1-87th Infantry soldier’s war an terror got an early start.
Any one of the soldiers that knew me would tell you that I put everything into the Army from the day I joined until the day I left. The military was and still is everything to me. I am a member of a local chapter of the American Legion and I am only 34 years old. If something concerning veterans comes up locally, I’m involved. That is the measure of a military soldier and anyone that has served will tell you that.
In any case, the war on terrorism started just four months after the 9/11 attack on the United States. Of course, in those four months I knew that I was going to be deployed. In fact, we all did. It was just a matter of time before our number was called. We were basically nervous and excited all at the same time. I had deployments under my belt already and I had seen combat action numerous times however some of the soldiers serving with me had not. I knew deep down that they were scared and I am sure they knew it as well.
We began our desert training along with our anti-terrorist training and before we knew it, we were being deployed. Of course we were not headed into the “lion’s den” just yet but actually into the surrounding area north. Uzbekistan had requested that the U.S. send over troops for a joint anti-terrorist training program. Although we were not a part of the training program, we provided aid in the form of support and security.
Let me explain something about flights to foreign countries (if you have never been). We had the pleasure of flying commercial and that was a plus in some areas. We took a couple of connecting flights and had some great movies. The food was great however when you are sitting next to a crying baby for 12 straight hours, it can get very annoying and it can get so very quickly. The 12 hours was just for one part of the trip. Needless to say, I survived. We landed in our layover spot and got to stretch our legs for a while and once we were ready to take the second “long leg” of the trip, we started to board the Soviet airliner. Yes, I said Soviet. The markings on the plane had the old Soviet Union symbols still on the plane! This wasn’t good was it? At least this 12 hour flight was more peaceful and when we landed we were greeted by the Embassy personnel at the airport and then escorted to the hotel downtown which just happened to be a Sheraton. Yes, I know… a Sheraton! Don’t get too excited just yet. This was only to be our home on weekends when we were not training or on security watch. We bedded down for the night.
Over the next few days we met interpreters and familiarized ourselves with the area. Uzbekistan was once a great city but now it was more like a nuisance for Russia than anything. We would be doing our training at the Spetznaz camp located at Baxmal. This place was beautiful! We had empty barracks which had no running water and the electricity barely worked on good days. In fact, we were lucky if you got heat. Our baths consisted of “bird-bathing” or just waiting until we got back to the rear. We made sure to make ourselves at home as quickly as possible though.
Over the course of the next seven months, we would train the “Uzbeks” and a number of other soldiers coming into the camp on a variety of things including medical, hand-to-hand combat, artillery support, air support and so on. We made plenty of friends and some of us still talk today. When we left, we actually hitched a ride on a C-130 until we got to the next airfield. For most of the soldiers, this was an exciting time. They got to meet some Special Forces guys that had been dropped in Afghanistan and they were like kids in a candy store. My stories were no longer good enough for my guys it seemed but it was okay, they deserved it. They made me proud.
Desperate Lands: The War on Terror Through The Eyes of a Special Forces Soldier