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Parallels

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Parallels


                           ThumbSpec Benjamin Cossel
196th MPAD

NEW ORLEANS - Four Soldiers, each from different backgrounds and experiences. Four very different lives who currently find themselves in New Orleans with the Ohio Army National Guard’s Company D, 1st of the 148th Infantry Regiment. This mission is not the only experience they have in common. All four of these citizen Soldiers have spent time deployed in support of the global war on terrorism and each sees parallels between there and here.

“The Truck Driver”

The soft-spoken Spec Anderson Gardner calls Chardon, Ohio home. He and his father own Gardner’s Competition Machinist, a specialty shop for custom made bearings, joints and other automotive parts.

“Right now, dad’s running the shop on his own while I’m here helping the victims of Katrina,” Gardner said.

He deployed to Iraq with 762nd Transportation Company, 88th Reserve Support Command. As an 88m, truck driver, stationed just on the friendly side of the Kuwait/Iraq border, Gardner and his fellow Soldiers convoyed supplies and other materials to Forward Operating Bases all over Iraq going as far north as Mosul.

“I got to see a lot of varied regions when we would drive our supply routes,” he said. 

“There are definitely some areas of the Iraqi country side that look a lot like where we are now.”

Where Gardner sees the starkest parallel is the trash on the streets.

“The roads in Iraq were just completely littered with trash,” said Gardner.

When winds estimated at over 140 mph hit New Orleans, trash from everywhere spilled out, whipped around in the storm to settle where ever Mother Nature deemed appropriate when her winds finally subsided.

“The trash all over the place is the same,” he said. “I know it’s a different situation, but you can’t help but look at it and see the similarity.”

In April of this year, Gardner decided it was time for a change. He felt he could make more of a difference in the National Guard serving as 11b, Infantrymen.

“You know,” Gardner said, “being a truck driver is an important job but I felt I could offer more as an Infantry Soldier.”

While serving with the 1st of the 148th Inf. Reg. in New Orleans, his prior skills working in the motor pool and civilian world have proven worthwhile. Already he’s helped his squad-mates fix several boat motors they’ve come across to aid in their Search and Rescue Operations.

“It feels really good to get out more,” Gardner said.  “It confirms you’re actually contributing.”

“The Water Purification Specialist”

While the Gardner drove trucks up and down Military Supply Routes, Spec Patrick Fairhurst worked as a 92w, water purification specialist who didn’t spend much time working in his Military Occupational Specialty.

“I spent a lot of time doing the job of an Infantrymen, going out on patrols, things like that,” he said.

Like Gardner, Fairhurst started in the Army Reserve though with the 79th Quartermaster when he deployed to Iraq. And, like Gardner again, when Fairhurst joined the National Guard, he traded his water purification skills for the hard life and adventure of the Infantry.

“The houses here look the same,” said Fairhurst. “In some of the slums of Iraq and the places we’ve been going through here, where the water and wind has destroyed this place, they look the same.”

Fairhurst also went on to note that many of the smells are the same; the burning trash, the putrid water, the general stench lingering in the air.

But with all the similarities, Fairhurst says he’s definitely glad for one huge difference.

“I’m sure glad no one here is shooting at us, that there are no IEDs (Improvised Explosives Devices), and no mortars,” Gardner chuckled. “And obviously, we weren’t going out on to many boat missions in Iraq.”

Back home, Fairhurst is working to become a full-time police officer. He’d just joined his local police force part-time when the call came for him to pack his gear and get down to his unit.

“It’s all right though,” said Fairhurst. “It’s fulfilling to be helping people who really need it down here.”

“The Medic”

“Iraq was a man-made disaster, this here….this is a natural disaster and from my perspective that’s one of the few differences between the two,” said Spec.Ralph “Doc” Isabella.

The Sheffield Lake, Ohio resident and 91w, medic, took a long road to get with Company D, 1st of the 148th Inf. Reg. 

Isabella deployed to Iraq with the North Carolina National Guard’s 1st of the 120th Infantry Regiment. Worn with great pride, the big, red, numeral “1” patch sewn on his right shoulder indicates the major command the “Doc” fell under.

“Basically I met a woman while we were in Iraq….she was from Ohio,” explained Isabella. “When we came home, I moved back to Ohio, see…I’m originally from Cleveland, so….”

Isabella said many of the concerns he had serving as a medic on the battle fields of Sammara and Baquba are the same concerns he has treating his Soldiers in the “Big Easy.”

“Sanitation is key,” he says. “Just like Iraq, no cut here is too small. Everything must be treated with antibiotics immediately.”

High levels of contamination in the water make it dangerous to many of the Soldiers who routinely wade through during their search and rescue operations.

“Nothing, absolutely nothing is a small cut!” Isabella says with the zeal of a doctor trying to convince a patient to quiet smoking.

“The other similarity I see is the heat conditions and the possibility for heat casualties.”

Mired in the tail end of the dog days of a Southern Louisiana summer, Soldiers routinely run their missions for eight-to-10 hours a day.

“I can’t tell these guys enough to drink plenty of water. It’s a different type of heat than what we’re used to in Ohio…the humidity here is unreal.”

Even with all the warnings, Isabella still has the occasional Soldier who comes to see him needing an IV.

Isabella currently works as a businessman managing a car dealership. The smooth talking skills so handy in selling cars come through as Isabella quickly develops an easy banter with his patients, calming them down, determining what needs treated. Whether Soldier or citizen, Isabella treats them all.

“It’s all about helping people,” he said “That's what we were doing in Iraq, that’s what we’re doing here. But, you just sort of get that extra sense of satisfaction helping your own country-men.”

“The Infantryman”

While the first three Soldiers all spent time serving in Iraq, through and through “grunt,” Spec. Frank Ranalli served with the Marines in Afghanistan.

“Just like Afghanistan, everyone here looks run down,” Ranalli said.

Ranalli was with the 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment in Afghanistan. A torn ligament in his shoulder prevented him from doing pull-ups, a mandatory part of the Marines’ physical fitness test.

“I can do push-ups all day long,” said Ranalli. “And I still wanted to serve in the Infantry so I joined the Guard.”

Ranalli went on to note that the look in the eyes of many a New Orleans resident is the same as many of the people he encountered in Afghanistan.

“It’s weird,” he says. “I mean, you can sort of understand that in a third world country, but I never thought you would see that look in the eyes of Americans.”

Going house to house, clearing the building, making sure everyone is out also drew comparisons from Ranalli.

“Obviously the outcome is different…we were looking for Taliban there, here we’re looking for survivors, but the basic mechanics of it all are the same.”

Like everyone else, Ranalli feels an extra sense of satisfaction knowing the help he provides is helping his fellow citizens.

“It’s definitely more rewarding to be out here, doing all that we are, to help other Americans.”

Photos of the four are in the extended section.

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Spc Anderson Gardner of Chardon, Ohio was a truck driver, 88m, with the 762nd Transportation Company, 88th Reserve Support Command when he deployed to Iraq with the initial push to take Baghdad. The reserved Gardner decided to join the Ohio Army National Guard as an infantrymen because he felt he could make more of a difference. Gardner found himself supporting relief efforts from Hurricane Katrina and he sees many parallels between areas he’s performed Search and Rescue Operations in New Orleans and areas he saw in Iraq. (US Army Photo by Spec. Benjamin Cossel, 196th MPAD)


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Spc. Ralph Isabella from Sheffield Lake, Ohio a medic with Company D, 1st of the 148th Infantry Regiment, Ohio Army National Guard treats a survivor of Hurricane Katrina. “It’s all about helping people,” he said “That what we were doing in Iraq, that’s what we’re doing here,” said Isabella. (US Army photo by Spec. Benjamin Cossel, 196th MPAD)


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Spc. Patrick Fairhurst, an 11b with the Ohio Army National Guard’s Company D, 1st of the 148th Infantry Regiment served as a water purification specialist while deployed to Iraq. Like many Soldiers who served in the Global War on Terrorism, Fairhurst sees several parallels between areas of New Orleans ravaged by Hurricane Katrina and Iraq. (US Army photo by Spec. Benjamin Cossel, 196th MPAD)

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Canton, Ohio resident Spc. Frank Ranalli, 3rd Squad, 3rd Platoon, Company D, 1st of the 148th Infantry Regiment, Ohio Army National Guard goes through the ceiling of a house recently cleared. Ranalli is one of four Soldiers with the 1-148 who finds himself currently serving in New Orleans helping victims of Hurricane Katrina and who served in support of the Global War on Terrorism. (US ARMY photo by Spec. Benjamin Cossel, 196th MPAD)

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