Face of Defense: Father, Son Serve in Ironhorse Brigade
By Army Sgt. Bailey Kramer
1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division
FORT HOOD, Texas, Jul. 17, 2013 A command sergeant major runs across a landing zone in Afghanistan to catch his flight. In midstride, he is asked to stop for a photo. He takes his eye protection off, turns to the camera and smiles.
Army Spc. Eric Fragoso, back right, and his father, Army Command Sgt. Maj. José Fragoso, center right, are both stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, with the 1st Cavalry Division’s 1st “Ironhorse” Brigade Combat Team. Courtesy photo
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
After returning to base and uploading his photo to his social media account for family and friends to see, he immediately receives a comment from his son, “Hey hero, where’s the eye-pro?”
“The best part of having my sons in the Army is when they validate my life, by saying things I would have said as a soldier,” said Army Command Sgt. Maj. José Fragoso, who hails from Toledo, Ohio, referring to the comment his son, Army Spc. Eric Fragoso, posted on his photo.
Father and son are assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division’s 1st “Ironhorse” Brigade Combat Team.
In 2010, Eric informed his parents of his decision to enlist in the Army. José said he was proud his son decided to follow him into the Army, but it came as surprise to both him and his wife, Kerri Fragoso, a licensed nurse practitioner.
“It had just slipped off my radar. [Eric] didn’t want to join when he was 18, so I said, ‘OK, that’s fine,’” he added.
The shock wasn’t until he told his parents he had chosen to serve as an infantry soldier.
“When we found out he was going infantry like Dad, we were like, ‘Have you not watched Dad all these years?” Kerri said, laughing.
Shortly after Eric completed basic combat training, his father deployed on a special assignment to Afghanistan. Eric received orders to the Ironhorse Brigade here, during preparations for a deployment to Iraq in support of Operation New Dawn.
“It was pretty scary,” Kerri said. “You never knew what was going to happen. … We knew quite a few people who didn’t make it the last time they were in Iraq.”
Kerri wasn’t the only one who was scared. “I was worried more for him,” Eric said. “I didn’t want to lose him.”
While José was deployed, he learned he was going to be the command sergeant major of his son’s battalion, the 2nd “Lancer” Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment.
Although it had been about a year since the family had seen each other, and Eric was happy to be eating his mom’s homemade enchiladas again, he wasn’t too excited that his father was assuming responsibility of his battalion. “I was mad,” he said with a laugh.
After the change of responsibility, Eric’s first sergeant told him he was to leave his company immediately. He is now assigned to Company B of the 2nd “Stallion” Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment.
“I was going to get kicked out of my unit, going to go somewhere else. … I didn’t want to leave the guys I knew I could trust, [whom] I had trained with for about two and half years, and then get thrown in with some new guys. But that’s how the Army works,” the specialist said.
“Yeah, you did leave kicking and screaming,” his father added jokingly.
Even months after his father took responsibility of the Lancer Battalion, Eric still has to remind people he wants to do this on his own and that he won’t use his father as a crutch.
“We don’t have the same leadership style. What I do, wouldn’t fit his personality,” José said. “It would be fake coming out of him, and people would see that. … [But] he has identified things that are wrong that I would have identified as wrong, and he has come up with solutions I would have.”
Eric said he sometimes catches himself sounding like his father.
“I feel like I am becoming a little more like him, and that’s fine with me,” he added. “He’s been an inspiration, but I still have to do things my way.”
Kerri said she is pleased with Eric’s decision of enlisting in the Army and José's professional and personal example.
“I am proud of my sons for going into the military and doing something with their lives, following in their dad’s footsteps,” Kerri said. “And I’m proud of my husband. He has gone the distance and is still going. He shows his sons there is more. … There can always be more.”