Nine-Eleven: "And I felt real patriotism for the first time"

  • Published
  • By Capt. Jonathan Simmons
  • ddd
Going from high-level manager to Air Force Airman 1st Class, what compels a 34-year-old man at the top of his career to walk away from a dream job and join the military? Two words: nine - eleven.

Air Force Master Sgt. Alex Kruhlinski, a Radio Frequency Transmission systems specialist and Florida native, assigned to the Kapisa Provincial Reconstruction Team, was so moved by the events of Sept. 11, 2001 that he left a lucrative career to use his skills in defence of the United States.

On Sept.10, 2001, Kruhlinski was leading a very successful life working as the general manager of a Pep Boys location in Jacksonville, Fla., with 10 years of company time.

"I was on top of the game," said Kruhlinski of his career at that point. "I came in for one reason - to be a part of what was going on with defending our country. Before 9-11, joining the military wasn't something I ever considered. They would have had to draft me."

He was working at the Pep Boys training center in Orange Park, Fla., when the events happened that changed his mind and life forever.

"We stopped the training and wheeled in all the TVs to watch the news," said Kruhlinski. "That's when we saw the second tower get hit. I felt pissed and then I felt real patriotism -- for the first time."

Kruhlinski, husband and father of two, said he has always been glad to be an American, but on Sept. 11, 2001, he was forced to think more deeply about what it meant to be an American - with his way of life under attack.

"I never really looked at the American flag before as more than just a flag, but that day changed me," Kruhlinski remembered solemnly.

When asked if the rigors and challenges of military life were worth the choice he'd made, a six-foot-three inch Kruhlinski said "Absolutely! Now I'm doing something -- I'm a part of something that's bigger than me."

As a recently promoted master sergeant, Kruhlinski said he's now starting to work at the same level he did in his previous civilian career and beginning to use the skills he'd gained there.

"The word that describes Ski (Kruhlinski) is determination," said Master Sgt. Jason Caros, Kapisa PRT first sergeant. "He knows what he wants and his willing to work for it. He provides strength and leadership (to our team)."

Kruhlinski is currently the non-commissioned officer in charge of communications for the Kapisa PRT on a forward operating base about 30 miles north east of Kabul City, where he is developing plans to expand the PRT's long haul communication ability.

On this, the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11, his advice to the country and to the folks in his home town is:

"Don't forget what happened on that day, and remember the reason why we fight."