26 October 2014

The Legend of the Kosovo Eight

Sometimes a one-hit wonder needs to let well enough alone.

We had a major hit back in 2009, when our group toured Kosovo. We were known then as the 69th PAD, and we were rockstars. Great leadership, energy, and moxie. The chicks really dug us.

A certain COL Cooper didn't have much use for us, except for s few silly command photos and slices of Anthony's pizza (that he got by crashing our pizza party), but we got pretty big audiences with our photos, videos, and the mother of them all, The Guardian East magazine. Think of it as our White Album.

The magic and Glory came to end end around December 2009. The band fell apart, each of us going our separate ways. The leader, CPT Jonathan Masaki "Mahalo" Shiroma got promoted and went on to a solo career. MSG Paul Wade also left, then there was no keeping us together.

One member (He Who Must Not Be Named) departed before we finished touring. SGT Pepper, Swatts, Smith, Samudio, and I went home to fading memories of our greatness.

Our bassist and rhythm guitarist-- Samudio and Smith-- found new band to tour with. They played much bigger venues, like RC- East in Afghanistan. Places with crowds much bigger than we could have dreamed in Kosovo.

Kosovo was intimate, like the club scene of the Beatles' early Liverpool days.

But Afghanistan? Tough. Samudio came just after Kosovo. The man re-classed to get here. That's Army-speak for, he went to school to learned a new trade so he could deploy with a combat unit. So he's one of the few triple-qualified military police/ public affairs Soldiers in the Army. I'm pretty sure he volunteered just so he could make a cool documentary, but carried a big gun and saw combat.

Nevada Jack Smith went to a different state to get on an Afghanistan deployment. It was Hawaii, so we can't give him too much credit for sacrifice, but they did deploy to RC-South where things were a bit hairy. Less coffee and yoga back then.

Swatts went on to a tour in Iraq, which was probably then like Afghanistan is now. But these places are always risky, and it was no Kosovo. the pressure was high. It was the big time for all of them.

I bring this all up because I get teased for having it easy. Guilty as charged. I would not wish for combat action, and every time I here someone in operations tell me they're having a boring day I reply, "Good. Means we're doing our job."

Most deployments for most Soldiers are not year-long versions of Lone Survivor. They are more like bad vacations.

And public affairs Soldiers have it particularly easy. We complain about not having enough compact discs and limited access to YouTube. I wouldn't do any other job in the Army, though, unless of course I was ordered to. But no one orders us not to complain, because it is what Soldiers do best.

But these guys volunteered for the fight. That's the mark of a true warrior.

As our good captain (he is a major now, but he will always be "commander," to me) put it in more or fewer words:
Whether you get into a gunfight or not, whether you primarily reside on a FOB or go out of the wire everyday, you wear that uniform in support of our operations overseas. You should be proud of what you have done and our nation thanks you for it. I personally am proud of you in your respective roles in OEF. You have stepped up to do something very few other Americans your age have. 
I should also mention that MAJ Shiroma did a previous tour in Iraq, where his job as a HHC commander and PAO did not spare him the horrors and stresses of modern combat.

 am enormously proud to have played with these guys, and I respect them for standing up to fight. I think of them often as I enjoy iced coffee inside the wire at a relatively safe Bagram Airfield.

Man, the band should really get back together.

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