Ironically, he and the other men were training for the Iraq service. Before the mission, President Barack Obama sent 4,000 soldiers from the 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team – along with 8,000 Marines – to Afghanistan. Escarciga and his team had to change their regime to learn mountain maneuvers. In June 2009 the unit was shipped to Kandahar.
Escarciga marked the 13 months he spent there with special dates – two birthdays and one Christmas. It was a harsh climate and the Afghan people were not very receptive to the presence of US troops.
“During the entire mission, I never felt welcome. We were there to help; But at no point did I feel that the locals were grateful. We were intruders, ”he said.
Still, the device did its best to help. Sometimes the US soldiers distributed rice, oil and blankets. At other times they had soccer balls for the kids.
“I’ve seen a lot of poverty,” he said, noting that there was no indoor plumbing and no electricity. Some people had generators, but most didn’t. “There were a lot of children on the street,” he says.
He also saw more than his share in death, and several of his friends were killed. In fact, within three days, Escarciga received the CIB – Combat Infantryman Badge – for active ground combat.
It was a dangerous time in Afghanistan, after all. The Washington Post reported that 35 soldiers were killed in action, six more died from accidents and other causes, and 239 were wounded during that time.