July 27, 2003, 15:37 EST

New experiences and pride help keep soldier focused

Army Spc. Richard Bergeron, of A Co., 2nd Battalion, 116th Inf. Reg. mans the turret on a mounted patrol through the hills of Guantanamo.
Story by Army Sgt. Benari Poulten

Guantanamo Bay, Cuba- New experiences, perspectives and pride of service have kept this Virginia Army National Guard specialist vigilantly focused for more than eight months in spite of family separation and a slow down in his educational goals.

"I never expected to come down here, I can tell you that, but ... I like the new experience of coming to a different place," said Specialist Richard Bergeron of Alpha Company, 2nd/116th Infantry Regiment of the Virginia Army National Guard. Spc. Bergeron has many responsibilities, including mounted and dismounted patrols, manning the checkpoints, and working in the guard towers of Camp Delta where detainees, apprehended during Operation Enduring Freedom are housed.

"It's a different experience," Bergeron says. After eight years of Army service, both on active duty and in the Virginia Army National Guard, he feels this deployment has provided him with a unique perspective. As a member of the infantry he has various jobs that require a myriad of training and constant vigilance. But of all the tasks he has to perform, he prefers the fundamentals.

"I like doing the mounted and dismounted patrols best. I mean, that's basically what the infantry does, and that's what I enjoy doing ... I like to walk through the terrain," said Spc. Bergeron.

He had initially joined the Army for the college money, but he found that the military opened up his eyes to a much larger world. He had been working on a degree in psychology when in November 2002, he deployed to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Although military service has interrupted his studies, he remains pleased with his decision to join. "I'm proud to serve my country and knowing that I did more than the average citizen could do," he asserts.

Bergeron had also just begun a new family when he got married last June. "I just try to e-mail her as much as possible, and try to get as many phone calls as I can," says Spc. Bergeron. He doesn't enjoy being separated from his wife for this long, but he does all he can to stay in touch.

As Bergeron nears the end of his deployment, he looks back on his time here, commending the hard work of his fellow troopers and taking satisfaction in a job well done. "I'm extremely proud about serving in the Global War on Terrorism, especially after September 11th. I remember I was in school when it happened, and I saw it on TV ... so, I'm glad that I could do something for my country during this time. I think that we're doing a good job while we're down here."

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