My name is Arturo Thiele-Sardina and I served in the Army from 1979-2012, retiring as a
Colonel. All my family on both my mom and dad’s side served in the military, with my dad in
Navy and an uncle in the Air Force. We grew up with adults in the military, and it was something
you got used to having all the adults you knew being military veterans. When I joined the military, there was no longer a draft; it was an all-volunteer Army.
I really wanted to become an officer, so I joined the Army National Guard as a junior in college, went to basic training, later switched over to ROTC, and received my commission as a Lieutenant. Where I went to school, we only had Army ROTC so that is why I chose the Army. I never thought I would make a career out of it, but it helped me pay my college tuition and expenses.
I was used to rigid rules growing up in our household. Military life was not too difficult to adapt to; there are a lot of things you have to do that you don’t want to, but you have to learn to put aside your basic wants and needs. You’re basically living in a glasshouse for the time in boot camp. You meet people from all walks of life, but they are all together as a team. We still had our individuality, but when you’re in uniform, you understand what you’re doing and why you are doing it. You had to do your task as well as possible to ensure everyone would be able to accomplish their mission and for their safety.
I was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in August 1982; however, I did not go into active duty until February 1983. I then went to Ft. Bliss, TX for my Air Defense Artillery officer training until June of 1983. The new unit I was going to requested that I attend Maintenance Officer School to learn about repairs and Army maintenance. From 1983 to 1986, I served with the 2/59 ADA Bn (1st Armor Division) in Schwabach, a small town south of Nurnberg West Germany, during the Cold War. I spent 3 years in the Battalion as a maintenance officer and a Vulcan (anti-aircraft weapon 20mm Gatling gun) Platoon Leader. I also was a Battery executive officer.
Then, I spent 7 months in Ft. Lee, Virginia attending the Quartermaster Advanced Course learning how to become a logistics officer. I was then assigned to the 1st Infantry Division “Big Red One” in Fort Riley, KS. I served in the 701st Main Support Battalion and was lucky to command over 120 soldiers for 30 months, and deployed to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Iraq in support of Desert Shield/Storm from Dec. 90 to May 91. I finished my active duty as an ROTC instructor at Northern Illinois University. In 1995, I left active duty as a Captain and moved out to California primarily working in the logistics/supply chain area in the high tech sector.
I joined the US Army Reserves in 1995 where I finally retired as a Colonel, after 32 years of service in 2012. During my role in the Reserves, I was mobilized and spent15 months in Iraq from 2007-08 supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom as a Program Manager helping the Iraqis build a new maintenance depot in Taji near Baghdad. That makes a total of three times I was in Iraq, two of which were deployments.
I saw some combat in Desert storm during the hundred-hour ground war phase in Kuwait, as we were supporting the armor and infantry maneuver units as they drove through Kuwait. As a commander, I was so focused on the mission and making sure the Soldiers were doing their jobs, that I did not feel very impacted by the combat going on in front of us. Driving into an unmarked minefield and an area with undetonated cluster bombs was one of those moments that you do not forget. Throughout the battles, the Soldiers never lost focus of our mission, which was ensuring that the maneuver units had the necessary fuel, ammunition, food and any other combat-related supplies. The soldiers were doing what they needed to do, and it all goes by fast even during hairy/scary moments. You do not think twice about it. Even more, everyone depends on one another.
I was very fortunate in developing bonds with my fellow soldiers. In the military, before
Social media, you knew everyone like your neighbors. We were all one tight-knit family, and we
still maintain these relationships. Our bonds are inseparable, and that is my favorite part of
the military. We all have each other’s back, during good times and bad, at work or on our off time.
My military life affected me in a couple of ways. I am a long-term planner, but the military
taught me to always have a backup plan because sometimes whatever can go wrong will go wrong. “When sh*t hits the fan, always be ready to bounce back.” When you are in combat, things sometimes are going to go to south real fast, and you have to be resilient in the face of this danger. There were some days that I asked myself “Why the hell did I join the Army,” but those days were not very common. The fact that I was able to bring every Soldier back home safe and sound during both deployments was a real proud moment for me.
War sucks and it’s unfortunate that it happens, and the divisiveness it causes amongst the American public is somewhat concerning. However, the people in the military are just doing their jobs carrying out orders, and people need to understand that. The military has given me education through all of those courses I took as an officer, in addition to the on-job experience. I was lucky enough to have got my Master’s Degree at my last active duty station when I was teaching Army ROTC. When I left active duty, I started working in Sun Microsystems where I could put my skills to use. My military and leadership experience got me a job here in Silicon Valley.
The Army gave me the chance to see the world and meet people from all walks of life. I am truly blessed to have met so many great Soldiers during the 32 years of my life I spent in the military. I would without a doubt do it all over again. I was very fortunate throughout my Army experience. I still miss the adrenaline rushes that occurred during some of our training and military exercises. In the end, joining the military was the best decision I have ever made in my life. I am very proud to have served my country both as a Solider and a Citizen Soldier.