Monday, July 14, 2008

Wow! Blind Special Forces Officer: Determined to Serve

[OK, almost totally off-topic, but still inspirational.]
When Capt. Ivan Castro joined the Army, he set goals: to jump out of planes, kick in doors and lead soldiers into combat. He achieved them all. Then the mortar round landed five feet away, blasting away his sight.

"Once you're blind, you have to set new goals," Castro said.

He set them higher.

Not content with just staying in the Army, he is the only blind officer serving in the Special Forces — the small, elite units famed for dropping behind enemy lines on combat missions.

As executive officer of the 7th Special Forces Group's headquarters company in Fort Bragg, Castro's duties don't directly involve combat, though they do have him taking part in just about everything that leads up to it.

"I am going to push the limits," the 40-year-old said. "I don't want to go to Fort Bragg and show up and sit in an office. I want to work every day and have a mission."

[ . . . ]

Castro's unit commander said his is no charity assignment. Rather it draws on his experience as a Special Forces team member and platoon leader with the 82nd Airborne Division.

"The only reason that anyone serves with 7th Special Forces Group is if they have real talents," said Col. Sean Mulholland. "We don't treat (Castro) as a public affairs or a recruiting tool."

An 18-year Army veteran, Castro was a Ranger before completing Special Forces training, the grueling yearlong course many soldiers fail to finish. He joined the Special Forces as a weapons sergeant, earned an officer's commission and moved on to the 82nd — hoping to return one day to the Special Forces as a team leader.

Then life changed on a rooftop outside Youssifiyah, Iraq, in September 2006. [ . . . ] When Castro awoke six weeks later at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., his right eye was gone. Doctors were unable to save his left.

"What he is doing is a strong example that blind individuals can lead exciting and meaningful careers," said Thomas Zampieri, director of government relations for the association.

After 17 months in recovery, Castro sought a permanent assignment in the service's Special Operations Command, landing duty with the 7th Special Forces Group. He focuses on managerial tasks while honing the group's Spanish training, a useful language for a unit that deploys regularly to train South American troops.

"I want to support the guys and make sure life is easier for those guys so that they can accomplish the mission," he said.

Though not fully independent, he spent a weekend before starting his job walking around the Group area at Fort Bragg to know just where he was going. He carefully measured the steps from car to office.

"Obviously, he cannot do some things that a sighted person can do. But Ivan will find a way to get done whatever he needs to get done," Mulholland said. "What I am most impressed with, though, is his determination to continue to serve his country after all that he's been through."

Castro works out regularly at the gym and runs, his legs powerful and muscular. And though he has a prosthetic right eye and his arms are scarred by shrapnel, his outsized personality overshadows his war wounds: Nobody escapes his booming hellos, friendly banter and limitless drive.

He ran the Boston marathon this year with Adm. Eric T. Olson, commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command. Last year it was the Marine Corps Marathon. He wants to compete in the Ironman triathlon in Hawaii and graduate from the Army's officer advanced course, which teaches captains how to lead troops and plan operations.

Mulholland said Castro, who was awarded a Purple Heart like others wounded in combat, will always be part of the Special Forces family.

"I will fight for Ivan as long as Ivan wants to be in the Army," Mulholland said.

Married and the father of a 14-year-old son, Castro still needs help getting to the gym. He recently needed an escort to the front of the headquarters company formation, where he promoted a supply clerk.

Once in front, Ivan took charge.

Affixing the new soldier's rank to his uniform, Castro urged the soldier to perform two ranks higher. In the Special Forces, he said, one has to go above and beyond what is asked — advice he lives by.

"I want to be treated the same way as other officers," Castro said. "I don't want them to take pity over me or give me something I've not earned."
OYE Comment: None. We're speechless.


At 16 July, 2008 16:06, Blogger Tim O said...

It's not off topic at all! If this guy can do it, why can't Ben Ferguson? Or Jason Mattera? Because they are little bitches.

At 18 July, 2008 12:22, Blogger Aaron Kinney said...

You would think that after losing his sight that he would realize that the military is a meat grinder, and that it would ultimately destroy him. You would think that he would take this as a warning, or as a foreshadowing, and get out of the military/slaughterhouse... but no.

Oh well. Those who do not learn from their mistakes are doomed to repeat them.

And here we are, the taxpayers, paying a BLIND GUY to keep WATCH over our safety.

Hooray for government! Wheeeee!

At 20 July, 2008 23:59, Blogger Wek said...

Aaron- since OYE tends to attract mental lightweight trolls it's not often I'm stunned by statements left in the comments, but yours is pure lunacy in the scummiest form. Has it occurred to you that there are other positions in the Army where one can possibly do when blind? Do you really want this Man to lose the career he loves? Would you have the balls to tell Capt. Castro to "go on your wife's insurance policy and buy a trained German Shepard to guide you around"?

Poor selfish Aaron is only concerned for his miserable self ("And here we, the taxpayers..") and getting in a cheap shot at Capt. Castro by capitalizing the word "WATCH" to sarcastically mock his blindness.

Aaron, do us a favor and take this comment and your weak dick Mustang you have in your picture and I think you no where to stick it.


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