‘I Save Lives With My Job’

A soldier from Tampa contacted the Tribune to share his story with correspondent MyLinh Shattan. Army Specialist Miguel A. Collazo-Quintana graduated from Leto High School in 2004 and enlisted in the Army shortly afterward because of benefits like the college tuition assistance programs and the chance to serve his country. Joining the Army, he says, was the “best decision I ever made in my life.”

Stationed in Bamberg, Germany, with the 71st Corps Support Battalion, Collazo deployed to Iraq last October and is at Forward Operating Base Endurance. .

Tell us about yourself. I moved to Tampa from Puerto Rico when I was 14 years old. I lived in the United States for four years before joining the Army. My parents live in Hillsborough County.

I am a communication specialist. I ensure that all the soldiers have communications equipment before they leave the FOB [Forward Operating Base]. I check every piece of communication equipment for faults and defect.

What progress have you seen in Iraq? I have seen a lot of progress over here. I helped with the Iraqi army training and the Iraqi army graduation. I think that the Iraqi army is making a lot of progress as far as them being able to take over and do everything by themselves. They are very confident about what they do and they are proud to serve Iraq.

Have you seen combat? I have not seen anything drastic and I have not been shot at because I am what people around here call a “fobbit.” A fobbit is a person who doesn’t leave the FOB. Kind of like the hobbits from the movie “Lord of the Rings.” They never left their town, and we don’t leave the walls of the FOB.

Our main job is to take care of the things in the FOB so while our soldiers are outside the FOB, they can communicate to us in case they encounter any problems.

What’s the Iraqi reaction to Americans? The locals here love us. We have gone on humanitarian missions taking food, school supplies and candy for them. Sometimes we give them immunization shots to make sure that they stay healthy. The best part of going out there is that we get to see how they live and we get to play with the kids.

What are the best and worst things about serving there? The best thing is that I’m serving my country and doing my job to help others. It’s a really good feeling.

I save lives with my job, and most people don’t think about it that way, but if it wasn’t for the communication specialist here in the FOB, these soldiers would not be able to ask for help when they encounter problems.

The worst part is that we have to be away from our families for such a long time, and only God knows who will make it back or who will walk with him.

How’s morale? I have kept my morale up for most of the time, and I always try to help my buddies do the same. I am the crazy guy in the unit who is always trying to make people laugh by doing stupid things – just to help my battle buddies keep a smile on their face and remind them that we are going to go home soon and see our loved ones.

What’s your day like? I wake up around 11 a.m. and go work at the headquarters in the communication shop. From there, we go out to work on the vehicles and their issues before they leave. This can go anywhere from 1500 hours [3 p.m.] to about 0300 hours [3 a.m.]. From there I usually try to get in contact with family and friends for at least an hour. God bless Myspace.com!

From there I go to sleep and do it the next day all over again.

How are your accommodations? We live in what they call CHUs, basically a metal container, which is not bad at all. It has AC. It’s not the biggest thing on earth, but for us soldiers who are used to being in tight little places; we find it really comfortable.

We have a great Morale Welfare and Recreation Center and gym. And the PX [Post Exchange] is really good. They don’t always have everything, but it works when you need it. Laundry service is good and so is the dining facility. Steak and lobster on Sundays. Hooah!!!

Is there anything else you wish to share? I am really proud of serving my country and being part of the war on terrorism. I just hope that all of this will end soon and our children won’t have to go through what some of these soldiers have gone through, and [they] have a great life enjoying the freedom that our country offers us.

I also want to send a couple shout-outs to my friends back in Tampa: Jose Lantigua and Miguel Lantigua, Max Commodore, Alex Rivera, for always being there for me, supporting and telling me that they are proud of me. Without them I wouldn’t have made it this far.

I also want to say hello to my Dad, Miguel Collazo, and my stepmom, Sandra Glenn. It’s because of them that I am who I am, a United States soldier. HOOAH!!!!

Sep 24, 2006

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About the Author

Mylinh Shattan is a writer who has lived on three continents, served in the Army, worked in corporate America, and taught in college. She loves adventures, in the world and in the mind. Literature is relevant and learning is a lifelong pursuit, so you might as well have a bit of fun along the way.

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