TAPinto Montville recently spoke to Afghanistan vet and Towaco resident Thomas Infusino.
MONTVILLE, NJ – A lifetime of service for Thomas Infusino started in the Army Reserve and has taken him to law enforcement.
Infusino grew up in Cedar Grove and enlisted with a friend in the Army Reserve during his senior year of high school. Following high school graduation, regular Army basic training and military police school, he was sent to Vincenza, Italy in the north of the country as a military police officer to work base security.
“We lived and worked with the Italian soldiers on the base due to a joint agreement with the Italian military,” he said. “I worked at the main gate for a month and a half. It was a cool experience.”
Infusino was discharged in 2006 due to a medical issue, which he was able to correct, and he re-enlisted in 2010, this time in the National Guard, working in the Port Murray, NJ (Warren County) and West Orange units. He became a combat engineer, trained in explosives like C4, grenades, dynamite, large charges and door breaching. He attended school in Ohio for a month to learn the skills.
He was activated for Superstorm Sandy in 2012 and travelled “all over New Jersey.”
“We would load up supplies in West Orange and deliver them to shelters down south through the hurricane,” he said. “We were on the parkway and trees were coming down left and right. The three of us were in big troop transport trucks delivering MREs [ready-to-eat meals], blankets and cots.”
The second week of the storm, Infusino helped run a fuel depot at West Orange, at first for anyone.
“At first, the lines backed up way down Pleasant Valley Way for miles,” he recalled.
Then the fuel had to be reserved so that federal agents and agencies could get fuel.
“We did that for about a week, and it was a 24/7 operation,” he said. “For the first week and a half, we had no power at the West Orange site. Once we had power, we could shower.”
After that, he travelled to the Port Murray unit and aided tree and phone companies to clear a path on the roads by cutting felled trees into logs.
“We blocked a lot of roads and diverted people,” he recalled.
That year he was named Soldier of the Year in his unit; he was an E4 Specialist and was also in the process of going into special forces.
“I had always wanted to do that,” he said. “I had already interviewed and had the paperwork signed, and just had three tests to do, but I never got to do that because of the hurricane. Then I got assigned to go to Afghanistan and I had to withdraw my application.”
Infusino left for Helmand Province, Afghanistan in 2013 and for six months was part of a six-man Army team assigned to protect about 25 private contractors to the Army Corp of Engineers. The contractors were acting as inspectors as the Afghanis rebuilt their country.
“We would drive convoy missions down Highway 1 or land helicopter missions and then go on foot – the days were ten to fifteen hours long,” he said. “We would travel two hours to the site, spend as long as needed, then return.”
Infusino enjoyed the assignment because the soldiers were not treated like regular Army because they were working with private contractors, and they lived with them.
“We wore baseball hats and different uniforms and gear,” he said. “We wore civilian clothes on base and I had a direct phone and a room by myself. I had internet if it was working. People dream for deployments like this!”
He had married in 2012 and he says of his wife, “She’s a trooper for supporting my decision to enlist.” He was even able to fly home briefly for the birth of his daughter. During this assignment he was promoted to sergeant.
But his time wasn’t all fun and games.
“I experienced every type of weather,” he said. “It was cold, it rained, we had sandstorms; we had extreme heat. I experienced Ramadan, Sept. 11th, and the cold there. Sixty percent of the time I was outside of the Hummer, on the turret, as a gunner of a big machine gun. Everything hit me in the face. We were on the gun the entire time. The rest of the time, I would be what was called a rabbit. We would get to a facility, and two guys would go ahead to go into the structure to check it.”
Infusino worked at Tiffany and Company during the time he was in Afghanistan. “They were very supportive of me.”
After his honorable discharge, he became a Belleville police officer, working SWAT for four years. He was also an active shooter instructor. He was named PBA Member of the Year in 2016, and he was honored with the 2018 Essex County Conference Award for his work at the border of Belleville, Bloomfield and Newark, patrolling high crime areas.
“During a foot chase, I was drawn on, and the other guy threw the gun; we got in a long foot chase, and I wound up tackling him,” he said. “I recovered the gun, and it turned out, it had been stolen during a home burglary.”
He was honored with the Valor Award for 2019 for guns recovered in numerous shootings.
“I love being a cop – I love to work,” he said.
Infusino joined the Bergen County Sheriff’s Office at the end of September. He lives in Towaco with his wife Rachel, his daughter Charlotte who is a first grader at Cedar Hill, and his son Tommy who is in pre-K at Transfiguration.
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