CAMOUFLAGED: Part I, Sean Cintron


You know the old man you walked by today with a cowboy hat and giant, gold belt buckle? How about the woman who was wearing the finest fur you’ve ever seen? Or more common, the average mother picking her kids up from school or taking them to the park? No matter the eccentricity or plainness of an individual, there is always an underlying story behind the appearance: a director, a writer, the CEO of a major company, a 100-year-old man–the list can go on forever.

Yet, at Fordham, there is a deeply connected group of individuals that are virtually unrecognized in the halls and in the classrooms. With only a t-shirt and a pair of jeans, one would never think that the man you just passed is a veteran who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan; was in the infantry; risked their life in counter-insurgency missions or participated in aerial reconnaissance in South America.

Recently, Fordham was ranked by Military Times as one of the top 50 schools in the country for returning veterans. According to an article printed in this year’s August Observer, 264 veterans in total attend Fordham as of the Fall 2012 enrollment year. The number of new veterans that are enrolled at Fordham for the Fall 2012 year is 38.

In the Observer’s new mini-series, “Camouflaged,” we interviewed three veterans who are currently enrolled in classes at both Fordham College at Rose Hill (FCRH) and Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC). For Part I, we interviewed Sean Cintron, a freshman and former Army sergeant, E-5 who served in the infantry for six years in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

With this project, we hope to document for a brief moment, the stories and military experiences of our three fellow classmates as well as recognize them for their unprecedented service to our country. For that, we sincerely thank you.

Sean Cintron, Freshman, Age 25, Political Science major (Photos by Sara Azoulay/The Observer)

Starting out

Update: Cintron was with the 173rd Airborne while in Afghanistan, not the 73rd. The change has been corrected.

“I was on active duty for six years and I was in the army infantry where I was stationed in North Carolina, Italy, Germany and Upstate NY. I deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan for a total of almost two years. I was the first one in my family to join, so there was a lot of…it was pretty uncomfortable in my house before I left because it was 2006 and we were in a time of war. My parents were obviously not familiar with that climate. To be honest, I joined right out of high school because I didn’t really have the direction…I knew I had some direction I needed from my family and friends but I was just personally unmotivated and I thought a great way to get on track was to join the army.”

“I was 19, and I took a year off from high school. It was just before the surge into Iraq. It was the most uncomfortable few weeks in my household. They tried to bribe me with every which way they could get me to not go. They said they’d buy me a new car, would help with school, get me a new apartment…I could’ve gotten into decent schools; I could’ve gotten into Fordham at the time, maybe. But I knew I would’ve failed out right away. I was pretty realistic with myself.”

“By trade, I’m infantry so it’s the main ground combat force. It’s exactly what you think about when think about the military. A lot of people are deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan but very few have combat roles. But it does make up a small percentage of the military. The units I were in were the 82nd Airborne in Iraq in 2007 and the 173rd Airborne in Afghanistan in 2010. In those few years, the climate changed a lot with the way the wars were going. The first time I was in combat in 2007 in Iraq, I went on what we call a ‘direct action’ mission where we are sent to capture or kill a high-value individual or a target. That was about 90 percent of the missions in Iraq in 2007. When I was in Afghanistan, we did counter insurgency, so there was an element of raids and ambushes. The main purpose was to gain trust in the communities, establish an infrastructure, and you really do see a lot of good things come out of that.”
“I just came home from active duty in April so it hasn’t been that long. Later I took on a new job with ADT, the home security company until the day before the school semester started. The transition to me, personally, hasn’t been that hard. I see it in a lot of my friends, like I’m thinking of my best friend David who came home and lives in California. A lot of guys struggle with alcohol and a lot of guys don’t have  plans when they come out as far as applying to schools and jobs so really he’s just on hiatus. About 90 percent turn to alcohol. My best friend David has multiple job offers but he doesn’t want to take because he’s too proud. He was a Ranger in Afghanistan and feels to good to be doing security at a mall. I don’t think he’ll ever work.”
From kid to soldier to student
“I think I’ve changed a lot. The ages I was in, from 19 to 24…those have to be the best years of your life. I think they were for me too, though. I had this perspective that most people don’t get to see, so it’s a lot different. I think I just had this view that was very enlightened. You see a lot of good things and then you see a lot of bad things. It helps you in the world here. It opens your eyes a lot.”

“Fordham is not as hard as I thought it would be. It’s a lot of reading and writing but that’s what’s expected. It’s too easy…well it’s not too easy (laughs). I have four years left here ideally, which I think how it will go. Four years from now I’ll be graduating. After that I’d like to be on the NYPD for a year or two and then apply for a job in the CIA or Department of State.”

Almost all of Cintron’s tattoos are military related, but the right arm is inspired by the style of Sailor Jerry, the legendary tattoo artist who provided tattoos to passing service members in Hawaii in the 40s and 50s. “It’s the whole theme I’m going for. I love the style. This one actually my dad had and I copied the style of it. I’ll soon fill it in with stars and dots but that’s a couple of months away. I have a laundry list of things I want to get. It’s my thing.” Cintron said the USA shield tattoo is technically his only patriotic one; very few of his tattoos hold any special meaning. (All tattoos by Derik Snell).