5 Questions For… Alex Plitsas, combat veteran, former Pentagon official, and Fairfield GOP Vice-Chair
WESTPORT — Alex Plitsas’ life rivals the best combat and national intelligence thrillers. In fact, as a member of a special operations unit, Plitsas led a team during the 2008 surge in Iraq that was featured in the movie American Sniper.
At 33, Plitsas’ career has included time in combat, as a Pentagon official, national security professional, and contributing writer at the Daily Caller. A New York native, Plitsas moved to Fairfield with his wife and twin daughters, now 3, in 2015. Last fall, Plitsas ran for, and lost, a spot on the Representative Town Meeting, but was recently elected Vice-Chairman of the Fairfield Republican Town Committee.
Plitsas sat down to discuss why he entered the military, his work at the Pentagon, and how he ended up in Fairfield.
Q: What sparked your desire to serve in the military?
A: I spent my youth growing up in Mamaroneck, New York. At 13, I became a junior member of the Mamaroneck Fire Department and, although my mother got remarried and we moved to Riverdale in the Bronx, I continued as a volunteer firefighter in Mamaroneck. I was a junior at Archbishop Stepinac High School in White Plains when 9/11 happened. The majority of our classmates, like myself, came from New York City or Yonkers and we had about 75 kids whose parents worked as cops, firemen or finance professionals and thought they saw their parents die on live television. It was a pretty awful experience.
The weekend after the attacks I showed up at the (World) Trade Center with my fire gear. I didn’t expect to be allowed near the site, but someone from FDNY grabbed me and said, ‘can you use a bucket and a shovel?’ I said yes, and he said, “Let’s go!” We ended up doing search and recovery operations. It was an impactful moment, as a 16 year old kid, and a catalyst to serve later.
Q: When did you enter the military?
A: I graduated from (Archbishop Stepinac High School) and went to American University in DC. During the spring of my freshman year a debate broke out in my political science class about the Iraq War and 9/11. One of the kids stopped just short of saying we deserved 9/11 because of US foreign policy. I was ready to jump the desk when the professor broke it up, but the kid got a parting shot across the room and said, ‘if you feel so strongly about it tough guy, why didn’t you sign up?’
He was right. I went back to the dorms, had a beer, and an Army commercial came on and I called the recruiter. He said, ‘let me get this straight: you graduated from high school, have never used drugs or been arrested and want to voluntarily enlist in Army Special Operations and don’t need a scholarship for college because you have one? He drove right to campus and picked me up. That Saturday I went to Baltimore and enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserve Special Operations, specifically Psychological Operations.
Q: What happened after you enlisted?
A: I left for bootcamp after my freshman year and missed the following semester. I would have commissioned in the reserves after I graduated but my unit got orders to leave for the surge in Iraq. I went over as a sergeant and led an Army Special Operations unit of about 300 combat missions in 2008. I received the Bronze Star Medal and a Combat Action Badge for some of the fighting there.
After 2008, I returned to the states and started as a contractor for Northrop Grumman doing support work for the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization, which was set up by the Department of Defense to defeat roadside bombs because they were killing most of our troops. I returned to Iraq in 2010, and joined the sensitive activities office (working for Northrup on contract with the government). Our job was to track the bomb makers and figure out ways to disrupt their supply chains and take them off the battlefield.
Q: How did you transition to work as a Pentagon official?
A: Following the 2010 trip to Iraq, I was hired by the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence. While working there, I deployed to Afghanistan in 2012 because there was a sensitive operation then General Mattis needed run. I was then recruited by the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict to serve as the Chief of Sensitive Activities. Part of the job was to oversee policy and operations for our hostage rescue program. President Obama had ordered a hostage policy review after ISIS started beheading people and I worked all of those cases and helped rewrite the presidential executive order and national policy that governs hostage policy.
Q: How did you come to live in Fairfield?
A: My wife and I wanted to come home. I’d gone into the military and defense and intelligence communities to serve after 9/11 and make sure I did my part and, after multiple deployments, we had kids and my wife said, no more overseas tours, you’re done. I was recruited by Bridgewater and now I run the aerospace and defense vertical for Providence Consulting Group.
When we moved up here our real estate agent said she thought we’d be happy in Fairfield and when I was up here, I fell in love with our house. The town is fantastic. We’re really fortunate to have landed in a great spot.
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