20060201

A career in review

This past weekend was a drill weekend for the National Guard, and I received a promotion to Sergeant First Class (E7 for those non-Army types). With my contemplation of when I will retire from the Guard, my promotion, and the various 'storms' in my life right now I have been sort of reviewing my military career. It is not one that would make a very interesting "made for TV movie". I'm not even sure it would be a very interesting blog entry. But then, I do this for me more than anything, and it is a good practice to just write when trying to do a journal so... Back in 1986 I was a very lost young man. I would not stay with any one job more than three months at a time. I had no goals, no ambition, and really no money. Potential employers were noticing my employment pattern and jobs were not forthcoming. While looking through the 'Part Time' employment want-ads there was an ad for the Army National Guard. With not very many options available to me I pursued this job. And it took about four months to get in! I had to get my High School transciripts, a medical waiver, and get all of the ASVAB testing done. I had dropped out of H.S. and due to my parents divorce and a multitude of other 'issues' I had seen a Psychiatrist up until I was 13. I also had 'Post Trauma Epilepsy' as a child. But the recruiter worked very hard and I raised my right hand on 17-July-1986. I joined up as a "Heavy Weapons Anti Tank Infantryman". I spent six years in this MOS. During this time I was promoted to Sergeant within three years and was responsible for 2 TOW missile systems and their crews. We did a lot of flying - Florida, Arkansas, California, and Honduras. I received a Division coin (a big deal to me) as well as getting the chance to actually fire a live TOW missile - man that was a rush! I still remember the sound of the gyro winding up, the discharge motor, the smell of the charge, and the exiliration of streering that missile right on target between the turret and deck of the target tank on the range. I also went to Air Assault School during this time. Change of life (preparing to get married and attempting to go to college) led to a change to the MP corps. This time of my military career - from 1992 until 1999 (with a break I'll talk about below) was pretty uneventful. I was not a very happy as an MP, but it was pretty relaxing. They guys I worked with were good men and women. We did 3 rotations to Pananma before we turned the canal over to them, I received another coin, and I was sent on my first deployments. They were all state missions where I was able to help people that got flooded out and I found some pride in serving others. I also got to play at being a road cone for various state functions. WVU homegames, and the governor's ignaugeration. Now that was interesting. Every try and tell 70k+ drunk and celebrating fans that they are not allowed to turn left in the dark with just a handheld flashlight and a camoflauged uniform!?! During my time as an MP I got restless and missed my infantry days, so when I learned of a platoon sized detachemtn from my old battalion being set up "near" my home, I jumped ship for about eighteen months. Man was that a mistake from a physical stamina point of view. I went from a laid back approach to a high intensity physical environment. The bus would drop us of on Saturday morning, and we would have to be about 10 klicks away to get picked up on Sunday - and carrying everything we needed. My heat problems that stemmed from my childhood really flared up during this time. But I also got my real taste of leading a squad performing infantry manouvers. I played at it as an MP - but I was fully immersed in it here. I loved the tactics of shoot/move/communicate as a squad sized element. It would be hard to describe in this space to fully explain all that I appreciated about this, but it is something that is still with me today. In 1999 I moved my family to Maryland in an attempt to be closer to the church I loved and was 'born' into 10 years earlier, and it was a chance to totally shed my MP 'life'. At BNCOC I met a PA NG recruiter who told me of an Artillery unit in Gettysburg. I contacted them, but I could not come to an agreement on which duty position I was to fill so without ever reporting to that unit I transferred to Alpha Battery 2-110th FA (towed). I have served with them ever since. During this time I have grown to love the Artillery. So much so that it has surpassed my love of the Infantry (except for the squad level tactics stuff). I have since been promoted twice and received several more coins, but the one I treasure the most is a 3rd Brigade coin that included the heraldry of both my original battalion (1-115th Infantry, light) and my current battalion. I have gone through my 9/11 experience with these men, and although a lot of them have moved on to other things, many still remain. I have been delpoyed CONUS with them for 13 months, as well as for Hurricanes Katrina ans Rita. And as of this blog it looks like I will be with them for another 18-24 months. Although I joined to get some money in my pocket, I stayed because I found myself being a part of something larger. A chance to serve the states in which I lived, as well as my country. It has not all been easy. My deployments have placed a strain on my family. My wife is the real hero in this family. I have never truly been in harms way. I have always had other soldiers around me when I was in difficult situations to work with. But my wife has had to hold the house together, often with little help from friends, family, or fellow church members. Those around her were a help to be sure, but there are 24 hours in a day and they cannot be there at all times. My recent realization that I cannot retire in the original timeframe we envisioned has caused her some anxiety. But my whole career as been by His hand, and I am on my knees in prayer and in trust, that our God will see us through the rest. When I finally fold the flag on my service to my state and my country, I will do so with a feeling of fulfillment and satisfaction. I will never compare my service to those who, like my brother, have served in harms way - who had to put their training and resolve to the ultimate test, where not only their lives but those with whom they served with on the line - but I will know that I have been used by God for His purpose and glory. And then resolve myself that a season of my life has passed, but God has more in store for me until He either returns or I am called home. I hope I have not bored you all to tears. God Bless. Today's verse: Psalm 23 esv The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Amen

1 comment:

Being Made said...

Not boring at all. Just makes me want to say Thank You for all of your service to our country. Thanks for keeping us safe. You have MUCH to be proud of.

Val