Editors Notes: Letter from Afghanistan

Steve Chittock

Editor's note: This is the unedited version of the letter emailed to Triplicate reporter Adam Madison on Sept. 11 from Afghanistan by Capt. Bruno de Solenni of Crescent City.

Hi Adam, my name is Capt. Bruno de Solenni and I am writing you in regards to your article that I finally was able to read online.

I really wasn't sure what to expect, especially nowadays with some of the crap that you read in the news. I will say that I was surprised and pleased that it wasn't over-sensationalized and you kept a good theme on the topic.

I guess the main reason I am writing you is to thank you for your support and the point of view that you took on the article. I know that sometimes it is difficult to actually print something without being biased and taking just one side. But I will tell you the truth and give you an honest opinion about my life in the National Guard, about the war over here and many of the decisions leading to my third tour in the Middle East.

First off, when I first joined the National Guard, back in 1996, I had

no idea that I would be here today. I do remember making the decision

on Christmas Day when I was about 20 years old and felt like I was

going nowhere with my life and needed to take a new direction. As my

father and mother had stated earlier, I was always fascinated with

history and the military, and was amazed at some of the hardships my

grandfather endured in both WWI and WWII.

So the following Monday on the 26th I called a recruiter, and took the

asvab test on the 27th in Eureka. Three days later I was down at the

Oakland Meps station getting sworn in as a 62E (heavy equipment

operator). When they asked when I wanted to go to Basic, I told them,

"how about next week?" and they kind of laughed at me and explained

that the soonest they could get me in was 30 days. On the 29th I

boarded a plane and my life was forever changed, without me even

knowing what lay ahead.

Eventually, a few years after joining, I did decided to go back to

college at Southern Oregon University in Ashland, Ore., where there was

a GOLD (Guard Officer Leadership Development) program that allowed me

to earn a federal commission as an Army officer while I continued to

work toward my degree (which the National Guard also paid for).

In a sense, I was doing exactly what the National Guard said I could do

if I joined andhellip; Finally, on May 11, 2001, I received my commission as a

young, immature, 2nd lieutenant full of piss and vinegar still not

knowing exactly what I was getting into.

When Sept. 11 happened, it was then that I realized that things were

going to be very different for me and the rest of this country. One

month later our battalion received the alert order that we would

mobilize the following year to fill in on the current MFO (Multi

National Force and Observers) mission in Sinai, Egypt. After returning

from Egypt, I was home for eight months before volunteering again to go

to Iraq for OIF II. It was there I truly (became) an infantry officer

and learned a lot about myself and people in general.

Upon my return from Iraq, I was positive about what was going on there

but very resentful at the way the media was covering the war over

there. In my own view, I personally feel that some of the media

deliberately fueled that war based on their own biased political views

and I still hold them accountable for their actions.

Something that still upsets me is the fact that they exploited some of

the crimes soldiers committed over there as a reflective view to the

rest of the world of what our armies stood for. I am not saying that we

didn't make mistakes, we did make them and we have painfully corrected

them.

After returning from Iraq I took a break and just stuck to the one

weekend a month traditional Guard and used my experiences from Iraq to

lead a recon/sniper platoon out of the Grants Pass Armory for about 2.5

years. Then I received the opportunity to come to Afghanistan and work

as an Embedded Trainer with the Afghanistan Army.

Some of the biggest dilemmas that I think we have faced here are mostly

the fact that Afghanistan seems to have been put on the back burner up

until a few months ago when the casualties here began to exceed those

in Iraq where there are four times as many soldiers. Our true problems

here are definitely reflective of the Pakistani border and the lack of

troops covering it, which has been an issue for years and is being

exploited by the Taliban as they train freely in Pakistan, unopposed by

anyone.

In my opinion, Afghanistan does need a troop surge of American soldiers

as well, otherwise we will only be able to sustain combat operations

with minimal effect of containing Taliban insurgents. As I speak about

this, these are only my views and opinions based on my experiences.

Even though I am now recuperating in the rear and doing fine, much of

my time along with other teammates has been spent in the Helmand

Province working with a handful of British soldiers in small isolated

FOBs conducting offensive operations with the Afghan National Army. Our

task is to mentor them during combat operations and to provide both air

support and indirect fire support, which seems to sometimes be a daily

necessity over here.

The good days over here are when we are truly sticking it to the

Taliban in a firefight that is in our favor and you just dropped 130

105mm rounds on their position. Or when a ... hot F-15 pilot flies over

your head strafing the Taliban with his Vulcan cannons.

The (bad) days are when you are covering up your your sergeant major

from being exposed to the dust-out of a Chinook helicopter that is

landing to medivac him out. At the same time he cries because he

doesn't want to leave his team as he lies there half paralyzed with

shrapnel in him, while fluids are coming out of his eyes and ears

signifying severe brain trauma, (meaning we cant give him morphine).

The bad days are when you put your buddy in a body bag and you don't

even recognize him because his limbs are missing and there holes in him

everywhere. The miracles are when his last words are, "tell my wife and

kids I love them," before he dies in his best friend's arms after

struggling for several agonizing minutes to get the words out because

there is a fist-size hole in his head.

And last but not least, the best days are when an Afghan comes up to

you thanking you for everything that you have done to help them and for

making their (home) a better place now that the Taliban are gone.

If anything, this is probably the biggest reason why I proudly enjoy

being over here. I can't explain it to anyone and there is no

description of what it feels like, but it was the same feeling I got

when I was in Iraq as well. And I am sure it's the same feeling that

generations of American soldiers before me have gotten as they fought

and sacrificed their lives for the freedoms that we enjoy today.

Perhaps the biggest thing that has made being over here much more

bearable, is the amount of public support that we have received from

people. Getting a care package or a letter of support when you are out

in the middle of nowhere from a complete stranger, thanking you, does

make the day seem a little better.

I would especially like to thank my Aunt Jan Martin, and The local

Troop Support organization who have provided care packages to soldiers

serving overseas and have volunteered endless hours of their time and

energy making our lives easier. The British soldiers (who don't get

anything) are extremely grateful as well.

Along with this, I would especially like to thank the members of the

VFW who donated several hundred dollars of G.I. shirts to the company

of Afghans that I have been mentoring. You have all truly made my life

and my job easier. Without your support, life would not be as pleasant.

Last but not least I would truly like to thank everyone who has

supported the soldiers and the efforts toward supporting these wars

even when there wasn't an end in sight. Until about 6 months ago there

wasn't a news outlet that was saying that the Iraq war was winnable and

that this was another vietnam in the making. Had we let the politicians

get ahold of this war it would have been.

Fortunately our president (who is not perfect) has stood his ground

against the naysayers who deliberately exploited the death of American

soldiers for their own political gain, showing no regard to their

families and loved ones who are still mourning them to this day.

I can understand what it was like for Vietnam veterans who returned

from the war and were spat upon for wearing their uniform and standing

up for what they believed in. Unfortunately this is still all-too-true

for many of the British soldiers returning home to their own country.

There are even certain ethnic religious neighborhoods where they cannot

even wear their uniforms because they will be beat up in their own

country.

I pray to God we never come to that and thank the fact that what has

changed drastically between Vietnam and now is that even if the public

doesn't support the war, they still support troops which makes a huge

difference. This is especially comforting if you are one of those

soldiers walking through the airport wearing your uniform and coming

home on leave or returning from a deployment.

Once again, I cannot thank everyone enough for their support and all that they have done andhellip;

Sincerely,

Capt. Bruno de Solenni

13928994
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