3 brothers, uncle serving in Kabul area
June 1, 2011
KABUL, Afghanistan -- A Nebraska family is serving their nation above and beyond the call of duty.
As unbelievable as this sounds, three brothers are serving together in the Kabul area and living in nearby Camp Phoenix. All are in the same unit, infantrymen in their 20s, married with young children.
What are the odds of this?
“Slim to none,” said Sgt. Bob Brewer, who turned 26, June 1, 2011, the youngest of the three brothers.
All serve with C Troop (Long Range Surveillance), 1st Squadron-134th Cavalry Regiment (Task Force Fury). They also serve as contract officer representatives for the Regional Support Command - Capital, NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan, serving as its eyes and ears on structural projects for Afghan police and army needs in the Kabul and outlying region areas.
The reunion around the world was made possible because all three live in Nebraska and all are in the Nebraska National Guard. But, just that fact they’re all infantrymen and all Airborne qualified is truly amazing.
Oldest brother Sgt. 1st Class Steve Brewer, 29, is Ranger qualified and middle brother Staff Sgt. Tim Brewer, 27, is air assault qualified. And, all three have been awarded the Combat Infantryman Badge.
“We’re good shooters,” Bob said, reminiscing back to their boyhood, adding they all had Red Ryder BB guns and used shoot each other - "not in the eye," of course!
“It’s just what we’re good at,” Bob said of shooting.
The Brewers mainly grew up in the rural setting, Bob said. Their parents split up when Bob was 3. Over the years, he and his sister were raised by their mom, and Steve and Tim by their dad for the most part.
Their sister, Jackie, is the senior sibling and served in the Marines during the invasion of Iraq back in early 2003. She was in theater the same time Steve was there although they never met up. She was in Kuwait and Steve in Iraq. She worked as a aircraft generator mechanic, he said.
“As an infantryman, you fight,” Steve explained. But with his current assignment, “I had to become peaceful,” he said of his assignment as a team leader in a Police Mentor Team who associates with three Afghan police districts. One is in the Deh Sabz area, described by Steve as one of the poorest districts. His team has 13 members.
Poor takes on a new meaning here as the average annual income in Afghanistan is $500.
“We’ve done a lot in Deh Sabz,” Steve said, adding that $3.7 million has been spent here to improve conditions.
In his last two deployments, Steve was a sniper.
“All three of us were in Iraq together” in 2005, Steve said, describing it as “mind boggling.” “Both my brothers and I are highly trained fighters.”
Yet, Steve and Tim find themselves as peacemakers between various parties at odds with each other in Kabul.
“I’m the American voice at the shura,” Steve said. A shura is a meeting between village elders to discuss government issues like well digging, schools, crops/food, etc. As in America, it’s important for the police to know the people they’re protecting, he said.
Steve was in the Deh Sabz district to attend a shura with 46 village elders and also meet with the district police chief and sub-governor. In passing, he talked with village elders about a myriad of concerns individually.
“You have to have the people on your side to be an effective police force,” Steve said.
The brothers know this to be true firsthand because their dad is the chief of police back in Gordon, Neb. The father has 31 years on the force. Their mother is a paramedic.
“The ANP (Afghan National Police) are very willing to work. That’s enough for us,” he said. “We train them hard.”
Steve is also familiar with “jirga” - a peace sitting between families feuding about major issues like land disputes. He said is role is to remain neutral and help find a mutual agreement. Some “blood feuds” have been going on hundreds, if not thousands of years, Steve said.
Although on surface it seems that the Brewer family has sacrificed enough, it turns out that their dad’s brother, Tom, is an Army colonel serving in Kabul too.
In a nutshell, the Brewer brothers’ uncle has 33 years in the Army and Nebraska National Guard as an infantry officer and was wounded in Afghanistan in 2003. Tom was the first field-grade American officer to be wounded in action in Afghanistan and received the Purple Heart for being hit six times by enemy fire.
To date, he has spent five tours in Afghanistan.
Now, he is assigned to U.S. Central Command’s counter narcotics organization. Tom serves as an adviser for the Counter-Narcotics Police of Afghanistan in Kabul.
“I have always been proud of the boys. They have been in both Iraq and Afghanistan, all infantrymen and Steve is third generation Army Ranger,” Tom said via an email interview as he was on rest and relaxation leave back home.
“The boys grandfather - Ross, my father -- was a Korean War Airborne Ranger and set a great example of for all of us. The boys have always been hard workers and good kids.”
Ross also received a Purple Heart from being wounded by an enemy bayonet, Tim said. His grandfather is now 83 and lives in Wyoming.
Tom said he sees his nephews about every two-three weeks and most holidays like the previous Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter.
For more information on Tom, the Nebraska State Historical Society web site has this link: www.Nebraskahistory.org/exhibits/national_guard/brewer.htm
Tom has a daughter enrolled in the Army’s Reserve Officer Training Corps.
“My two younger brothers impress me in every way,” Steve said. “My brothers are very hard workers and honor us in the Army.”
The brothers say they see one or the other several times a week while doing their missions. However, the chance of getting all three together might be about once or twice a month, Bob said. “We just seem to run into each other.”
As it turns out, there is still one more brother, Andy, who just graduated from high school. But, two of the brothers say Andy most likely won’t be wearing the uniform as college is on the horizon.
“I don’t think he’s going into the military,” Steve said. “My family has sacrificed enough. It’s time for another family to step up to the plate.”
“I would agree about that,” said Bob. “I think he’s going to college.”
“I wouldn’t count him out,” said Tim, explaining that Andy does have interest in what his brothers are doing in the Army.
For Tim, life is similar to brother Steve’s, as he too serves as a team leader with a police mentor team to the Afghan Uniformed Police.
Tim went to check on how things were going with “D3” or Directed District Development at Police District 8, a course conducted that is similar to police basic training. The course is eight weeks long and educates recruits who are receiving “on-the-job” training as policemen who are now receiving their formal training.
Tim met with some of the course instructors to double check procedures and classes -- like the Afghan Constitution -- are followed and taught according to schedule, he said.
“We try not to bust into the class and interrupt them,” he said.
Later that day, a visit was made to Police District 16 where he met with Police Chief Sayeed Farooq Sadat in his office to discuss overall operations.
“We let them lead the way as much as possible,” Tim said, like clearing operations in dangerous areas. “They’ve been doing a lot of stuff on their own.”
Today topics of discussion included the recent bust where a cache of weapons and hashish were found. The items confiscated were brought into the office to show Tim.
This included a Russian AK-47 and some magazines, pistols, hand grenades, ammunition, hashish, and a walkie-talkie which reveals the channels that insurgents were talking on. There were also two photographs of men -- an older photo and one newer -- which could lead to possible identification of the enemy.
Tim described the Bagrami district as “one of the worst areas” of Kabul because of drugs, land disputes, etc. Like Steve, Tim mentors directly with a police chief.
“I’ll give them ideas in training, patrols,” Tim said, but “I’m not here to tell them what to do.”
Discussion also focused on an operation tomorrow to check on some buildings suspected of insurgent activity. The plan calls for Tim’s team to provide backup for Sadat’s police and this would mean about three hours a sleep at best this evening.
“It’s his operation,” Tim said.
“We have these areas that we need to clear out” based on local intelligence, Sadat said through an interpreter.
As for the youngest brother, Bob, his work is somewhat different as he conducts dismounted patrols in search of improvised explosive devices in clearing operations.
Bob also mentors Afghan National Army soldiers in supply and logistics.
“They have different views on things,” he said.
Bob’s team visited the Musahi district where insurgents have been trying to infiltrate with explosives. A new checkpoint along a road has been set up with Afghan army checking to make sure things are as they should be. Bob’s job is to check on the Afghan army.
Also in this area on April 14, 2011, around 7:15 a.m., a “bongo” truck topped off with fire wood for contractors, parked just outside what’s known as the “government building” exploded thanks to 500 pounds of ammonium nitrate and an insurgent suicide bomber.
The building was destroyed with the blast damaging several adjacent buildings to it including the sub-governor’s center and police district headquarters.
Fortunately, no one was killed but three Afghans were injured, including two village elders.
On site, Bob showed the rock wall about 10 feet high now being rebuilt that once partitioned the building and police district headquarters. The wall saved the lives of those inside the headquarters building by absorbing much of the blast’s impact despite damage to the headquarters.
Things have definitely changed from the days when the Brewer boys were growing up near the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation just north of Gordon across the border in South Dakota. Instead of BB guns, they now have the Army’s most modern weaponry. Instead of romping around in Nebraska, they’re in Afghanistan.
“I played football and wrestled, like Steve," Bob said. Tim went out for wrestling. Today, they help NATO and its coalition partners win another event -- winning a war against terrorists. The stakes are much, much higher, and affect people in Afghanistan, the United States, and NATO partners.
No doubt things have change for the Brewer brothers. But, to meet each one individually, one sees a common thread in all. The brothers are young men with great responsibilities and pressures, who through it all, have not lost their respect and good manners for others.
“It’s a good support chain,” Bob said of having his older brothers here.
Asked if there was any big redeployment reunion plans later this summer back in Nebraska, Bob replied: “We haven’t talked about it much.”
“It’s definitely a family tradition," said Tim of the Brewer family’s military service. “I’m really glad I did it,” Tim said.