Returning from Afghanistan for a conference at MacDill Air Force Base was a homecoming for U.S. Army Capt. Eugene "Geno" Fewell.
Fewell graduated from King High School in 1995 and got married in July before deploying in August. His wife and son got to see him at Fort Bragg, N.C., during his recent visit, but the newlyweds will spend the holidays apart.
Both of Fewell's parents were professionals in the Tampa area, and his sister is a prosecutor in Orlando.
Fewell spoke with Tribune correspondent MyLinh Shattan in Tampa. Fewell is deployed with Task Force 31, 3rd Special Forces Group in Afghanistan. His first two tours were in Iraq.
What is your assignment? I'm the logistics officer for Task Force 31 based out of Kandahar, Afghanistan. I'm responsible for all logistical concerns, issues, resupplies and needs for the battalion while they're in Afghanistan.
Where's your family? I just got married July 9. I have a son that is 8 years old and his name is Tre, and Natalie is my wife. I deployed in August.
It's not what we expected, but Lt. Col. Bolduck, the commander of Task Force 31, is an outstanding commander. When I was coming home for this conference, he told me to spend time with my wife. He's a big-time family person. But he's all about business over there [in Afghanistan].
What have you done during this visit to Tampa? I went back to my old neighborhood, Pebble Creek, this morning and played basketball. My mom and dad moved there before I finished high school. When I leave Tampa, I'll go to Fort Bragg for a week and then I'll head back [to Afghanistan]. I have a few things I was tasked to do, but I will spend time with family.
Are your parents still in Tampa? They just recently moved. My mother, Dr. Deborah Harris, worked at University of South Florida and she's also a public speaker. She moved to Atlanta. My father is Dr. Donnie Evans, who was one of the assistant superintendents for Hillsborough County schools. He is now the superintendent of schools in Providence, Rhode Island.
What motivated you to choose a military career? When I was at Tuskegee University in Alabama, I went to an ROTC [Reserve Officer Training Corps] instructor and I told him, "Sell me on this." He said, "OK. You can play in the dirt and we'll pay you for it." And I said, "I'm sold." [He laughs.] That's the real reason that made me first sign the line. I enjoy competition, the camaraderie, the teamwork. And it's all that.
Your unit is on its fifth rotation to Afghanistan and this is your third deployment. Is this normal for Fort Bragg's high operational tempo? I am on the high side, but deployment is bad no matter how many times you have to go. It's good because we're doing our job; it's bad because we have to leave our families.
What does the logistics role in a Special Forces unit involve? Our colonel's motto is "pressure, pursue, punish." That's his whole bread and butter. If we see the enemy, we pressure them, pursue them, punish them.
And, in addition, with the populace, we "pressure" them with pamphlets, handouts, medical care, logistics support, building bridges, humanitarian stuff. Everyone in the populace that we don't affect, the bad guys will.
Afghanistan - the type of terrain that it is, mountainous in some regions and very cold in some regions - has the possibility of being a logistical nightmare. The way to get things to places is by sling load [underneath] helicopters, by ground transportation or by airdrop, dropping bundles out the back of airplanes.
We also use ground movement which is civilian contracted, called "jingle trucks." We try to use the local economy, employ the citizens of the area to bring commerce and productivity back to them. They're actually pretty good with it.
We move all classes of supplies, like ammunition, food, water, maintenance parts, normal resupply items.
Your unit took out a lot of anti-coalition militias - is there much left to do? There is. A large part of that is going into [the enemy's] comfort zone. That's a large part of what our task force is doing, seeking them out in the areas they call their safe havens. As long as they're reacting to us, we're not reacting to them.
What's the Afghan reaction to the Americans? The local populace are pro-anybody that can help them. If we're not there, the enemy is. Our whole focus is to influence as much as we can. For the most part, they're interested in doing the right thing and making sure their government succeeds. Of course they need assistance, but every starting country needs assistance. They're improving.
Do you think the Afghans can achieve stability? Actually, yes. Our commander has a very good plan on how to achieve it and we're making progress toward that goal.
How's morale? For the most part, good. Some guys are on fifth or sixth rotation. But the guys are pretty upbeat.
Technology is amazing. I speak to my wife almost every day, even at the firebase. Between e-mail and phone calls, unless you're on a mission, you can pretty much communicate.
Anything else you wish to share about your deployment? It's definitely not as bad as they make it seem on TV. [He laughs.] TV makes it like a Vietnam platoon-type of environment. It's not like that.
There are bad guys out there trying to do bad things, but it's not the wild, wild West.