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Words of Wisdom from a Army Ranger
Q: When did you make the decision to join the military?
A: Well (pauses) when I was about 12 years old I did a book report on Special Forces. From that point on I wanted to be in the military. Uh (pauses) I found out about West Point in the book report and decided I wanted to go there at that point. I changed everything I did and focused completely on getting into West Point.
Q: Why did you decide to go to West Point? How did your experience at West Point influence you personally?
A: I learned a lot about leadership (pauses) I learned I liked it and I was good at it. I learned that friends and family are the most important thing a lesson that has been reaffirmed every time I have meet a classmate overseas throughout the last five deployments.
Q: What was the training to become an Army Ranger like? How is it different than other training?
A: (laughs) Ranger school is all about breaking you do and stressing your systems to the point that you break down completely (pauses) your body actually starts to eat it self and your skin begins to decompose because of the lack of nutrition and sleep. You learn that the human body can endure horrific conditions and still function and you learn to rely completely on your ranger buddy.
Q: What values/lessons of life have you learned from your experiences as a Ranger?
A: Attitude is everything. When a situation can't possibly be any worse it’s time to start joking and laughing and being as positive as you do not feel.
Q: What was your first experience in combat like? Any particular moments in your career as an Army Ranger that resonates with you?
A: My first 9 months in Iraq were dull. Nothing much happened. Around the 9 month mark my PLT was ambushed with a relatively small IED and we completely screwed it up. Didn’t properly chase the enemy and really didn't do much other than call it up and return to base. For months i thought it was the biggest thing ever. my first deployment to Afghanistan wasn't much different no real contact. my second trip however was significantly different and has completely changed my life. right from the very first mission through the finish. Constant Contact with the enemy casualties, blood, death, fear. My first real fire fight I almost froze and had really no idea what to do. by the end of the trip at one point i remember we were hunkered down behind a wall laughing because we were under heavy machine gun fire and one of my guys decided he needed to take a pee. Its very strange what happens to you after you spend 6 months wondering when its your time. the place we were at that trip took a large quantity of Indirect Fire which are mortars basically, it was so bad that we'd get hit several times a day every day. the outposts were taking so many casualties that barely a day went by without a call coming across the intercom "will all personnel with o+ blood please report to charlie med." as far as the moments that resonate with me the most i suppose it could be any of the countless battle field memorials for buddy's, classmates, soldiers...but the moment that resonates most clearly is after my PLT took a mass call (pauses) 10% of your fighting force incapacitates. It wasn't the hectic struggle to medevac them or the fight afterwards or the exfill, but standing there as we loaded them back onto the helicopters to go home. I couldn't bring myself to leave even 30min after the helicopters left. My Platoon sergeant had to grab my arm and tell me to come back to the camp.
Q: Where have you been deployed/overseas? What was being in a different culture like? Where there any difficulties? Any memorable stories?
A: I've been deployed to Kuwait really only a month. Iraq for a year specifically Diyala Province and Afghanistan 4 times to unspecified Provinces. I spent a large part of my time in Iraq meeting with the locals and helping them start businesses and build schools. (pauses) Their cultures are different. I'm don't have much appreciation for their culture's, beliefs or values. I started out trying to embrace them and did for about 10 months in Iraq, then I busted a murder, kidnapping, extortion ring and found a mass grave site and have never really been able to move past it.
Q: What are some of the struggles that come with being in the military?
A: Struggles that come from being in the military, there's the discipline, the early mornings and long nights, however most of the struggles that i see really only pertain to the infantry and specifically the unit I’m currently in. Life in the Infantry breaks you down and makes you old before your time. That's why you see all the 38 year old Sergeant Majors who look like they are 70. Every thing from the cold, the wet, the heat, the dust, the lack of sleep, the lack of showers, the lack of food basically just get used to being hard and you'll do well. The struggles i see now are not so much on that level, maybe because I’ve just grown to accept those things, but what bothers me the most now is the constant separation from my wife and family.
Q: Some movies like 'Black Hawk Down' and 'Jarhead' depict life in the military. What is your opinion on Hollywood's depiction of what it is like to be a soldier?
A: Hollywood glamorizes things and puts their own slant on everything, but then again they are our greatest recruiting tool. I can't count how many kids have joined because they watched Chuck Norris in Delta Force or John Wayne in the Green Berets.
Q: Earlier this year the 1994 rule that restricts women from artillery, armor, infantry and other such combat roles was overturned by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. What is your opinion on this?
A: As an Army Officer I don't have one.
Q: What is some advice that you would give to a person deciding to join the military in 2013?
A: Do it for the right reasons. Bust your ass and do some research before you join. Don’t just walk into recruiters’ office and sign. Find someone, anyone in the military and ask their advice. The military is a great career but you have to drive it if you don't you will be eaten alive and used and then discarded like so much refuse.