TUZ, Iraq — After eight years, the first of which were spent jumping out of airplanes in Fort Bragg, N.C., Sgt. Bradley Toman, a combat engineer with 4th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 1st Infantry Division, decided to leave the military in order to provide a sense of permanency in location and friendships for his daughter. Then after working different jobs, he chose to lace up the combat boots again to rejoin the life he had left behind.
"I had served eight years, and then I came back in because I missed the people," he said. "I just really missed the military life."
In addition to missing life in the military, Toman regretted not getting deployed, and he said his current deployment to Iraq is one achievement of his military career that he is most proud of.
"I'll take back a lot of training and a lot of battle drills," said Toman. "When [my Soldiers] are out there, they'll know exactly what's going on and will know how to deal with issues. If there's an [improvised explosive device] attack or if they're getting shot at, they'll know what to do."
"He definitely puts his Soldiers before himself," said Spc. Jake Hatch of Fort Worth, Texas, and one of Toman's Soldiers. "He goes out of his way to make sure that they're right and he takes care of his guys. I'm happy to have him as a team leader."
During an award ceremony at Forward Operating Base Bernstein, Feb. 26, Toman and nine other Wolverine battalion Soldiers were awarded Combat Action Badges for their actions after their convoy was hit by an IED.
While conducting a route-clearance mission, Toman's vehicle was hit by an IED. After the explosion, each person in the vehicle immediately began asking each other if they were OK, and before realizing, he had suffered wounds to his right arm from the shrapnel of the blast, Toman replied, "Yes."
"I felt something warm running down my right arm [which I thought was the water from] my water bottle, but then I realized it wasn't water — it was my own blood," he said.
"I'd never been hit [by an IED] before," said Toman. "The training they gave us really came through, and we all did exactly what was required of us.
"I'm ready to go out again."
As a result of the injuries he suffered from the blast, Toman was also awarded the Purple Heart which he regards with much humility.
"When I see a Purple Heart or see one being given out, I think about my grandpa back in World War II. When someone comes out missing a limb or has been a [prisoner of war], that's more of a Purple Heart. Little wounds are just something that happens on the battlefield," he said.
With his humility, also comes a good sense of humor. For many Soldiers at Forward Operating Base Bernstein, when asked about Toman, the first thing that comes to most of their minds is, "Waacaa!"
Toman came up with the expression as a small way to brighten the days of Soldiers around the FOB.
"It's something I came up with around here as just a way of messing with people, changing attitudes and making people smile, because you see a lot of frowning faces during deployment," he said.
"So, I started this karate chop-waacaa thing, and it's really caught on," he added. "I mean you don't karate chop anybody really hard or anything, it's just knowing they're having a bad day or something so you sneak up from around the corner and give them a karate chop. It seems to brighten their day for some reason."
For the future, Toman said he plans to retire from the military and afterward, buy a house and sit on the front porch with his wife.