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Camilo's Retreat

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When he wasn't playing war with the Bradley, Camilo participated in light infantry drills. One of his exercises was to help carry and load an M60 machine gun. "The M60 is very heavy," Camilo says. "It has an extra spare barrel, a mounting system, and you carry a lot of ammo."

Then a private, Camilo recalls lugging about 100-plus pounds of gear up a hill, then passing through an obstacle course simulating a minefield. Though a three-man team was supposed to carry the M60, he and his partner were required to move it. But he took the tough assignment with humor. "After each exercise, we would have this review session where the people involved gave their opinion on what went well and what went bad," Camilo recalls. "When it was my turn, my reply was, 'I don't know, because there is no team here; I am the team.' Everyone laughed because I was the lowest-ranking private in the room."

But his superiors reprimanded him for not being a team player and ordered push-ups. "I was supposed to suck it up and not be critical," Camilo says. Yet he did well enough to earn ribbons for Army service and national defense, medals for achievement and good conduct, and certificates for good performance and discipline during training exercises before his days at Fort Hood came to an end in late 1998.

Camilo contends he never realized the full implication of his enlistment until he was about to complete three years of active duty. Every recruit who signs a military contract commits to at least eight years. The armed forces give enlistees the option of two to four years of active duty, then the balance in the reserves or National Guard. It's all laid out in black and white, according to Naugle. That he didn't realize the commitment "is a crock," he says. "When I signed my paperwork, it was perfectly clear what my commitment was."

Camilo claims he was preoccupied with salary and tuition benefits. "I was 19 years old," Camilo says. "I was naive. Had I read the contract more carefully, would I have changed my mind? I don't really know."

By 1999, Camilo was a weekend warrior in the National Guard, attending community college in Miami. Two years later, he transferred to the University of Miami, where he briefly dated the woman who is the mother of his daughter. The relationship ended after two months. In October, weeks after their breakup, Camilo learned that his ex-girlfriend, then 33 years old, was pregnant. He's reticent to talk about how it made him feel. "There is really not much to say about it," Camilo says reluctantly. "She was with someone else."

On June 7, 2000, their daughter was born. A month later, Camilo sued his ex-girlfriend in family court to gain shared custody. A year after that, a DNA test proved Camilo was the father. On March 28, 2002, the former lovers agreed Camilo would pay $1,524 in back child support and $316 a month. The woman — whom New Times is not naming — has primary custody, but Camilo is allowed twice-weekly visits and some weekends.

In a way, the paternity suit foreshadowed Camilo's later action. He showed an unpredictable persona and a penchant for controversy. He became part of his daughter's life — as he would choose to become part of the protest movement. "I wanted to play a role in my child's life, so I had to initiate a paternity action," he says, his only comment on the matter.

In the days leading up to 9/11, Camilo tried to combine being a military man, a college student, and a father. After the invasion of Afghanistan, his mother feared the worst. "I remember back in 2000, Camilo had told me the possibility existed his guard unit could see action in the Middle East," she says. "The beating of war drums had begun, and they didn't stop."

But no notice arrived in the mail, and by the upcoming end of 2002, Camilo prepared for the end of his eight-year contract, in May 2003. "I was working as a volunteer crisis counselor for people with AIDS and the homeless," Camilo recounts. "I was going to apply for the Ph.D. program, and I was looking forward to spending more time with [my daughter]."

On January 14, 2003, during one of his weekend stints in the National Guard, Camilo was cleaning weapons inside the National Guard barracks in Miami. "There was a lot of chatter that our battalion was being activated," Camilo says. Then the battalion commander, Lt. Col. Hector Mirabile — a career police officer and former comptroller for the Miami Police Department — informed his troops that they had been activated for Operation Iraqi Freedom. Anyone who was due to leave the military could now have his time automatically extended anytime until 2031 as a result of a congressional order.

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Francisco Alvarado was born in Nicaragua and grew up in Miami, giving him unique insight into the Magic City and all its dark corners. An investigative reporter with a knack for uncovering corruption, Alvarado made his bones as a staff writer at Miami New Times and remains in dogged pursuit of the next juicy story.

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