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Wisconsin National Guard Soldier Tells Story Of Deployment In New Book

Wis. National Guard-Andy Schouten

MADISON, WI (WSAU) -- A Wisconsin National Guard soldier has released a new book that he hopes will shed new light on deployments. "First to Fire: An Embedded Training Team Member Experience in Afghanistan 2006" was written by Major Andy Schouten as part of his recent therapy for PTSD.

He says he never intended to write an entire book, but started to do so on the advice of his therapist. "About a year ago my therapist suggested I try writing about my traumatic event, so I started it and she encouraged me to provide more detail on it," said Schouten. "It actually felt good to be writing about it, so I carried that over to other events throughout the deployment that were not as traumatic."

Schouten deployed individually in 2006 as a member of Task Force Phoenix, which was an Embedded Engagement Team (ETT) specifically organized to advise the fledgling Afghanistan National Army (ANA). He said he kept detailed notes about his deployment including a calendar where he marked each day's events and even had many of the emails that he sent during his time overseas. Those documents ended up becoming notes that he used to help fill in some of the blanks in the story.

In addition to details about his traumatic event, Schouten tells how his deployment was different from what you may see on TV or in the movies. Instead of fighting as a unit, he was there to help train a segment of the Afghan army. "It wasn't how I envisioned, you know a classroom setup and telling them 'this is how you should do things.' It was a lot of on the job training, going out on missions, and advising their leadership on the best methods." Schouten says with that came several cultural barriers. For instance, while the US military tends to take a buttoned-up approach to things like being on time, the Afghans tend to be more loose and chatty. He credits his interpreter for the duration of the trip with helping him navigate those waters. The book was actually released in May and Schouten says until now he hasn't done much to market it.

He intended for the book to be something he could share with his daughter and close family members, but things have started to snowball once word of its release hit sites like Facebook and Amazon. "A normal civilian is not really my intended audience, I wrote it to share with my family and friends. But, a civilian can appreciate that not all jobs are what they seem they are. "This whole Combat Advisor Mission was just a different, unique experience for me. Instead of a normal unit going over there to do their unit functions, it was a totally individual, unique deployment." "First to Fire: An Embedded Training Team Member Experience in Afghanistan 2006" is available on Amazon in both paperback and e-reader versions.

Schouten says some public libraries in the state have also stocked it on their shelves. The book is self-published and includes over 1,200 pictures of his deployment. “My objective is to share my story with my family, not generating income,” said Schouten. “I did my own editing, formatting and photo layout.

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