Specialist Jonathan Bettis returns to a wife recovering from surgery she had last week. Three months after Bettis deployed, his wife Michele discovered a tumor in her uterus. After a biopsy and other tests, the couple, who have two sons and live in Opa-locka, learned the tumor was benign but had to be removed.
I told him immediately, but I also told him that I needed for him to focus on the job. Even though he wanted to be here with me, I told him if he didnt focus, he could put his life and the rest of the platoon in danger, said Michele Bettis, who, with the aid of Family Readiness, is now a student at Miami Dade College. It was a very worrisome time but I know that I am in Gods hands, and my husband needed to continue protecting our country.
On Feb. 5, just after Sunday sunrise, the battalion took a chartered flight to Fort Bliss, Texas, for a month of training before they traveled overseas. Of the 162 originally deployed, about 100 returned home, 26 stayed in Afghanistan and the remaining numbers are still in Texas dealing with medical issues or being processed for an eventual return.
I am ready to be back with my family, my wife and two children and to return to my life. I had a good experience, and back home everything was well, no major issues and everybody is healthy, which allowed me to focus on my work, said Staff Sgt. Humberto Torres, 52, of Kendall, who worked in telecommunications while there and also served in Desert Storm. But I am a 100 percent soldier, so if the country needs me, I will deploy again.
The battalion joined German soldiers in training Afghans, managing public works projects, clearing routes and constructing and repairing bridges rocked by roadside bombs. They worked in and around small rural villages with dirt roads and goat trails in a region near the Hindo Kush mountains. They worked in desert conditions where roadside bombs occasionally detonated. They were ambushed by insurgents, including multiple times in the Chimtal District, a hostile area in the Balkh Province.
One of our biggest challenges was also dealing with the heat and getting hit by the dust bowls. The sand was fine like powder and would get everywhere, all over your face, in your eyes, and you could inhale it, says Specialist Franz Eliscard who worked in Deh Dadi II as a heavy equipment mechanic and left behind a wife and 13-month-old triplet boys. You couldnt see someone two feet in front of you.
In some ways, it is a mission measured in numbers: the unit accomplished 75 combat security assignments, 263 route clearance assignments, and 35 logistics distribution assignments. The maintenance platoon repaired 400 pieces of equipment. For their effort, members of the unit were awarded six Bronze Star medals and 108 Army commendation medals. Combat Action badges were also awarded to a team attacked by insurgent fire outside of Camp Ghormach.
There was something else less tangible at work too: American troops worked to help uplift the image of the Afghan soldiers and build their credibility among their own villagers as control is ceded back to the country.
Success for us means we are doing less and the Afghans are doing more, says 2nd Lt. Brittany Ramos, 23.
The Miami Gardens soldier is among the 26 staying in Afghanistan until December to help manage the ongoing projects.
I definitely miss my loved ones but cant leave the position unfulfilled, she says. This is my duty.