His next call to serve

Prosecutor: A city reservist describes his job of restoring stability to Afghanistan as `the closest thing the military has to the Peace Corps.'

July 07, 2004|By Allison Klein | Allison Klein,SUN STAFF

Attorney Charles M. Blomquist, The square shoulders, short buzz hairstyle and purposeful walk of Charles M. Blomquist do not cut the average figure of a Baltimore prosecutor.

Neither does his background: a former Peace Corps volunteer, seminary student and aid worker for Catholic Relief Services.

Now Blomquist, 41, who handles shooting cases in the Baltimore state's attorney's office, is going on his next mission - to Afghanistan as a major in the Army Reserves.

He will supervise civil projects, such as the construction of schools and bringing electric power to impoverished towns. He will be in charge of a team of 12 civil affairs specialists, and describes his job as somewhat of a contractor.

"We will be helping the villages restore a sense of civility," Blomquist said. "It's the closest thing the military has to the Peace Corps."

He leaves tomorrow

His unit in the Army Reserves has been activated, and he leaves for training tomorrow. He does not know exactly when he will touch down in Afghanistan.

Blomquist knows he'll face danger as he works to rebuild a war zone, but he has recognized that as something he would face since he joined the military in 1991.

"I feel like it's my turn to go," he said. "Thousands before me have gone and made tremendous sacrifices. Thousands will go after me."

He said his wife, Joan, a gynecologist, and his two young sons are understanding of his deployment.

"For my kids, playing soldier and being in the Army is something glorified and something to emulate," he said. "For my wife, we were resigned to the fact that at some point it would happen."

There is a history of military service in the Blomquist family.

His father was a Marine during the Korean War and his grandfather, an Italian, fought for his country in World War II.

Blomquist, who lives in Baltimore, grew up outside Chicago and graduated from Grinnell College in Iowa, where he played football and baseball. There, he said, he learned "the idea of doing things collectively with others."

In 1988, he married, and soon after he and his wife joined the Peace Corps, where they served in the Fiji Islands in the Pacific for more than two years.

While there, he experienced a bloodless overthrow of the Fijian military, which had a lasting impact on him.

"In order to prevent overt militarism, you need people to participate in the military," he said.

After the Peace Corps, he enrolled in the University of Pittsburgh, where he attended the seminary, studying religions such as Islam, Hinduism and Protestantism. He also earned a master's in public administration.

In 1996, he and his wife came to Baltimore. He worked at Catholic Relief Services as an internal auditor, a job taking him around the world to countries such as Africa and Haiti.

In 1998, he began taking classes at the University of Baltimore Law School, after he and Joan had their first son, David. Andrew was born a year later.

"The idea of traveling around the world wasn't conducive to family life," he said.

He joined the state's attorney's office in 2001 and began working in District Court. He quickly worked his way up to the violent crime division, where his supervisors call him reliable and hard-working.

"Instead of running and hiding from the military like other people, he steps up to his duty despite the fact that he has a wife and two boys," said his team captain at the prosecutors' office, William F. Cecil. "That's very telling about him."

Blomquist says he feels good about the Army's purpose in Afghanistan, which is helping to bring stability to a war-torn country.

"This is a country that has been at war for the majority of its existence," he said.

A rousing send-off

Blomquist got a rousing send-off from his colleagues at the state's attorney's office last week and received a letter from Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. thanking him for his service.

"You are truly one of the great defenders of freedom and justice of our time, having done so much as an attorney to further the great work of the Baltimore City State's Attorney's Office," reads the letter. "Freedom and justice are calling you now, and, again, you stand ready to serve."

When he comes home in a year or 18 months, Blomquist says, he wants to use what he learns in Afghanistan to make himself a better prosecutor.

"My intention is to take my experience in Afghanistan and apply it to the state's attorney's office," Blomquist said. "Ultimately, the lowest common denominator is dealing with people."

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