Face of Defense: Guardsman Uses Seabee Skills in Afghanistan
By Army Staff Sgt. Paul Evans
Kentucky National Guard
FORWARD OPERATING BASE PASAB, Afghanistan, July 25, 2012 A former Navy Seabee who now serves with the Kentucky National Guard is putting his old skills to work as part of an agribusiness development team in Afghanistan.
Army Spc. Michael Hilario measures wood before cutting it in southern Afghanistan, May 4, 2012. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Paul Evans
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
“No matter what we have to go through and the hard things we have to deal with, to be able to know that you’re here to help others, it’s a way of life just because it’s the way I was raised,” said Army Spc. Michael Hilario, a 47-year-old Virginia Beach, Va., native, who resides in Lexington, Ky.
Hilario is deployed with the Kentucky Guard’s Agribusiness Development Team 4.
Back in Kentucky, Hilario has served as an electrician with the Army National Guard’s 149th Vertical Engineering Detachment, 201st Engineer Battalion, in Cynthiana, Ky., since leaving the Navy Reserve in 2008. During his 10 years with the Navy, Hilario deployed to Iraq twice as a Seabee, earning the Seabee Combat Warfare device and Fleet Marine Force Ribbon.
“I was active for right at two years,” he said. “I was on the USS Kittyhawk for a little bit, and the USS Antietam out west in California, [then] I was out of the service for a very short period of time and wanted to get back into the Seabees. … I’ve been an electrician for over 18 years. I’m a general contractor. That’s what I do best, so I got with the Seabees and went to Ramadi, Fallujah and Baghdad.”
In Iraq, he added, his construction battalion built airstrips, medical evacuation hospitals and schools. “It’s quite a good feeling to know you can go over and help people like that,” he said.
In Afghanistan, Hilario has put his past as a Seabee to good use by helping with the agribusiness development team’s construction projects and serving as a liaison with the Seabees here.
“Things that we’ve needed, I’ve been able to go over and obtain,” he said. “The things that they’ve needed, I’ve been able to help them as well. It’s brotherhood taking care of brotherhood here. It’s all family. … I believe in helping others. That’s the way I was raised.”
“It’s pretty evident that he knows how to do electric work pretty good,” said Army Master Sgt. John Black, a 45-year-old Lawrenceburg, Ky., resident who works as a supervisor to Hilario on construction projects. “He’s [also] a jack of all trades.”
Hilario said service is in his bloodlines, as his father retired from the Navy as a chief petty officer, and his grandfather was a master chief petty officer.
“I wanted to be a part of the agribusiness development team because I knew they were doing some good things here,” he said.
Hilario has three children at home. Two are teenagers who have learned to deal with his deployments.
“My oldest two -- Britney, 21, Michael, 18, -- they’ve been through it a couple of times. They know it’s hard, but they’re military children,” he said. “It’s gotten hard the first couple of times, but now they’re understanding how things are, what we’re here for, what we’re here to do, and they know this is part of daddy’s life as well as theirs.”
His youngest child is almost 3, he said, and isn’t old enough yet to understand. “I’m sure the video I sent him made him aware -- let him know where dad’s going,” he said. “He’ll look back on it in the years to come. We’ll sit down and we’ll talk about it too.”
After this deployment, Hilario said, he’ll probably go home for a couple months and take it easy. But he’ll be glad to return if necessary, he added.
“If they need me back, I’d go back again,” he said. “I wouldn’t hesitate.”
Helping people is a family tradition, Hilario said.
“There’s no amount of money that can ever replace the feeling that you get when you’re able to help out people in your community and your country,” he said. “There’s nothing like the feeling of going and helping people.”