A soldier's story: How he got here, where he's going
June 18, 2013
NANGARHAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan - While soldiers on a team usually have all gone through the same military training to prepare them for their mission, each one brings his or her own talents and interests to the table.
This description fits U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Christopher Redd's squad quite well. Redd, of Spartanburg, S.C., is the first squad leader of 2nd Platoon, 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division.
Redd's platoon provides security for advisory groups that instruct and mentor Afghan forces at the Torkham Gate customs checkpoint on the Afghanistan/Pakistan border in Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan.
While all of his guys stand out and are worth a second glance, Redd said, a few are particularly noteworthy. Some are class clowns, one guy does great impressions, another was Soldier of the Month earlier this year and is getting promoted soon, and one guy in particular has far, far-reaching goals.
This last soldier is Spc. Ray Ramos of Vallejo, Calif., Ramos is a soft-spoken 25-year-old who said becoming a soldier has been in the cards for as long as he can remember.
"I've been talking about joining the military since, I want to say, I was six years old," he said. "It was either becoming a soldier or becoming a cop."
Several members of Ramos's family have military and law enforcement backgrounds. He's the only soldier in the clan, though.
"None of them have joined the Army before: they're all Air Force," he said with a grin. "They fully support me, but they're like: 'Oh, you should've used your brains and joined the Air Force.'"
While Ramos's short-term goals include getting home this summer, his long-term goals are far-reaching.
College, with a possible focus in psychology, is one of the things Ramos said he wants to take care of almost as soon as he gets home. Additionally, he'd like to make use of the Green to Gold program, one of the Army's avenues for becoming a commissioned officer.
The reason for this is because he wants to become a fire support officer eventually. While the noncommissioned officer position in this field requires roughly the same knowledge and expertise, Ramos said, the officer gets paid more. He also wants to become a California highway patrol officer someday.
Ramos's job within the Army is as the platoon forward observer, whose mission is to call for supporting fires when engaging enemy targets. In addition to this, he is a radio/telephone operator.
When his team works at the gate, however, Ramos mans an observation post that watches over the foot-traffic portions of the customs checkpoint. From his rooftop seat, he communicates with his teammates and Afghan security personnel about passersby who may potentially pose a threat.
Ramos said his time in country has been largely positive. The Afghan people, in particular, have made the experience a good one.
"They are very cordial. Especially the ones that speak English: they try to be very cordial and very polite," Ramos said. "It's nice sitting down and talking to them one-on-one. For the most part they're very respectful."
The people, the culture - even the food - have made Ramos's first tour abroad interesting. And he said he hopes it will just be his first, as he wants to travel the world when he gets the chance.
"I love different cultures," he said. "The culture, the people: I'm not saying Afghanistan's the best place, but it's pretty decent. I actually love this country."