Soldier in focus: Spc. Jesus Contreras
June 23, 2009
BAGHDAD - Spc. Jesus Contreras, of Porterville, Calif., was on inactive ready reserve status when he was called to active duty for his third deployment, this time with Company B, 252nd Combined Arms Battalion, 30th Heavy Brigade Combat Team.
Contreras, an infantryman, has not only been deployed to Iraq three different times, but was deployed there three different ways.
His first deployment was the traditional way, while serving on active duty. His second deployment was through stop-loss, an extension of active duty past his contracted date, and he was called out of IRR status for this, his third deployment to Iraq.
Contreras said he got the word just before Christmas last year.
"I got notice for this deployment as a package in the mail," Contreras said. "My brother actually signed for it."
Contreras traveled to four different locations in the U.S. before catching up with his new unit while waiting at Fort Bragg, N.C. for deployment to the Middle East.
He doesn't mind being in Iraq a third time, and said he notices positive changes.
"I like it better now than when I was here before," Contreras said. "You're actually seeing the change now. There's less attacks and people are able to work with the civilians better now."
Contreras operated in Mosul and Tikrit before; now he is serving just south of Baghdad.
Contreras said he noticed a change in Iraq's military ability, as well. His company often works with the Iraqi National Police.
"The NPs are better now," Contreras said. "We had to teach them everything before; how to aim, hold their weapon, everything. Now they know. They're getting the idea; they know they can do it on their own, but they still want our support just in case."
Contreras said he thinks Iraqis have made so much progress that they can make it on their own.
"I don't really think we need to be here anymore," Contreras said. "I'm pretty sure the NPs and the Iraqi Army can handle it. There's less insurgents, IEDs, snipers, everything is just less."
Contreras said he likes his job. The job of an infantryman is demanding, and Soldiers like Contreras have to stay on guard during their missions.
"You've got to keep yourself in the moment," Contreras said. "You've got to be aware and communicate, and always have your momentum up. When you have down time, then you can relax."
In his downtime, Contreras said he like to write letters to his fiancAfA, also of Porterville, Calif..
"I try to write her one letter every day," Contreras said.
When he returns to California, Contreras plans to continue his military career, but shift gears slightly, as a military policeman with a unit in Fresno, Calif. He also plans to attend Fresno State University, where he will study law enforcement.