SJU alumnus Andrew Gaydos recently returned from a year long deployment in Afghanistan after being a part of the ROTC program while he was a student.
Gaydos graduated in May of 2009 with a degree in history and spent the first few years after graduation in Fort Polk in Louisiana as a military policeman. In March 2012, he was deployed to Afghanistan for 12 months, where he was a Physical Security Specialist and later Battle Major. As a specialist, his job was to travel to different posts, mostly those made of Afghan units, and inspect them to make sure the structures were safe and secure. As Battle Major, he directed operations and was in charge of research.
“My major in history actually helped me a lot for when I had to gather information,” Gaydos said. “It taught me critical thinking, and the final thesis taught me to research a really specific topic in depth.”
Gaydos noted the number of students involved in ROTC at CSB/SJU is not very large.
“It’s pretty small, but it makes for a tight-knit group.” Gaydos said.
Gaydos, his friend and his roommate were all part of the program when they attended CSB/SJU and ran into each other in Afghanistan. His friend’s unit was just leaving as Gaydos arrived, and the two were able to high five as they passed by each other. His roommate was deployed a year before him. The end of his stay and the beginning of Gaydos’s overlapped by one week so they were able to see each other and catch up.
“It’s as though we can’t be on the same continent at the same time,” Gaydos said.
The three friends were not deployed together based on what school they came from, but rather on the needs of army.
“You don’t get much of a say in what area you get trained in or when you go or leave because it’s all based on what they need at the time,” Gaydos said.
Now that he has returned, Gaydos is searching for a job in law enforcement. Like numerous veterans, he is having a hard time finding one. Many employers do not understand what some jobs in the army entail and worry that many veterans are still in the reserves.
“I sent my resume of my experience to a bunch of places before I got back, but only heard back from one,” Gaydos said. “A lot of people don’t want to hire someone who might have to leave at any time.”
Gaydos enjoyed aspects of his experience in Afghanistan; he got to meet many different people and see how different the cultures were even within the same country.
“It’s a nation of contrasts,” Gaydos said. “In some areas, the women wore full burkas whereas in others they had more skin showing. Even the geography was extremely different; there would be barren, brown land right next to a growing green area near a river.”
Some of the places Gaydos was stationed were made from remnants of posts from when Alexander the Great was in the country, and they came across old Soviet armored vehicles as well.
“I would definitely go back as a tourist,” Gaydos said.
Gaydos was amazed at the generosity of Operation Minnesota Nice and all that they sent to his fellow soldiers while they were away. This Ramsey based organization has families choose someone from a unit roster and send care packages to them on a regular basis.