Meet Brendan: CPT Brendan B., Plans Officer, DolA

So it's not all that surprising that I ended up in the Army. I have 3 uncles who all went through ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps) and were commissioned as Engineer officers. I was very fortunate to have three men set such an example for me, and I am proud to have followed in their footsteps.

I started at Santa Clara University in 1996 and graduated in 2000 with a degree in Electrical Engineering. I like to tell people that I chose Santa Clara because of the quality engineering program, but really I just loved the campus and the soccer program. After four great years, albeit with no little amount of struggling to keep up with soccer, engineering and the Army ROTC program, I was commissioned in the summer of 2000 into the Engineer Corps as a Second Lieutenant. (That's a hard word to spell, I just realized. I don't think I've ever written it before, we usually just abbreviate it 2nd LT)

I picked the Engineer Corps because, heck, I had an engineering degree, so I figured that would come in pretty handy. Only to find out that there aren't a whole lot of integrals, calculus or semiconductors design going on in the Army. So much for using my degree right away...

But there were other perks to being an engineer, like getting to build things - and then blow them up. After all, Einstein said that the total amount of mass and energy in the universe is constant. So we interpreted that as, "Anything you build has to be blown up". I mean, we didn't want to throw the balance of the cosmos out of whack...

I was assigned to Ft. Stewart, Georgia (right outside of Savannah) and within two weeks of arriving at my unit, I was on a plane to Kosovo, to be part of the NATO peacekeeping mission there. (Incidentally, in light of Kosovo recently declaring independence, I am taking full credit due to the six months I spent there walking patrols in a little town called Gnjilane). But as an introduction to the world, it was a great experience. Working with interpreters, trying to understand why people are willing to kill each other because their religion is different was a bit of an eye-opener. Turns out that happens all over the place.

In 2002 I was in New Orleans for New Year's with some friends from Ft. Stewart when we got the call to report back to prepare for deployment to Kuwait. After returning to Ft. Stewart on the 2nd of January, 2003, we were on a plane for Kuwait on January 11th. It seems like the only time things move fast in the Army is when they're sending you to some place that sucks. Go figure.

I was with one of the first units to cross the border into Iraq on March 19th, and spent the next three weeks driving through the desert to Baghdad, sleeping in the back of my Humvee, eating Meals Ready-to-Eat (MREs) every day, and wondering why the supposed historical location of the Garden of Eden just looked like a bunch of sand and a few palm trees. I guess the criteria for "paradise" has changed since then...

We drove into Baghdad, and spent the next three months trying to restore some semblance of order in a broken and destroyed city. It was hard to believe at the time that Baghdad used to be a thriving center of commerce in the Middle East, but then, we caught it at a particularly bad time, as you may have noticed from watching footage of smoke billowing out of buildings and palaces being looted.

Now, four years later, at 28 years old, I find myself deployed again, as part of a unit with the mission to train and equip the Iraqi Police, and help the Iraq Ministry of the Interior regain its ability to provide security on the streets of Baghdad and everywhere else. Which is a radically different perspective from the last time I was here, when we were just going day-to-day, and trying to figure out what the next step was in the absence of a solid plan.

I'm hoping I can shed a little light on what we're trying to do here with these posts, and perhaps provide a little more well-rounded view for everyone of the good that never seems to make CNN, and the bad that never seems to get any better.

Thanks,
Brendan

CPT Brendan B.
Plans Officer, DoIA