As a sniper instructor at the International Special Training Center in Pfullendorf, Germany, Army Sgt. 1st Class Kelly A. Stewart had no more life-and-death scenarios, so he had to find other ways to measure failure and success. He found that, in part, by looking at his students.
One of Stewart’s first ISTC course graduates—an E- 4 at the time—went on to earn a Bronze Star with “V” device (for valor) for his work as a sniper only one week after his arrival in Afghanistan.
“He’s an AFN commercial now,” Stewart said, referring to American Forces Network, the military’s broadcasting unit, which likes to share good news stories about soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines.
Finding satisfaction in the accomplishments of his students, however, only went so far.
“Every team guy will tell you this: Once they become a FAG, or a Former Action Guy, meaning they have to go be an instructor somewhere, not actually on a team, 99 percent of the team guys hate that,” he said, “because what they came to Special Forces for was to be on a team and do team stuff. When they have to do admin stuff or be on the schoolhouse team, it’s difficult.
“For me, I didn’t realize how difficult that was gonna be,” Stewart said, “because I was use to being on the team and the camaraderie and everything, and now I’m having to be an instructor.”
The stress of war, Stewart said, was “not a tangible thing that you can just put your hand on, like a gas pedal—stop and go, stop and go. It’s a lot of sitting and waiting at the mercy of other people.”
Stewart’s difficulty with being out of the fight would pale in comparison to the difficulties he would soon experience. To learn about the severe difficulties he faced after leaving the battlefield, order a copy of the book, Three Days In August.