Air Force Staff Sgt. Anthius Bruno is stationed at the U.S. military base at Kandahar. Bruno said everything the troops in the war zone need is shipped through the base — armored tanks, construction equipment, vehicle and airplane parts, medical supplies and mail. -- Special Photo
Built on the edge of the Margow Desert in southeastern Afghanistan, Kandahar Air Field sits atop an ancient dry lake bed surrounded by mountains. The region is dusty, unresponsive to sensitive electronic equipment, and the Taliban and Al-Qaida continue to roam menacingly in the nearby hills.
Like most major American military bases in modern-day war zones, Kandahar offers a wide selection of homestyle conveniences: seven dining facilities, a PX loaded with snacks, and The Boardwalk, which houses Mamma Mia's Pizza, Kentucky Fried Chicken, a TGI Friday's, an All Seasons restaurant, and a Green Bean Cafe. But it still ain't home, and the cookin' isn't either!
"I miss my wife's cooking," Air Force Staff Sgt. Anthius Bruno explained. "Her delicious baked chicken, grits, rice, catfish, and I really miss spending quality time with my family."
A 1998 graduate of Rockdale County High School, Bruno joined the U.S. Air Force Reserves in 2003. "I was in search of something challenging, something that would help in building character," he stated. His home base is Dobbins in Marietta, the 80th Aerial Port Squadron. Having served one deployment in 2005 at Ali Al Salem, Kuwait, Bruno is on his second overseas assignment in Afghanistan as an air transportation specialist with the 451st Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron.
"I'm an assistant team chief in charge of getting the Air Force planes loaded in a timely fashion with supplies going into the war zone," he explained. "We're kinda like a combination of UPS, the Postal Service, and Hartsfield Airport all rolled up into one. We are part of a huge supply link that gets military assets to their proper destination."
It's been stated that an army travels on its stomach. The soldiers in Afghanistan need a lot more than military grub to accomplish their missions.
"We ship out everything from armored tanks, construction equipment, vehicle and airplane parts, medical supplies, passengers, prisoners, and one thing the troops really look forward to receiving, the mail," Bruno said.
Kandahar may sit on a dry lake bed, but the base is in a year-round malaria risk zone. All uniforms are pre-treated with Permethrin prior to arrival in Afghanistan. It's even recommended soldiers not get tattoos for at least three weeks prior to arriving because of too many people in too close quarters with open smallpox vaccinations.
"It's tough over here," Bruno said. "But I like the work I do here because it's part of something greater than me. It gives you a better appreciation and respect for our way of life, our country and our freedom."
Bruno claims his job is "behind the scenes," but in Afghanistan, just like Vietnam, there isn't a "behind the scenes" job, anywhere. Still, he reiterates, "We may be considered behind the scenes, but I know my job is important and vital. Our soldiers can't fight the war effectively unless they have the supplies and equipment that I send them."
The hardest part of being deployed: "Being away from my wife and my 1 -1/2-year-old son; and I miss all my family, especially Mom."
Albeit halfway around the globe, family did come together. "I got the surprise of my life recently," Bruno said. "My cousin, Army Staff Sgt. Reno Moore, transferred into Kandahar for a month with his unit. He graduated from Rockdale, too, the class of 1997. We grew up together, went to school together, but haven't seen each other in years due to our different branches of service and overseas deployments. It was really nice to see him again and catch up on things. Like they say, it's a small world"
The hardest part of his job: "We transport the bodies of military members who've lost their lives in combat back to the states. Seeing the transfer cases with the American flags draped over them isn't very easy to deal with because you know that this person has given their life for the freedom of someone else."
Staff Sgt. Bruno was interviewed via email from his base in Afghanistan. I've not met the man personally, yet I feel like we've known each other all our lives. The Band of Brothers and Sisters is a constant, spanning generations with the adhesive of war bonding us together in the most exclusive of clubs: American veterans.
Bruno's wife, Crystal, resides in Conyers. His mother, Margaret Aikens, lives in Covington. Rockdale and Newton should be proud of this young man; he's one of our best.
Pete Mecca is a Vietnam veteran, columnist, and free-lance writer. Contact him at: email@example.com.