On October 15, four of SCSU’s own veterans got together to speak about their experience when they were deployed. “A veteran is anyone that has served honorably or is on active duty in the armed forces” Zac Magnas, Interim Director at the Veterans Resource Center said. “St. Cloud State has over 700 veteran students that we serve each year” Dr. Martin Breaker was leading the panel. He spent 1,000 days in Iraq, he was part of the unit that took care of Sadam Hussian and retired as a full Colonel. The four men that was part of the panel included Jesse Able, Brian Dean, Jon Alley, and John Theal.
Jesse Able is a work study student at SCSU. Able retired as a Staff Sergeant from the US Army. He was deployed twice, once to Iraq from 2008 to 2009 and to Afghanistan from 2010 to 2011. He spoke about his deployment. “I had two different deployments to two different places first one was to Iraq didn’t know what to expect, I had people tell me what was going to happen and the complete opposite happened.
The first one was the hardest because like I said I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into. I was in a little combat outpost it was his unit of 100 guys who ran it. We had our own vehicles, our own chow hall when we had food; the showers worked sometimes, usually cold water. We did have recreation facility with telephones and computers, so I was able to contact my family back home but for the majority of the time I went on patrols out into the city. We talked to local populous, tired not to get blown up and hoped there weren’t any snipers in the area.
Going to Afghanistan I knew what I was doing, I thought. I knew how to prepare myself mentally and physically. The terrain and the people were completely different then Iraq the Iraqis will come help with stuff they will talk to you and be friendly. The people in Afghanistan were completely opposite. They will come talk to you when they want something as long as you don’t have to get anything from them in return they were fine. We were in the mountains, we did a lot of walking. We were on a fire base with just my platoon and some members of special forces. We got food sometimes and showers when they worked. The only thing they made sure we had enough of was fuel so we could continue to go on missions. “
Brain Dean is a senior at SCSU. Dean was very active in the military, including Marine Core, US Marine Core Reservist, US Army Reserve and US National Guard. Brain was part of Dessert Storm, Dessert Sweep, and Dessert Shield. He spoke about his deployments “I got a call on Thanksgiving saying we were going. We have been gearing up to get to Iraq out of Kuwait, which was what dessert shield, was about unit has 90 people we had 200 so we were over manned. When we were finally deployed we spilt up and each platoon was designated a specific mission. We did a month train up in South Carolina. It was different because we were going to what we though was a desert but we were in woodland camouflage and trained to do woodland things. We took care of law enforcement on the battlefield. We were in the dessert and we thought we are all used to cold weather lets travel light and just pack what we need so the decision was to not to bring our pup tents because we were going to be out in the dessert.
Well, when we got there it was oil companies’ barracks that we were staying in for about a week to gear up and get out there. After that, we were living in holes in the ground. When the oil fire started it created its own climate. The smoke blocked out the sun and the dessert didn’t have anything to heat itself so it was freezing cold and raining and we had no shelter because we were living in holes in the ground. We would have two holes, our fighting hole and a fall back hole which we able to take our three hours of rest a day, if you got that three hours. We were constantly wet and constantly cold and you wouldn’t think so because we were in Saudi Arabia.”
John Theal is a senior at SCSU. Theal went to Japan to study abroad and just returned Fall Semester. He is retired Marine Core. He Joined the Marines in 2006 and left for Basic Training on his 19th birthday. He has done two deployments, one to Iraq 2007 to 2008, and one in 2009. He spoke about his deployments. “When I am asked this question I usually answer hot in the summer cold in the winter because it is hard to describe but I will put it this way, I left for training on my 19th birthday, before I turned 20 I was already in Iraq doing my first deployment. I applied for diesel mechanic but was attached to a unit so I was right there on the front line front of the whole thing. Usually, I worked for twelve hours six days a week working on trucks making sure they worked and tried to make sure the trucks stayed in one piece, which was not easy. Three or four times a week I would also be doing foot patrols. These could last from two to twelve hours. At least once a week, I would be standing duty, which was pretty much standing in a bullet proof box staring out into the dessert at nothing. Sometimes you would see goats or people but usually you would be staring out into nothingness. My shift would be from midnight to 4am. In the winter you were freezing.
During my second deployment when I was 21 years old I had a completely different experience because I was a noncommissioned officer. When you are a noncommissioned officer you are put in charge of other marines. When I say this to other people they are usually like, you are just directing people like go this way or that way. No you are put in charge and are responsible for everything with them, including their life. When you are deployed and you have 20 other marines under you, looking up at you and asking you what to do it gets very nerve racking. Its enough to keep you up at night, thinking about the responsibility put on you between my two deployments both completely different and both were completely nerve racking.”
Jon Ellig is a student at SCSU. Ellig is very active in the Veterans Resource Center. He is also a graphic designer. Ellig was on active duty in the Marine Core from 2002 to 2007 and was honorably discharged. He was deployed to Iraq in 2003. He spoke about his deployment and service in the Marine Core. “I have been on every kind of deployment you can do from war to an exercise in a foreign country. I spent 14 months in Iraq. I don’t even know what Afghanistan looks like well I have seen pictures. I did a lot of training in California then got attached to a unit and went to Iraq. The purge was like 94 back to back traffic taking Iraq. Education was a very positive thing that came out of being in the service, traveling was something positive, seeing a global perspective through my own eyes not what our media portrays, as well as being able to work with anyone doesn’t matter who. I am not scared to do anything in the world.”
After the panel, the movie Restrepo was presented.