Before the Military | Training | War | Loss of Life | Traumas of Combat
Off to The Military
Before graduating from high school in 2003, I wanted to go to college but was terrified of the cost. I couldn’t imagine owing someone that much money! So I began thinking about joining the military. Since my father served in the military I always thought it would be cool to follow in his footsteps and serve the country. Within days I was meeting with a recruiter. The recruiter assured me that I would get a nice bonus, college would be 100% paid for, I wouldn’t have to leave for war, plus I would only have to drill on the weekends. I decided to join the Army. At the time I knew I wanted a job in the technology field that would give me skills that could transfer to my civilian life, so I chose to be a 92A which is an Automated Logistical Specialist with the Wisconsin Army National Guard and off to training I went.
After my AIT training, I joined the 1-121 a field artillery unit out of Wisconsin and my unit was alerted soon after. The very first thing I learned about the military is recruiters may not be the most honest people in the world. So not only was I about to go to war, my unit would take on a combat mission in Iraq.
I learned fast that the Army Guard is very different from what one would experience in regular Army. In the Guard, you fill whatever position the Army needs, which is exactly what happened. I went from being a TAMMS Clerk in a HIMAR MLRS Field Artillery unit, to training as a Convoy Security Escorts. Training for our 350+ soldiers took about 4 months in Ft. McCoy following 6 months in Camp Shelby, MS. After all the training I officially became a gunner and a part-time gun-truck driver.
Command informed us that we would be based just outside the border of Iraq in Camp Navistar, Kuwait and would be escorting convoys of around 35+ semi-trucks of goods to all of the bases throughout Iraq. The first thing I remember when stepping out of the plane in Kuwait was the hair dryer hot air blowing in my face. After a couple of days of rest it was time for on the job training. On one of our very first missions in Iraq our base went into ‘blackout status’ with all contact to home being shut down. This could only mean one thing; one of our own was attacked. We found out later that a fellow soldier lost his life after being attacked with an IED. We would soon realize that being hit by IEDs was a huge problem for us that unfortunately, happened too often.
Imagine wearing heavy duty ear protection and hearing a noise so loud, that you go deaf for a couple seconds. Imagine getting shaken to the core by a sound wave as if the world is vibrating. Then, a flashes so bright it lights up the day. I can remember at least 3 times an IED has left me shook.
I remember a time entering Rustimiah near downtown Baghdad as a sniper took shots at our convoy, pops a hole through one of our vehicles flood-lights which was a arms-length away from my vehicle. This happened just minutes after I sat down behind the bulletproof armor because we all felt the buildings were too high. That could have too easily been my head, I was thinking.
Throughout this deployment there were many close calls. One time my driver stopped right next to a EFP (Explosively Formed Penetrator), that was pointed directly at us, but somehow didn’t explode. EFPs are known for ripping through anything in its way, armored or not. I believe I am either super lucky or something was watching over me. Because every time something happen it was always nearby or always somehow missed me. Much later I would find out that these run-ins with danger would be the reason for a lot of anxiety and loss of sleep.
Back to War
After coming home and few months, it was time to go back to training for war. My next deployment I took a promotion a joined a new unit, the 108 Forward Support Company. Of-course we were all re-trained as Detainee Operation Guards and we were headed to Iraq. Even though the detainee operations was not a combat mission, it was still a rough one, and in some ways event more than the first one. A couple months after we arrived in Taji, Iraq, we would soon find out that a platoon sergeant lost his life. Throughout both times in Iraq, I would have traveled to most of the F.O.Bs (Forward Operating Bases) in Iraq and managed to make it back home in one piece. RIP to all of those who lost there lives for the country
Time for Peace
After two deployments, I returned home for 3 months then it was off to Fort Bliss to be a Special Trainer (also known as Observer Controller-Trainer- OC-T) for soldiers deploying for Detainee Operations missions to Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, for a one-year mobilization. After a year of training and preparing thousands of soldiers to go overseas, it was back home for me.
Can’t Ignore the Signs
Since my deployment I began having anxiety attacks and major sleep issues. It got to the point where I would only be getting a couple a hours a sleep in a week. When I did go to sleep I would wake up in cold sweats. I decided I needed to get my health in order before I did anything else. I saw a doctor and they knew exactly what the issue was, a severe case of PTSD. In February of 2014 after 11 years of service, four of which were active, I decided to call it a career. When it was all said and done, I would receive over 10 awards throughout my military career.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.
Most people who go through traumatic events may have temporary difficulty adjusting and coping, but with time and good self-care, they usually get better. If the symptoms get worse, last for months or even years, and interfere with your day-to-day functioning, you may have PTSD.– PTSD defined by the Mayo Clinic
To Coding (Coming Soon)
Time for Healing | The Perfect Career Path for Veterans | Off to College