Lt. Jeff Ammon

OREM — In some of his first e-mails to his parents, Navy submarine officer Lt. Jeffrey Ammon questioned what an ocean man like him was doing in the desert.

But soon those e-mails changed, and Ammon began to write of his love for the Afghan people, especially the children.

"He would eat in their homes," said his mother, Kathleen Ammon, who lives in Salt Lake City. "He celebrated Ramadan with them. He's the only (person) he knows who's a Christian Muslim."

She said her son quickly realized that the only way to really make a difference in the country was to teach the rising generation of children, and he asked her to send paper and pencils for their poor schools.

"He felt like he was making a difference," Kathleen Ammon said. "He really wanted to try a little bit longer to make a difference."

So Ammon, 37, acting as a Navy individual augmentee, extended his year-long tour.

He was killed nearly two months later, May 20, by injuries from a roadside improvised explosive device in the Aband District of Afghanistan while on a medical mission, Kathleen Ammon said.

He leaves behind a wife and two sons.

Ammon joined the Navy in October 1988 after he graduated from Orem High School. He grew up in Idaho Falls, but moved to Orem during his high school years.

Ammon spent time aboard the U.S.S. Alabama and in the office at the Commander Navy Region Northwest Headquarters at Naval Base Kitsap, Bangor, Wash.

While in the Navy, he earned a degree in nuclear engineering from Oregon State.

Although trained to be underwater, Ammon's work in Afghanistan was as an individual augmentee on land as part of a Provincial Reconstruction Team Ghazni. An IA is someone who goes anywhere the Department of Defense has a need, said Sean Hughes, Navy spokesman from Navy Region Northwest.

In Afghanistan, Ammon worked to rebuild economic infrastructure through micro-loans.

"His role was along the lines of economic development," Hughes said. "I believe he felt so strongly about the success he was having and (what he) was doing there, that that's what kind of spurred his desire to stay."

Ammon assisted small businesses in the Ghazni province with restocking, buying business equipment, repairing damage to shops and hiring employees.

"The thing about the Navy is they train their folks to ... operate at sea, air, land," Hughes said. "So as long as they have a skill set ... (they can) go and plug right into what the need might be. When (Ammon) went over, he fit in wherever his talents lay. He was doing good things."

Ammon is being remembered by the officers he worked with in Afghanistan and Washington.

"Please take a moment to reflect upon and recognize the great sacrifice Lt. Ammon made while helping the Afghan people rebuild and develop their country," Rear Admiral James A. Symonds, commander, Navy Region Northwest wrote in a statement to the staff in Washington. "Lt. Ammon is a hero and a role model."

Ammon was one of 1,446 Navy IAs in Afghanistan and one of 10,116 IAs overall.

Currently there are 26 Provincial Reconstruction Teams working to improve the quality of life for Afghan citizens and their government, Hughes said.

"(Ammon) was a professional who was extremely dedicated to his family, his shipmates and our nation," Symonds wrote. "He will be greatly missed by all of those who loved him and worked with him."


E-mail: sisraelsen@desnews.com