Shadow 1 (Days Sixty One and Sixty Two)
We are resting in Lebanon, Virginia. The people here have been very friendly, but we are tired of Applebees and looking forward to a challenging 4 days into Charlottesville covering 300 miles and 14,000 feet of climbing.
I have spent time reflecting on the previous five days spent with my friend Steve Camposan (aka sierra bravo, aka shadow 1 to me) and the journey we have taken together since early 2002. What a road it has been....
Before I share some fond memories or Steve, let me just publically give him recognition for the stellar riding performance this week. He kept up over four very challenging days, finished stronger than he started and brought much welcomed enthusiasm and humor to the week. And for his fans back in Bozeman, MT that may be reading this, I am on the record by saying he didn't put me up to any of this!
I met Steve at Fort Benning during basic training. Back then he was "208 Camposan". Everyone in our class had a number and it corresponded to your platoon and soldier number in the class. So Steve was second platoon, soldier 8 and I was second platoon soldier 21 or "221 Mincio". Everytime you announced yourself or drew a weapon or did anything for identification purposes, you yelled out your number and your last name. So, my early memories of Steve were simply him yelling out 208-Camposan! He was just 20 years old back then, and I was the grandpa of the platoon at age 31. That didn't stop us from becoming great friends - although the Army didn't give us a choice......
Steve and I were what the Army called Battle Buddies. I am not sure if they still do this, but back in 2002 they had a program where they paired two soldiers together and kept them together for their first duty station, which in our case was Fort Lewis. So after graduating from Infantry School at Fort Benning, 208 Camposan and 221 Mincio were off the Fort Lewis, WA and we would be stuck together for the next three years. Truth be told, I was very happy with the soldier the Army selected for me - and today, I am even happier and a better person for it.
Due to a hometown recruiting assignment I received, Steve arrived a couple days prior to me and was in a staff job waiting for his "battle buddy" to arrive, presumably to join him in the staff platoon. Well that didn't happen, and day one at Fort Lewis for me turned into both Steve and I nearly drowning (not kidding) in a combat swim test during a scout selection course. Somehow we both got selected after the end of the grueling week try-out. While Steve would admit I did better than him in the swim test, he did better than me in just about everything else. Together, we are still not sure how I we both made the cut! It was in that platoon where we both met Jesse Williams. Steve and Jesse were great friends. I remember the only thing Steve didn't like about Jesse was that he was always in a good mood! Neither of us could ever figure out how to be happy all the time like Jesse was.
The recon platoon had a call sign of "Shadow" and since Steve was the RTO (radio telephone operator) for team 1 and I was the RTO for team 2, our call signs were Shadow 1 and Shadow 2. Being the RTO was the job no one wanted because you had to lug around all the radio equipment and follow the team leader. It typically went to the most junior person on each team (i.e. me and Steve). After time, we learned how to stand up and sit down and stand back up again with our 100 pound rucksacks and we eventually had some fun with it (sort of). To this day, we still call each other Shadow 1 and Shadow 2 or 1 and 2 for short when we talk on the phone, email or text.
I can write all day about Steve. Over the past 9 years, we have been through a combat tour together. Although we were separated for the majority of it, we saw plenty of each other on critical missions. And, I did play the battle buddy card at the end of the deployment which brought us back together again for the remainder of our enlistment.
While I finished my reserve comittment as an ROTC instructor one weekend a month on Fort Lewis, Steve finished his as an member of the Arkansas National Guard and was deployed for a second time. The circumstances were not exactly within his control, but he did have options and he chose his country over his personal endeavors, which included college at the time. The deployment set him back nearly two years of schooling and took him away from his family following the sudden and tragic death of his father, Kent. It's selfless soldiers like Steve that make our military so strong and enable us all to live free. Thank you Steve for being such a loyal friend - as hard as that may be sometimes. I couldn't ask for a better battle buddy.
To the limit,