Spc. Chris McCann
2nd Brigade Comabt Team, 10th Mountain Division
CAMP STRIKER, Iraq — Their mocking and sparring in the dining facility is sometimes fierce, but the love between them is apparent.
It's not the bond between Soldiers that's forged in the heat of combat – it is more rare, here in Iraq. First Sgt. Ricardo Riostirado and Pvt. Bryan Rios are father and son, and lucky enough to be working practically next door to each other, although in different units.
Riostirado, a native of Humacao, Puerto Rico, serves with 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) out of Fort Drum, N.Y. His son, Bryan, works with Troop D, 3rd Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment, 10th Aviation Brigade, also out of Fort Drum.
The Army wasn't what Riostirado wanted for his middle child. His eldest daughter, Tonya, is in college, and his youngest is only 3.
"He enlisted while I was at the National Training Center," he said. The 2nd BCT spent six weeks at the Fort Irwin, Calif., facility in March and April 2005. When Riostirado got back, his wife said that Bryan had something to tell him.
It didn't take any words at all – he just slid the pink copies of his contract across the table.
"I thought he'd just done the first steps," Riostirado said. "But he'd done it all, even had a date to ship out, raised his hand in front of the flag."
Riostirado was less than pleased, he said. Military service, especially in wartime, can be tough on a Soldier.
"After 15 years of seeing me busting my butt, I know he knew better than to follow along – but he did, all the way to Iraq," he said, laughing. He admitted that he's extremely proud of his son.
"I didn't want to get stuck in (my hometown) Sandy Creek, N.Y., looking for opportunities," Bryan said. "I wanted to do something like helicopter maintenance. ... I already knew about the Army, pretty much knew what to expect, and I knew that if I was lost and needed help, I had someone who would know."
His father, serving as a first sergeant with the 2nd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 2nd BCT, at the time of his enlistment didn't hurt matters, he said. Riostirado helped get Bryan assigned to Fort Drum. Of course, he takes flak for it as well.
"They tease me. I started getting mail here right away, because he gave me the address right away," Bryan said. "And people say 'Oh, you were home-schooled for (advanced individual training).' But it's all in fun."
Riostirado is scheduled to return to the United States in November. Bryan's unit just arrived in Iraq. Their tours will overlap by about four months, so the 15-month deployments won't be as long a separation as most Soldiers and their parents face.
They are close, as fathers and sons often are.
"I was a single parent," Riostirado said, pointing at his son. "I raised this thing!"
Bryan grudgingly confessed to visiting his father's office every Wednesday when he gets free time.
"He just comes over, the next thing I know he's in my office saying 'Hello!'" Riostirado said, mocking him gently.
"Yeah, I just show up," Bryan said. "If he's busy, I just wait."
They hunt together – deer, turkey and duck – when at Fort Drum, and argue over whose choice of music is better.
"I listen to country music, and he doesn't," Bryan said.
"I like Godsmack and Disturbed," countered Riostirado. "It's a family tradition for one of us to start something, and the other has to keep up."
Having his dad around is a help, he added.
"It doesn't seem so far from home and lonely," Bryan said of the situation. A deployment to Iraq – especially the first – can be tough. "It really teaches you not to take things for granted, when you get over here."
Bryan is a gifted mechanic, and completely rebuilt a vehicle the last time Riostirado was in Iraq, his father said.
"He could get a job anywhere with the talent he has for it," Riostirado said. Bryan is not sure if he'll make the Army a career like his father has, but loves the work he's doing and says it will give him more experience, no matter what he chooses to do later.
But Bryan's service is far from bad, Riostirado said.
"It's a mixture of feelings – pride on one side, fear on the other. Everywhere I go, people have only good things to say about him. Fear, because look where we are. It's not what I want for him, but he's a man, and he decided. And I'm terribly proud of him."