News: Welder by trade, guard by night!
FORWARD OPERATING BASE TARIN KOWT, Afghanistan -- When approaching the American entry control point of Camp Cole, Forward Operating Base Tarin Kowt, Afghanistan by foot, the large concrete barriers confining the pedestrian walkway may give you a wary feeling while local vehicles are being searched.
Of course this is done for the Soldiers' protection, but it acts as a reminder of the dangers they face.
When given the go ahead to approach the ECP, you are greeted with the smile and enthusiasm of Pfc. Angel Altamirano, welder by trade, ECP guard by night! His attitude gives service members confidence and relieves any apprehensions.
Altamirano has the responsibility of securing the camp where Soldiers live during an eight hour shift every day.
Before deploying to Afghanistan with Task Force No Mercy, Altamirano was diagnosed with a 45 percent loss of hearing.
However, he is medically cleared and physically able to accomplish his mission.
He is confident in his abilities as a Soldier and drives on with the mission at hand.
"I challenge myself every day," said Altamirano. "I never put my condition in front of me, because that would stop me from doing what I came here to do."
He was assigned to guard the ECP after working at the motorpool and the loud noises of the machinery began causing him more discomfort and problems.
"We placed Altamirano on ECP because the noise there would not be as loud, and he only has to work eight hours a day instead of the normal ten or 12 hours," said 1st Sgt. Darrell Dawkins, E Company, TF No Mercy.
Despite the change of his work environment, he is seeking medical help to relieve the pain and correct the problem.
"We will be sending him back to the rear detachment for more medical treatment," said Dawkins.
Although he suffers from a hearing problem, he keeps a positive attitude.
Altamirano said he puts his pain aside so he can live each day to the fullest.
"It's better to be a part of the solution than a part of the problem," he said.
He is always on guard and alert while checking everyone's identification, as well as searching the bags and trucks of contractors entering the camp.
His hearing problem does not get in the way of him accomplishing his duty as an ECP guard. He is still able to communicate easily with everyone he works with.
"We work together so that we can do the best job securing this place," said Altamirano. "Since I am here on a regular basis, I communicate everything with the NCO on duty."
He will communicate what he sees and learns from the experiences with others he works with to ensure nothing gets past them.
"People are trying to see how we do our job so that they can try to get past us," he said.
Altamirano said the enemy is looking for their weakness,' but they have none when it comes to protecting Camp Cole.
One instance when he suspected someone was testing them was when an Afghan man tried to enter with bottles of body wash strapped to his torso.
He notified his sergeant, and they began to question and search the man.
Altamirano says that he has learned a lot about people from their demeanor and how they act around the Soldiers on guard.
"When people react oddly, then I know something isn't right," he said. "I will search harder until I feel that I have done all that I can do to ensure that the job was done right."
Altamirano is very confident and comfortable as an ECP guard.
Although he endures the discomfort of his hearing problem on a daily basis, he is more worried about other people learning from his mistakes and enjoying his job protecting other Soldiers.
"I am always telling people to wear earplugs," said Altamirano. "You don't think about it now, but it will affect you in the long run."
Altamirano was an auto mechanic for 15 years before joining the Army. Due to constant loud noise and never wearing earplugs, the nerves in his ears were damaged over the years.
While on guard at the ECP, no one realizes his discomfort because of the smile on his face and his enthusiasm.
Even as Altamirano is preparing to leave Afghanistan to receive medical treatment for his condition, he encourages other Soldiers to keep their earplugs in and their spirits high.
Date Posted:05.29.2010 07:03
Location:FORWARD OPERATING BASE TARIN KOWT, AF
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