Indian Head Park man shares experiences from Afghanistan
Soldiers from the Army's 14th Engineering Battalion gather in front of a Buffalo vehicle used for dismantling improvised explosive devices, as well as interrogating prisoners. | Photo courtesy of David Carlson
Updated: October 1, 2012 3:50PM
INDIAN HEAD PARK — Life in Indian Head Park is tame but welcome for David Carlson, who spent a year in Afghanistan disposing of buried roadside bombs.
The Army 1st lieutenant enjoyed a two-week leave at home before heading to his next post the end of August at Fort Lewis near Tacoma, Wash.
Assigned to the 14th Engineering Battalion, Carlson cleared routes for Marine units traveling in the Helmand province of southern Afghanistan.
“We used very sophisticated equipment, and each soldier goes through a lot of training to help identify improvised explosive devices that might be buried,” he said. “That’s the exciting part when we’d get to find them and neutralize them so people are safe.”
The stifling heat of summer, cold desert nights and rugged terrain of Afghanistan were challenging.
“I definitely have an appreciation for the infrastructures we have here, like the roads,” he said. “I was in more of a rural area with an agricultural community. It was interesting to see how they got by with what they had, and it wasn’t much.”
Living in a country under siege was stressful
“What I missed most was just the freedom to come home from work and go out for a drive somewhere, or to just relax and enjoy life,” he said.
Carlson said he was fortunate not to be involved in training Afghan natives, considering incidents of infiltrators who killed American soldiers.
Afghanis “were a presence and lived in the same areas,” he said. “We just had to be vigilant and trust them as much as we could. It’s a different culture.”
Through video chats on Skype and phone calls every couple of weeks, Carlson was able to stay in touch with his parents, Suzanne and Philip, brothers, Peter and Tom, and sister, Sarah.
Carlson, a 2006 graduate of Lyons Township High School, won an appointment to West Point Academy through a nomination of U.S. Rep. Daniel Lipinski, D-3rd, of Western Springs.
After graduating from the academy in 2010, Carlson began further training as a combat engineer before his deployment a year ago.
“It’s been a goal of mine since the sixth grade to attend one of the service academies,” he said. “I started off thinking I’d like to be in the Air Force, but decided I’d like the human interactions and relationships I could get through the Army better.”
Carlson said he’s looking forward to biking and exploring the Cascade Mountains in Washington during his time off duty. He is obligated to serve another three years in the Army, but is considering making it his career.