By John Filonow
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Erik Wolff said he always wanted to join the army. From about 8- or 9- years old it’s what he wanted to do.
His grandfather was in World War II and his uncle was in Vietnam.
Wolff graduated high school in 1995 and worked a short time for a telemarketing company while attending Oklahoma State University for psychology. He joined the Army National Guard in February 1996, and became active duty in 1999.
He was deployed in 2001 to Bosnia, 2008 to Iraq and 2011 to Afghanistan.
In Afghanistan, he lost his platoon leader and best friend.
“I joined because I always wanted to be in the army, but didn’t really feel like being active duty was my choice.”
He said he wanted be in the guard because he wanted to go to school and be in the military too.
“Basic training, it was different from what I’ve ever experienced before, drill sergeants are pretty tough, yell at you a lot, basically try to mold you into a soldier, to be able to take orders and to be able to do what your told to do, without question,” Wolfe said.
Wolff’s first deployment was to Bosnia in September 2000.
“That was just a peace-keeping mission, so the mision wasn’t really tough, being away from home for that long. I was gone for almost a year, away from the family,” Wolff said.
He said living conditions were good, as U.S. forces had already been in Bosnia for a while.
In Bosnia, Wolff was an administrative non-commissioned officer. He described his job as “just your daily administrative tasks.”
He was deployed to Iraq in 2008, where he was a platoon sergeant in an infantry company. He worked at Baghdad International Airport where his platoon was in charge of the detainee holding area and transporting detainees to the Iraqi courts.
Wolff said there was nothing negative he could say about the deployment.
“I’d say conditions there were really good because we were at BIAP, that’s like the main hub in Iraq, they have a huge PX, almost probably the size of Wal-Mart.”
Wolff was deployed to Afghanistan in 2011 in an infantry company again.
“We didn’t do any foot patrols in Iraq, in Afghanistan we did, my battalion, my company, we were in the Logman Province. We worked directly with the ANA, which is the Afghan National Army,” Wolff said.
“A lot of time I was paired up with an ANA platoon, and our job was to work with them to train them ... we would do a lot of patrols in the villages,” Wolff said.
“We kind of took a back seat to the ANA and tried to let them work the issues out,” Wolff said.
Wolff said they would meet with tribal leaders and do interviews or have a shura, the Afghan word for meeting.
He said his platoon encountered resistance from the Taliban in Afghanistan.
“My platoon itself, in the patrols where we were driving in our MRAP, which is Mine-Resistant vehicles or whatever, the big trucks you see, my platoon itself was hit by 6 IEDs and actually had quite a few casualties. We lost our platoon leader. And then as far as the enemy ... didn’t really see them too much.”
Wolff said when they were doing unmounted patrols or mounted patrols, the Taliban would shoot at them from the mountains.
Wolff said the first two deployments weren’t really what he had envisoned the army being like, Afghanistan was.
“Maybe it’s crazy, I don’t know, but it’s something that I’ve always wanted to do,” Wolff said. “I’d always wanted to be in an infantry unit and be in a firefight. As far as my first firefight ... my first instinct was, this is exactly what it was gonna be like, but the consequences aren’t really what (I thought they might be.)”
He said being in Afghanistan showed him how much people in the U.S. take for granted, but people are similar everywhere.
“Really when it comes down to it, a lot of their issues are just like us, and it was really cool to see that side of the Afghan people,” Wolff said.
Wolff said he didn’t expect the tight brotherhood that comes with being in the army. The men in his platoon “literally became my brothers,” he said.
He said he would recommend joining the Army to others because of learning values like leadership and self reliance.
“There are not too many people my age who can say they’ve lived their dream,” Wolff said. “I’m proud of what I’ve done.”
Wolff said he has seven more years and then he can get an active duty retirement.
He plans to go back to college for graphic design and have his own shop after retiring from the guard.