Bristol Warren school committee vice chairman takes assignment in Afghanistan

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For the next 12 months, when Warren resident John Bento goes to work, he’ll put on the National Guard uniform as he’s done for over 20 years and help the Army recruit and retain soldiers who will defend the country. But rather than work from his office here in Rhode Island, Mr. Bento will be half way around the world helping Afghanistan army officials recruit and retain soldiers for their country’s defense, so American soldiers can come home.

For Mr. Bento, public service is a way of life. Beside his full-time career with the National Guard where he’s achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, he also serves on the Bristol Warren Regional School Committee, currently as its vice chairman.

This is not the first time Mr. Bento has been sent overseas. In 2000 he was deployed to Kosovo and he served in Iraq in 2004 and 2005 where he earned the combat action badge. This time, he said, his assignment with the Special Operations Detachment – Global will be in a more administrative, senior staff position.

“The unit I’m going over with is pretty quiet about our mission,” Lt. Col. Bento said. “I’ll work with an Afghani officer. They’ll be able to use my skill set.”

In preparation, he’s learned Dari, one of the Afghan dialects to help him communicate with his foreign counterparts. Although he’s been deployed before, he said this mission will not be like the previous two.

“They are totally different countries and totally different duties,” he said.

When he’s overseas, Mr. Bento plans to take advantage of a stipulation in the school district regulations that address deployed military personnel. Those who cannot attend meetings, he said, can remain involved in the school district’s business, utilizing technology to stay current on meetings, topics and other issues that may arise.

“The first couple of months on the ground I’ll be focused on the mission,” he said.

After that, he’ll check in on Bristol-Warren.

On Friday, May 30, Mr. Bento spent the day tending to paperwork and personal matters in preparation for his deployment and eventual return when he plans to resume his public service. In the evening, he was given a going away party by a few close friends and colleagues. Saturday, he said, he’d spend with his two boys, John, 14, and Nathan, 12, and other family members before his departure.

On Sunday morning, Lt. Col. Bento will travel to Mississippi where he will receive training and await his deployment to Afghanistan.

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