Civil Affairs Soldier helping build friendships

By Pfc. Abel Trevino
28th Public Affairs Detachment

LOGISTICS SUPPORT AREA ANACONDA, Balad, Iraq — Sgt. Stephen Blaklui Soliz is much more than an NCO for civil affairs. By looking at him, one can't tell that for three years he was a tank crewman, or that before his deployment to Iraq he was in college with the goal of becoming a policeman.

"Before I was activated [from the Army reserves], I was attending [Austin Community] College full-time trying to get a degree in criminal justice because I was planning, when we get back from this deployment, on applying at the Austin Police Department and making a career out of that," he said.

Soliz's Army career originated as an armor crewman with the Abrams tanks, a job he looks back on with fond memories.

"That was a fun [time] mainly because a lot of the guys I worked with, we work so much together, that we knew each other so well, they were like my right-hand men. I knew them on a personal level, and it wasn't one or two guys, it was the whole platoon and company," Soliz said. "It was a good unit, a lot of good guys there."

Soliz said that he tries to find the best in everything, and thoroughly enjoys his current job.

"I like my job, it gives me a chance to go out and see and learn the customs of this country," he said. "It really helps give us an opportunity to say that we've actually contributed to the locals here."

With his current unit, Soliz spends a lot of time on the security aspect of humanitarian missions in local villages.

"I help prepare for the convoys we go out on, security-wise," he said. "Myself and others pull security outside the gate while we're doing missions."

Being stationed in Iraq at LSA Anaconda, and able to interact with the local nationals has been the highlight of his Army career.

"This is my first out-of-country deployment," he said. "This gives us the opportunity to say that we're out helping another country, but the stuff that we see, it's so compelling to help out."

This is Soliz's second deployment, but his first deployment away from the United States.

"We were deployed back in 2001 [to help] with the forest fires in Montana. That was another humanitarian mission, so both of my [deployments] combined were humanitarian missions not only for foreign nationals, but for fellow (United States) citizens," he said.

Soliz knows his family worries about what could happen to him, especially when he leaves the safety of the post.

"They worry, but at the same time there's a lot of pride that goes along with it," he said. "I miss seeing them, but they shouldn't worry about me even though it's second nature to them. We'll be home soon."

Last time Soliz went home he felt that he made a positive influence on the lives of neighborhood teens.

"I went back to where my family lives and there were a lot of young Hispanic kids and they were all interested in the situation going on down here and I got to tell them how it is here, how it's not as bad as the media puts it out to be," he said. "It seemed like the interest and the respect was there, although I didn't ask for it."

Soliz will redeploy to the United States in late December or early January, but stresses to those currently stationed here to make the most of the experience.

"Stay positive, look at the good things going on here. Look how much better the base is since we first got here, and everything improves everyday," he said.

"Make your job fun."

Editor's Note: Pfc. Trevino is assigned to the 28th Public Affairs Detachment from Fort Lewis, Wash. He is currently deployed to Iraq in support of the 13th Corps Support Command at LSA Anaconda.


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(LOGISTICS SUPPORT AREA ANACONDA, Balad, Iraq) - Sgt. Stephen Soliz provides security for civil affairs missions as a gunner keeping an eye out for suspicious activity.

news photo
(LOGISTICS SUPPORT AREA ANACONDA, Balad, Iraq) - Sgt. Stephen Soliz provides security for civil affairs missions as a gunner keeping an eye out for suspicious activity.