Soldier shares Afghanistan experiences midway through tour
Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, hands Spc. Justin Reinschmidt a coin at the conclusion of Breedlove's visit to Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, on Jan. 9, 2014, which Reinschmidt helped support. Reinschmidt is an Oklahoma National Guardsman with 1st Battalion, 158th Field Artillery.
With military efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan winding down, it's easy to forget about the soldiers still trudging overseas. Despite political efforts to reduce deployments and the number of troops in the war-torn countries, men and women from all over the country still travel to the Middle East at the behest of the U.S. military.
One such traveler is Chickasha, Okla., native and National Guard Spc. Justin Reinschmidt.
For the past three months, Reinschmidt has been in southern Afghanistan working as personal security detail for an Army general. He took some time this week to call The Express-Star and discuss his experiences and the differences between home and his current residence.
"It's dusty over here," he said of the area surrounding Kandahar. "It's very dusty. The vehicles are very different. You may see a Chevy here or there, but they are different model vehicles from what you see back home."
Reinschmidt's days consists of food served to him at base at a southern regional command center. The soldier initially trained to be a part of a multiple launch rocket crew, but this mission was scrubbed and he was rolled into another platoon with the new task of guard service.
"It was stressful when the mission got scrubbed, but everything has gotten better," he said. "My entire military career I trained for one thing, but I am really glad to be where I am right now."
Multiple reports have shown the action has calmed down in surrounding Kandahar, but occasional rocket attacks still plague Reinschmidt and his fellow soldiers.
"We haven't had anyone injured in awhile, but it certainly keeps you on your toes," he said.
When he does travel into Kandahar, Reinschmidt said the city is unlike anything he expected.
"I was in grade school when 9/11 happened, and all I thought of the Middle East was barren dessert with camels," he said. "You get over here and it's such a diverse culture. My firs time in the city was a little overwhelming. It's a bombed out wasteland, but you can see people are starting to rebuild."
The 22-year-old was born in Grady Memorial Hospital. Shortly after, he and his family relocated to the Elk City area. After a short stint at Oklahoma State University, he returned to the area and joined the National Guard. After he learned of his deployment, Reinschmidt and his wife, Jessica, relocated to Chickasha to be closer to Fort Sill and his training station.
Now deployed, Reinschmidt uses Facebook to keep in touch with his wife, but sometimes days pass where the young couple are unable to communicate.
"It can be so frustrating not being able to talk to him everyday, but it makes the times we do get to talk so much more special," Jessica said.
Both husband and wife said they miss each other immensely and their two-year-old son longs for his father, as well.
"He just took off into the terrible-twos as soon as Justin left," Jessica said. "It's just really hard to explain to him why his dad isn't here."
Despite this, the Reinschmidt’s said they have no problem remembering why Justin is currently across the Atlantic.
"It's rare that we get to interact with the general populace, but when we do the children always wave from the side of the road and want us to throw out candy or water," Reinschmidt said. "It just makes you want to stop and wave back or just say hi."
Reinschmidt said he is considering re-enlisting, but hasn't made a final decision yet. Regardless, his wife said she will support him no matter what.
"Justin is the best man I know," she said. "He is a loving father and husband, he goes above and beyond for those he loves. His decision about enlistment in the military is so he could provide a better future for his family and serve his country with honor and pride. I couldn't have asked for a better person to be in my life. He has saved me in more ways than anyone could ever understand, and I love and adore him more with each day that passes."
Reinschmidt does not have an official end of tour date but expects to return to Chickasha in July.