Specialist Chad Prindle hasn't applied for membership yet, "but it is one of my plans while I'm home," he confirmed.
Prindle is home for a visit after serving several months in combat as part of Alpha Company of the 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment of the Third Infantry Division. He and his unit arrived back in the United States on Aug. 11 at Hunter Army Air Field in Savannah, Ga., and Prindle arrived in Oran Thursday night.
"Things went very well, we were very fortunate," Prindle reported.
His unit finished their combat tour suffering no fatalities and only two injuries. The wounded were successfully evacuated. "They were both hit by shrapnel from rocket propelled grenades," Prindle said. The last they heard, Prindle's unit is slated for one year stabilization at Fort Stewart, Ga., their home station. "As far as we know, we're done," he said.
Prindle joined the U.S. Army infantry in October 2000. Looking at history with a major armed conflict every 10-15 years, being sent overseas to fight did not come as any surprise to him.
"I did anticipate going to war when I first joined," Prindle said, adding that he was "absolutely" ready for what awaited him. "I took a lot of time to personally prepare myself, mentally and physically."
His mother, Kitty Prindle of Oran, was not nearly as prepared, however.
"Not hearing from him for long periods of time was hard, but he's safe now," she said. "It got to the point where I hated to listen to the news because there was always someone getting killed and they wouldn't say from which unit. I was constantly worried."
Worried as she was, the pride in her eyes was also there when her son was featured in a photograph distributed around April 13 taken by the Associated Press photographer embedded with his company.
"I think he gave up a lot for all of us. He turned 21 over there - that was hard for me," she said of her son. She added that he seems to have come through the experience unchanged, however. "I was afraid it would bother him but he acts like it doesn't. He acts like this is his job and this is what he did."
While glad to be home and not anticipating another combat tour, "if I had to go back I would and I probably wouldn't think twice about it," Prindle said.
Prindle and his unit were already overseas when the events leading up to the war in Iraq began to unfold on Sept. 11, 2001. "I was in Kosovo at the time," he recalled.
For awhile, they thought they might go directly from Kosovo to Afghanistan. "That's what the original thinking was, the rumors that were flying around," he said.
His unit never did go to Afghanistan, but returned to the United States before being sent overseas again.
"We were deployed to Kuwait on Nov. 26, 2002," Prindle said. He and his unit crossed the border into Iraq March 21.
"We were very ready to go. By that point we had already been in Kuwait for several months," he recalled. "That was right after they declared war, tensions were really high. We didn't know what to expect."
Prindle did fire on the enemy, and those that he fired on were, almost without exception, mortally wounded.
"During the war I was our company sniper," Prindle said. "I was pretty much going for head shots the entire time." While declining to share any numbers, Prindle said he remembers each of them.
He recalled missing with only one shot and delivering a nonfatal wound with another. "But that was a very extreme distance," he said, estimating the target was about 850 meters away. "On the second shot I got him in the leg, but he got behind a wall and I couldn't get him again."
Snipers usually work as part of a two-man team with a spotter. "They help to identify threats and then also pull security for the shooter," Prindle explained. "He carries a standard M-16."
As it turns out, Prindle ended up working solo "almost the entire war," he said. "The first battle I had my spotter with me."
Although he occasionally radioed in to his commander for advice, Prindle operated with almost complete autonomy during operations. "It was up to me where I went, where I set up," he said, adding that he usually sought out the highest position possible with good cover.
While he was never spotted and fired on while working alone, he did come under fire when working temporarily with small squads to extend their fire range. "I had a few close calls," he said.
Despite criticism of the president over the failure to discover weapons of mass destruction, Prindle has no doubts over the value of his mission.
"I felt it was a very just war," Prindle said, emphasizing he was only stating his opinion "after being there, seeing how the people were treated and how Saddam lived."
Prindle said the people appeared to be suffering under Saddam, and he saw some of the suffering first hand. "Many of the families we ran into told stories of family members being tortured or killed," he said.
He recalled visiting the Olympic stadium where Uday reportedly tortured athletes who didn't perform up to standards. "They really did some brutal torture on these people and they've been doing it for years," Prindle said.
While his duty in Iraq is over, Prindle remains in the service until at least Oct. 2004. "But I'm still playing with the idea of re-enlisting for a few more years," he said. "I'm not sure if I like it enough to make a career of it."
As for the friends Prindle left here in Missouri: "The general consensus is they can't believe I actually went out and did stuff like this for the better half of the last year," he said.
"I want to thank everyone who had me in their prayers, everyone who was behind us, who supported us," Prindle added. "All the letters, the packages - they were all appreciated by everyone."