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FHS grad returns from Afghanistan

Jason Schultze, 25, headed straight for the U.S. Air Force one week after his Farragut High School graduation in 2003.

“I didn’t know what to do at first … I was living in the moment,” Schultze said.

His life’s compass changed once he joined the Air Force. It was a growing-up experience for him, Schultze said.

After being stationed mostly in Utah, Schultze took an assignment to Afghanistan last year.

He helped set up communications systems, such as phone and e-mail capabilities, while in the Middle East.

He also helped train Afghan soldiers in areas that Americans can take for granted – how to turn on and off a computer, write an e-mail, surf the Internet, use Microsoft Word and other “must know” programs. Side by side, day after day, the soldiers worked together.

Though they did spend time with the Afghan locals, playing sports such as volleyball, Schultze said, “We didn’t get to hang out with them as much as we would’ve liked to.”

He lived in a renovated, air-conditioned shipping container. Many U.S. military “buildings” were transformed shipping containers, stacked similarly to Legos – one on top of another.

To get around, Schultze drove an up-drive armored F350, complete with ballistic (bulletproof) glass.

One of his favorite, more exciting missions involved working with a general.

“I got to work with a two-star general with an investigation of war crimes with the Afghans in Eastern Afghanistan,” Schultze said.

Another assignment involved aiding Afghanistan’s elections, solving technical problems.

There were always funny things going on, Schultze said. Spending long days and nights together, the soldiers often came up with nicknames for each other.

He remembered how received the name, “Schultze Bear.”

“In the office, at work, Dr. Phil was on [TV]. He was talking about relationships. He said, ‘You have to show your underbelly.’ My friend, Lucus Fletcher, told me I need to do that to get a girl,” Schultze said.

He said as he went about his day – walking through the base, teaching Afghan soldiers, reporting for duty – someone would shout, “Hey, Schultze Bear!”

Nicknames were inevitable for Schultze.

During a “serious discussion,” he and his friends were talking about how little military experience presidents have had in recent decades. They asked each other why this was the case.

Schultze said, “Listen, I have the answer for you. Two words – ‘Viet Nam.’”

He achieved a second nickname: Two Words.

Occasionally, the soldiers were visited by familiar faces from back home.

“When celebs came, you may ask someone if they’ll go and they’ll say, ‘no, too many people.’ But you’ll see them and the entire base there, waiting.”

While Schultze was in Afghanistan, country music singer Tim McGraw and the casts of the Today Show and The Unit visited the soldiers.

Seeing celebrities would remind the soldiers of America, connecting them to life back home.

To help fellow Americans stay connected with soldiers overseas, the military has been encouraging soldiers to maintain blog sites, Schultze said.

The military “wants us to tell our stories first-hand to the general public – that’s a changing thing,” he said.

“When I walk around the airport, many people will say, ‘Thank you for your service.’ I look at it as one day at a time or one week at a time,” Schultze said.

To unwind, the Air Force men played the board game Risk, gesture game Catch Phrase, card game Phase 10, Nintendo Wii and Xbox.

During his time spent with Afghan locals, he learned conversational Dari (Farsi).

While at FHS, Schultze played rugby, marched in the marching band and rock climbed with a rock climbing team.

He now is stationed in Washington, D.C.


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