Northgate grad drives in Iraq

Thu, 05/22/2008 - 2:42pm
By: The Citizen

By Phyllis Hanson

FORT HOOD, Texas - There's no fast way of "getting back" to normal for soldiers who are deployed away from home for more than a year. Separation from loved ones and friends, along with an accustomed way of life can be hard for even the toughest GI.

For the son of a Newnan woman who recently returned, along with his unit, from a 15-month deployment to Iraq, the moment meant even more. Army Spec. Christopher A. Bortolazzo, son of Mary Hand of Briarwood Lane, Newnan, arrived back at Fort Hood from Iraq, where a world of roadside bombs, sniper fire and harsh living conditions had become a way of life.

Bortolazzo is a member of the Army's 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division based at Fort Hood. Bortolazzo served as a communication specialist during the deployment.

"During the first part of my deployment, I served in communications, and then for the second half of the deployment, I became a driver-a very big move that I will never regret," said Bortolazzo, who graduated in 2001 from Northgate High School, Newnan.

Securing their region in Iraq was the primary mission for the 1st Cavalry Division and its soldiers, and their efforts paid off. Roadside bomb explosions were reduced 94 percent, murders dropped from 440 to 45 in a year's time and many shops and businesses in the region began to flourish following several years of Al Qaeda intimidation.

Bortolazzo feels he and his fellow soldiers made a dramatic difference in the lives of those they protected. "My unit was able to decrease the death toll in our area from over 100 a month to four or less. We also provided food and medical care, and ended up being the most decorated troop in the brigade," he said.

After 15 months without family and friends and the creature comforts of home, Bortolazzo and his fellow soldiers are ready to settle in for a sense of their version of "normalcy." "It is a relief to be home. I am on cloud nine. I knew we would get home one day, I just didn't know that it would feel this good," Bortolazzo said.

Bortolazzo has been in the Army for three years and looks forward to training new soldiers for future deployments ahead.

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