And you thought midterms were tough.
Carlos Perez, UM class of 2003, recently returned from service in Iraq. A former member of the Army Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC), Perez is currently a 1st Lieutenant in the U.S. Army.
Inspired by his father, a Green Beret, Perez joined the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps in college. He signed up for the army on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, 30 minutes before the first plane hit the World Trade Center. Although he had originally wanted to be a Judge Advocate General, Perez eventually decided to follow in his father’s footsteps instead.
However, for Perez, the desire to serve his country was the central motivation in embarking on a military career.
“I have a very huge sense of civic responsibility,” Perez said. “I feel that my place in this world is to be a soldier.”
As part of his job, Perez was deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan, where he supervised a network of computers that supported the communications needs for the U.S. Army Rangers and other Special Forces units.
Traveling from military base to military base, Perez said he spent most of his first five months “buried in work.” Between the dining facilities featuring daily doses of fried chicken, driving between bases and the office environment of his particular job, he actually gained 20 pounds.
“I never got to go to the gym when it was open because it would get mortared all the time,” Perez said. “It was a nice facility, but the job came first.”
Circumstances changed for him on Dec. 21, 2004, following a mortar attack on a military dining facility near Mosul, Iraq, that claimed the lives of approximately 14 servicemen.
“After that I was able to go out [in the field] a little more,” Perez said. “I went out to the countryside mostly with Iraqi officers and got to interact with them.”
Perez feels his time spent out in the field was inspiring.
“It felt better that I’d gone out there after I’d seen the rebuilding process, and how the Iraqi army was being stood up again with the right mindset,” he said. “I definitely felt better about what I was doing out there.”
Perez said that some of the issues raised concerning supplies of armor and other equipment are being dealt with effectively. According to Perez, it simply is not possible to fix these problems overnight.
“Right now the Army is going through a unique change in structure to create completely self-contained brigades,” Perez said. “It’s not that there’s a disparity between National Guard units and those of the regular Army-it’s just an issue of supply and demand as to where the money for these essential components goes.”
|“It felt better that I’d gone out there after I’d seen the rebuilding process, and how the Iraqi army was being stood up again with the right mindset. I definitely felt better about what I was doing out there.”
– CARLOS PEREZ,
Despite any problems that have occurred, Perez says he is proud of the mission in Iraq and believes that U.S. involvement helped free a terrorized people.
“Those people need us, make no mistake about it,” Perez said. “We may have gone in for whatever reason, but those people need us.”
Scott Wacholtz can be contacted at email@example.com.