hi,' and, 'Where's the bathroom?' I've been reading about the culture too. I just want to make sure I don't offend anyone, because it could get you hurt."

Those are things Joyce Crabb worries about too. She wasn't too happy when her son joined the Army, but she knew it was his decision.

Jason's arms are covered in tattoos | he got his first on his 18th birthday | another one of those decisions mom wasn't thrilled about, but learned to embrace.

He got his newest tattoo last week, on his right arm, which portrays hands from heaven reaching down to soldiers.

"Hopefully, someone will watch over me," he said.

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