Eric Farina Returns from Year-Long National Guard Deployment in Kenya
When he is not in the office, Eric Farina, Farmingdale State College’s (FSC) director of Veterans Services, is serving his country.
Farina, who joined FSC in 2011 in his current role, has over 18 years of military service including all components of the United States Army: Active, Reserve, National Guard, and the Active Guard-Reserve Program. Farina currently serves with the New York Army National Guard as an infantry squad leader in Bravo Company, 69th Infantry.
An accomplished soldier, Farina recently returned from a year-long National Guard deployment in Kenya, where he protected an American base from a regional ISIS terrorist group whose attacks had caused three deaths and over $71 million in damage.
“My rifle company guarded an expeditionary airfield in coastal Kenya along the Somali border, used for reconnaissance and surveillance flights against Al-Shabaab elements in the theater of operations,” said Farina. “We were the security element for the airfield, manning static defensive positions and going on dismounted patrols through the surrounding jungle and villages to both keep Al-Shabaab off balance and to make positive contact with the local civilian population.”
Farina’s recent assignment reminded him of his 2008 deployment in Afghanistan, where he had also provided security, but frequently traveled off base.
“In Afghanistan we patrolled and convoyed in vehicles long distances from our base,” he said. “In Africa force protection was a major concern of the command and my unit stayed relatively close to the base when we went out on foot-patrols.
“The mission in the Horn of Africa was a vital mission,” he added. “Our enemy, Al-Shabaab, has pledged their allegiance to ISIS and had already attacked the American base in Kenya, killing three Americans. So, this is important to the on-going and ever-changing Global War on Terrorism.”
For Farina, it was rewarding knowing he and his team were protecting American lives while his biggest challenge was being away from his wife and family.
“We would FaceTime about three times a week,” said his wife, Freda, of how they stayed connected. The family was unable to visit during the entire deployment.
Nathan Zwikelmaier, ‘18, a U.S. Army veteran, acted as director of Veterans Services during Farina’s deployment.
Growing up in Manhasset, Farina knew from a young age that he wanted to serve in the U.S. armed forces.
“I always wanted to be a soldier,” he said. “My family benefited from the American Dream. For me, it was about giving back for my family and doing the right thing.”
Office of Veterans Services
With the highest percentage of student veterans in SUNY, FSC is a veterans and military-friendly institution with nearly 230 military-affiliated students utilizing benefits, including 10 dependents and 30 National Guard members and reservists. FSC’s Office of Veterans Services guides veterans, military personnel, and their military-connected families through the admissions, registration, and financial aid process, through graduation and as alumni.
As director, Farina’s commitment to service translates into his dedication to FSC’s students and creating a supportive and welcoming environment.
“My service most definitely adds to my understanding of the veteran’s experience in transitioning back to civilian life and keeps me in touch with the culture of the citizen soldier,” he said.
And FSC’s student veterans could not agree more.
Student Veteran Perspectives:
“Our director, Eric Farina, is an absolute gem,” said Elias Gomez, '24, a U.S. Air Force veteran in the Pro-Pilot Program. “He helps us be as successful as we can be here. Having the support system of friendship is one that gets you through the toughest of times at college, especially as a veteran. You always come in a bit older, and having some like-minded people immediately makes you feel at home.”
“I was in other jobs before, just because of the fear to start the journey to college,” said Eli Guzman, ‘24, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran in the Criminal Justice Program. “But after getting in contact with [Farina], it was a whole different world.”
“It is great to have a support community of other veterans that have done the same thing and a friendship group that I probably wouldn't have had if I did not come to Farmingdale,” said Albert Groff, ‘25, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran in the Aviation Administration Program. “Being a [student] veteran--it’s untraditional. It’s scary. [In the military] you know what you were supposed to do every day of your life, but when you are out in the civilian world, there is nothing there for you. But Farmingdale’s Veterans Services, Eric Farina, and Nathan Zwikelmaier, they have helped tremendously to the point where, I don't know where I would be going with a degree program without them.”
“Veterans Services helps us veterans make the transition from military life to campus life a lot easier than if we were left on our own,” agreed Evan Barnes, ‘24, a U.S. Marine Corps infantry veteran in the General Horticulture (AAS) Program. “Eric has a good handle on what each veteran needs in relation to their own individual military service and personal history. He has really built a good program for veterans and the space here lets everyone let their hair down and relax and just be themselves with other like-minded people The services provided by Eric’s office will be needed as long as there are vets coming back to college.”
To learn more, visit the Office of Veterans Services webpage.