United States making a difference in Iraq, says local man serving second tour there

Nischwitz: ‘I’ll be home with honor when the job is done’

By BURKE WASSON

As U.S. Army Capt. Matthew Nischwitz serves his country for the second time in Iraq, he still finds himself thinking of life back home.

But the 28-year-old Oakville native tells his friends and family not to worry because conditions are much better for him and his fellow soldiers than his first Iraqi tour that began in 2003 and ended in 2004.

“At this point, which is much different from our first deployment, the Army and the government’s taken a real good, a much better job of taking care of us this time around,” Nischwitz said. “Just because we’ve been here for so long, the food’s great, the housing is very adequate, AC (air conditioning) is plentiful.

“So a lot of the things that we kind of griped and complained about the last time are not really a need.

“In fact, I’ve been telling folks back home just to send letters and send their prayers. That’s all I really need at this point.”

In a July 12 telephone interview from Camp Taji, Iraq, Nischwitz said even with a variety of obstacles and oppressive heat of more than 115 degrees, he views his time in Iraq as rewarding and a true service to not only his country, but also to the Iraqi people.

“We’re making a difference over here,” Nischwitz said. “I think the Iraqi people want to be free. And it’s just taking them time to realize what freedom really is. And we’ll stay as long as we need to to accomplish the mission.”

Nischwitz, who is now a company commander for the 202nd Brigade Support Battalion based in Fort Lewis, Wash., is the son of retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. and Vietnam veteran John A. Nischwitz and Mary Jo Nischwitz of Oakville. His wife, Maria, lives in Fort Lewis, Wa.

Matthew Nischwitz grew up in Oakville and attended St. Margaret Mary Alacoque School and graduated in 1997 from St. Louis University High School. He then pursued higher education at Indiana University, where he graduated in 2001 and also spent time as an Army recruiter.

Nischwitz was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army in December 2001. After that, he completed the Armor Officer Basic Course at Fort Knox, Ky., where he “learned how to maneuver and learn about the Abrams tank and whatnot.”

He then went to the Scout Leaders Course at Fort Knox before going to ranger school at Fort Benning, Ga. He graduated from ranger school in March 2003. The following month, Nischwitz was sent to Fort Polk, La., from where he would leave for his first deployment to Iraq.

“Kind of funny, when I called at the time my girlfriend, Maria, who is now my wife, she started crying and whatnot and saying: ‘No, the unit you’re going to is going to Iraq,'” Nischwitz recalled. “And I wasn’t sure that was the case.”

But within three weeks of being stationed in Louisiana, Nischwitz was off to Iraq, where he would serve a yearlong deployment as a scout platoon leader near Baghdad until April 2004.

At that time, Nischwitz returned to the United States and served as an executive officer at Fort Polk until January 2005, when he moved to Washington and joined the 4th Striker Brigade Combat Team at Fort Lewis.

In June 2006, he was named a company commander for the 202nd Brigade Support Battalion and still serves in that position in Iraq. Nischwitz was redeployed in April to Camp Taji, Iraq.

While not at liberty to discuss many specifics of his work with that battalion, Nischwitz characterized his duties as mostly providing supplies and support to combat soldiers throughout Iraq.

He added that his group serves mostly in areas just north of Baghdad.

“Every day is truly its own day,” he said. “We just provide various support to the battalions and the brigade. Whether it be fuel, water, food, maintenance support, those types of things, that makes up the bulk of our day … We’ve got units spread all over Iraq. And it’s our job to make sure that those combat arms soldiers always have what they need to continue the fight.”

The unpredictable nature of providing support during wartime means Nischwitz’s days are often anything but routine, which occasionally can result in little time for rest.

“We, of course, have periods where we’re up for longer periods of time executing certain missions,” Nischwitz said. “But then typically after those missions, we’ll find a way to get ourselves and the soldiers some down time so we can kind of get caught up on sleep and make sure everybody’s taking care of themselves.”

Nischwitz’s duties aiding U.S. soldiers with supplies doesn’t allow much time to interact with the Iraqi people.

But he said there have been occasions when his group has escorted Iraqis in need of assistance.

“What’s kind of different for us being logisticians is that typically we’re providing supplies from one … moving supplies from one place to the next,” Nischwitz said. “And our goal is try to not get slowed down as much as possible. So we try to make that as easy as possible. So, a lot of times, we won’t interact with the locals. However, there are times when we do interact with them …

“We have escorted locals if they have completed missions for their own country moving supplies and whatnot around Iraq. So we provide them a little bit of security so that they’re essentially doing their own work in rebuilding their own country.”

While his top priority is ultimately to enable the Iraqi people to rebuild their country, Nischwitz also has his eye on another team shuffling to regroup this summer — the St. Louis Cardinals.

“We do have the Armed Forces Network, so in the mornings when I’m trying to go to the gym and work out, I can usually catch the very end when most of the games are ending and stuff like that,” Nischwitz said. “I can catch the highlights.

“They’ve been having kind of a tough time. But hopefully, they’ll be able to turn the corner here this second half of the season.”

But even more, Nischwitz hopes to be reunited with his family and friends in the U.S. and anticipates he could return by the summer of 2008.

“To all my family and friends back in St. Louis, I miss them like crazy,” Nischwitz said. “We’re making a difference here. And I’ll be home with honor when the job is done.”

The Nischwitz family requests that anyone wanting to contact Capt. Matthew Nischwitz should address letters to the Call.

Letters can be mailed to: Call Newspapers c/o Mike Anthony, 9977 Lin Ferry Drive, St. Louis, Mo. 63123. Letters also can be e-mailed to news3@callnewspapers.com.