Student returns from Tour of Duty

Charles Maricle

Charles Maricle

Rusty Olson is glad to be in school. After five months in a foreign country, who wouldn’t be glad to be back in America?

Olson, a construction management major at SDSU, is in the Minnesota National Guard.

In January 2001, he volunteered for a five month tour of duty in Kuwait. His job there was to guard and patrol an area with communications and other equipment.

While in Kuwait, Olson celebrated the 10-year anniversary of the Gulf War. Former President George Bush, Secretary of State Colin Powell and retired Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf attended this celebration.

However, the whole trip was not celebrations and meeting famous people. Twelve hour shifts were spent in patrolling the area. The objective was to scan the countryside and record everything that happened.

Some days proved more eventful than others. For example, in March, a live fire exercise ended with the tragic deaths of six men. This accident occurred at Udari Range, an area adjacent to where Olson was stationed. In fact, Olson had been at the range just days earlier practicing with his unit. None of the men killed were a part of Olson’s unit nor did he know any of the men killed. But the incident brought a different mood to the camp, Olson said.

He doesn’t concentrate on the negative too much. He notes the camaraderie a trip like this produces.

“You are really in a brotherhood when you are in something like this,” Olson said.

Olson, who ranks as a specialist, held the position of machine gunner. This involved anti-armor weaponry.

Olson began his military career while still in high school in Rochester, Minn., He signed up in February. 1997 while still a senior. Then after graduating, he went down to Ft. Benning, Ga.,to participate in basic training and infantry school.

Then, after graduating, he went to Ft. Benning, Ga., to participate in basic training and infantry school. In 1998, Olson went to Germany and Austria for about three weeks.

“Many people who do not live outside the United States don’t realize what we have. We are very lucky to live here,” Olson said.

After his travels abroad, Olson headed back to Georgia for Airborne School training. He has also trained in Idaho as well.

With the terrorism of Sept. 11, he expected to leave again. But after contacting his superiors, he was told that he wasn’t needed right now. So he stayed here, keeping up with his guard commitment of one weekend each month, travelling back to Minnesota to meet his unit.

His outlook on life remains laid back. He will graduate in December 2003 with a general engineering degree. After that, Olson is unsure of his plans for the future.

Possibilities Olson named include returning to the Middle East to work an an engineer or going back to the Army when his six-month term ends.