1205th Transportation Railway Battalion- Brothers keep trains, wars on track

Brothers keep trains, wars on track
Byline: Martin B. Cassidy Connecticut Post, Bridgeport

Oct. 04--STAMFORD -- Looking back over his 13-month tour helping transport supplies from Kuwait to other soldiers in Iraq and throughout the Middle East, Thomas Finn Jr., of Stamford, said he is wistful thinking of his daughter Angela's prom and other milestones in his children's lives he missed while abroad. "Whether it was my son's first Little League home run or my younger daughter's first soccer goal or my son Kevin's first day of nursery school, I've missed a lot," Finn said. "I've spent the past couple of weeks catching up and just trying to spend time with my children."

A master sergeant in the U.S. Army Reserve's 1174th Deployment and Distribution Battalion, Finn returned to Stamford in late August after spending more than a year moving equipment for the U.S. Army from Kuwait into Iraq and throughout the Middle East. Finn and his younger brother Troy Finn, 39, share a great deal of common experience, having both served in the U.S. Army Reserve in Iraq and as train conductors for Metro-North Railroad in their civilian lives. Finn joined the reserves in 1990 and previously served in the U.S. Army Reserve's 1205th Transportation Railway Battalion. Troy Finn, a former U.S. Army reservist who works as a conductor on the New Canaan branch line, served an 11-month tour in Iraq in the U.S. Army Reserve's 325th Transportation Company in 2003.

"It's been great to have Tom back home," said Troy Finn, who now lives in Stratford.
Their father Tom Finn Sr., retired from a 39-year job as a Metro- North Railroad engineer in 2006.
"I did a lot of different things before working for Metro-North, but it's a very good job," Troy Finn said of his job. "I wish sometimes I had joined the railroad sooner." Thomas Finn Jr., who also served a 13-month deployment during the Persian Gulf War in 1991 working in the United States, said he is training to transition from his previous post as a conductor to that of a flagman on the New Haven Line's catenary replacement project or another initiative.

Thomas Finn Jr. has worked for the railroad since 1987; Troy since 2000. When Thomas Finn Jr. joined the military in 1990, the recruitment officer helped get him an assignment with the 1205th Transportation Railway Operating Battalion in the continental United States on the basis of his professional experience. I feel like with both deployments I was able to bring something from my job to the military and after the deployment bring a different experience back to my job," Finn Jr. said.

Tom Finn Sr. said he was initially surprised by his two sons' interest in the military, but was supportive and proud though somewhat concerned about their deployments to Iraq in the past decade. "My thought is that I don't want it to be one time more; it's one time too much," Finn Sr. said about Thomas Finn Jr.'s still active reservist status. "I'm aware in his position he could be remobilized. But he's done his time and served his nation proudly and I'd just as well have somebody else take a turn."

Finn Sr. said he got his son a job as a porter for Metro-North to help pay his way, but said in retrospect that many railroad workers tend to end up in it as a career. "I thought he'd go on with his career but I've found over the years that once you work on the railroad it kind of gets in your blood," Finn Sr. said. "I guess that's what happened with my kids." Since 2001, Metro-North Railroad has had 30 employees who have been activated for military service for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Angela Finn, Tom Finn Jr.'s 19-year-old daughter, said that she already feels like she has made up for some of the lost time with her father, who drove her back to the University of Connecticut at Storrs a few days after returning from the Middle East. "When he first left I didn't realize how long he would be gone," Finn said. "Then I realized, 'wow, my Dad is going to be gone a long time' and missed him a lot."

Finn Jr. said that he would not balk at another deployment if it came, because he believes that people in Iraq and Afghanistan are mainly supportive of American troops and the improvements that the military has been able to make there. "It's still in me to go back," Finn Jr. said. "For me it's more about the entire world, because the people there are no different from us and I felt like I was helping them to have the opportunities that we have."

Staff Writer Martin B. Cassidy can be reached at martin.cassidy@scni.com or 203-964-2264.