Faces From the Front for June 13, 2011 - Spc. Eric Nielsen
Current Unit: A Battery, 320th Field Artillery, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division
Current Position: Radio and Telephone Operator
Component: Active Army
Current Location: Forward Operating Base Waza Kwah, Afghanistan
Hometown: Huntington Beach, Ca.
Years of Service: 2
“I am a nerdy egghead in a combat military occupational specialty,” Spc. Eric Nielsen said when asked to describe his work.
The 25 year-old Army specialist is assigned to the 320th Field Artillery, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, where he serves as a radio and telephone operator. Stationed at Forward Operating Base Waza Kwah, Nielsen’s responsibilities are far from ‘nerdy.’ They are essential to the Army’s overall mission in Afghanistan.
“Every artilleryman has a different job. Mine is the radio. I am the link between our gun and fire control,” Nielsen explained. “Our primary role is to support the infantry. If they need to see, we fire illumination. If they were to get in a fire fight, we provide some high explosives. We are constantly ready to destroy the enemy from miles away, regardless of conditions.”
Nielsen knows that his work is vital and that he is contributing to the survival and welfare of both his fellow Soldiers and the citizens of Afghanistan.
“We help the Afghan people by helping the infantry,” Nielsen explained. “Our troops provide security and by supporting them we indirectly provide security for the Afghans.”
Nielsen and his comrades have found common ground with the Afghan people through sports.
“Our relationship with the locals is pretty good,” Nielsen said. “The biggest surprise is how much the local nationals like volleyball. There was a volleyball tournament on our base and the locals fielded a team. They may have been shorter and not as good at jumping, by they still destroyed everyone.”
He has also gained insights and learned valuable skills throughout the tour which he plans to apply to his personal and professional life down the road.
“I have learned a lot during this deployment but one lesson that sticks out is that you can always be better. Never get complacent and practice, practice, practice.”
Although Nielsen is dedicated to the mission at hand and focused on making a difference in Afghanistan, home is never far from his mind.
“It’s an honor serving my country, but I can’t wait to go back and see my family.”
Nielsen will return home late this summer, he is eager to spend time with his wife and son.
Waiting to return to home often wears on Soldiers, but Nielsen knows he can handle the time remaining on his deployment.
“I would compare it to purgatory,” he said. “It’s not Heaven, but it could be a lot worse.”