Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Afghanistan: A soldier and a novelist

Source: United States Central Command

CHARLESTON, S.C. (Nov. 22, 2010) — Sometimes adversity brings out our hidden talents. South Carolina Guardsman, Maj. Curtiss Robinson, has been known for many things in his career. He is a logistician by trade, a clinical counselor by education, and a full contact fighter by choice.

But when he was deployed to Shajoy District of Zabul province, Afghanistan in 2007, he found nothing had adequately prepared him for the stress he felt daily.

“Some people lift weights, go running or play spades,” said Robison, “everyone deals with stress in their own way.”

Robinson immediately fell back on his military training first and tried to use exercise as a means to unwind, but in the remote Romanian forward operating base, nicknamed FOB Dracula, there was limited opportunity to run. Hitting the heavy bag was his second attempt followed by venting through e-mail and letters back home. These techniques had been effective in previous deployments but now were somewhat less fulfilling.

As his thirteen man team slowly molded the local tribesmen into a proper security force, he found that writing about their lessons learned and engagements helped him manage his perspective on what he was doing and why he was doing it. The main downside was the horror of war was not always appropriate to share with family members and friends back home and many of the details could endanger the mission and could not be released. Not wanting to terrify his family reliving story of how fellow soldiers suffered in the process of fighting insurgents, Robinson created fictional characters to represent his team and the enemy they fought.

“I started writing to cope with stress in the Army. I published my first book “Defenders of Griffon’s Peak” April 2009 after returning from Afghanistan,” said Robinson. “I found that as I felt anger, fear, and frustration in combat, my characters reflected my emotions. My writing is a strong parallel with my experiences in combat.”

The tales he began weaving were all based in reality but before long they took on a life of their own. The heroes in the stories embodied great values while often fighting real world challenges like anger and frustration, and in some cases, over confidence.

The villains also embodied the worst mankind has to offer and became grotesque beings intent on destruction. In many ways, these tales became akin to heroic battles found in ancient Greece or more like those found in J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” but they always shared the fate of the soldiers and allies who fought in Afghanistan.

More importantly, they became the key to dealing with the battlefield stress and anger which had grown day by day in Robinson.

Robinson completed his first book, “Protectors of the Vale”, in February of 2008 mostly while his men slept after a long day of training maneuvers or engagements with enemy forces.

By early May he was on his way back home with several chapters of book two, “Defenders of Griffon’s Peak”, complete. Although his newly discovered talent was enjoyable, as the stress of fighting subsided, so too did the drive to write as often.

The mission was done but the stress lingered on until 2009 when “Protectors of the Vale” was finally published followed less than a year later by the publication of “Defenders of Griffon’s Peak.”

Robinson has started on book three but more importantly he noted that there is a real moral to his story while deployed.

Robinson said, “We must not let the enemy conquer our spirits or weaken our resolve. With a little creativity and great determination, there is always hope and always a way to win.”

Not only has Robinson written fantasy novels, but he has also written self-defense instruction manuals for law enforcement and martial arts handbooks for Goshin Jujutsu, a modern self-defense-oriented style of Jujutsu.

Robinson books “Protectors of the Vale” and “Defenders of Griffon’s Peak” can both be found on amazon.com.