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Take 2

A different spin on sports by The Seattle Times staff and readers.

December 16, 2013 at 8:00 AM

Seahawks’ 12th Man soldiers: Platoon in Afghanistan never misses a game

Soldiers from the 3rd Platoon of the 455th Engineering Company fly the 12th Man flag under the Stars and Stripes at their command operations building near Kandahar, Afghanistan.  Photo courtesy of 1st Sergeant James Hill

Soldiers from the 3rd Platoon of the 455th Engineering Company fly the 12th Man flag under the Stars and Stripes at their command operations building near Kandahar, Afghanistan.
Photo courtesy of 1st Lt. James Hill

By 1st Lt. James Hill

James Hill is a platoon leader for the 455th Engineering Company stationed in Afghanistan. He is from Bellevue.

The 12th Man stands strong not only in Seattle, but in Afghanistan. I know because my platoon never misses a Seahawks game.

My fellow soldiers in the third platoon of the 455th Engineering Company all share a common morale builder – rooting for our beloved Seahawks. The 3rd Platoon, also known as the Black Wolves, is an Army Reserve route-clearance platoon stationed out of Hayden, Idaho. Though the unit is based in another state and over 300 miles from Seattle, we’re from all over Washington. I’m from Bellevue, and others are from Seattle, Port Angeles, Monroe, Yakima and Spokane.

Staff Sergeant Brett Matiska, a platoon sergeant from Spokane, puts it this way: “No matter what part of the globe you are in, the 12th Man always stands strong.  Go, Hawks!”

We’ve yet to miss one game during our time in combat. We watch no matter how early we need to wake up or how late we need to stay up. Sunday’s game against the New York Giants kicked off at 10:30 p.m., and we watched until the wee hours on the Armed Forces Network. We gave the guys a rare sleep-in morning Monday.

To us, it’s more than cheering on our favorite NFL team. It’s about keeping a connection to home.

We’re two months into our nine-month deployment to Afghanistan. Our mission is route clearance, the most dangerous job now executed by soldiers fighting in Afghanistan. Our sole purpose is to find improvised explosive devices (IEDs) hidden by insurgents and the Taliban in the roads. The IEDs target civilians, Afghan military and police, and our fellow American soldiers and allies.

We utilize many different tools, ranging from giant armored vehicles, to robots and even handheld mine sweeping devices to defeat the most common means of attack utilized by insurgents and the Taliban.

It’s a difficult, stressful job, but one the Black Wolves are proud to do as we serve our country.

The best way to relieve our minds from the stresses of mission is to be reminded of home. Home is what keeps us going and gives us hope. Knowing that we are cheering on our team at the exact same time as our loved ones back home means a lot and makes the Seahawks’ games so much more than a diversion.

It makes all of us feel connected to home.

Want to be a reader contributor to The Seattle Times’ Take 2 blog? Email your original, previously unpublished work or proposal to Sports Editor Don Shelton at dshelton@seattletimes.com or sports@seattletimes.com. Not all submissions can be published. The Times reserves the right to edit and publish any submissions online and/or in print.

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