When I joined the Army Reserve back in 1995 I never imagined I would stay in beyond my initial enlistment. I viewed it as a way to get some money for college. The world was a different place back then. No one at my first unit (working in the S1 of an MI battalion) thought we'd ever be mobilized. We even joked that the local fire department would be mob'd before we would be.
At the time in my unit there was one E5 75B position. And it was filled. And there were 3 75B SPCs waiting to fill that slot if the guy ever transferred orgot promoted. I was one of the three. As I sat there, thinking about whether I wanted to try for a PLDC seat so I might, might, get promoted one day I just couldn't see myself going much further than E4. I figured "What the hell, six years, several grand for college, and a nice line on a resume. I'm happy if I never get beyond Specialist."
Life is funny. I enjoyed college life more than college classes, so I wound up leaving school. I bounced from one loser job to the next. Then one day, as I was loading another gallon of milk into a dairy cooler I realized that the only thing I was good at, which could pay will, which I enjoyed doing, and that I could legally make a living in, was the Army. I didn't want to go regular Army; I liked the Reserve too much. So I put in a packet to go Active Guard and Reserve (AGR). I was selected for the program and sent to New England.
All AGR positions begin at E5, so i was automatically promoted to Sergeant. I thought "Yay! More money." But I noticed something strange was happening. A simple thing like changing what was on my collar led to a huge change in the way Soldiers treated me, reacted to me, and what they expected from me. It wasn't fun at first, I didn't like the responsibility. But then I remember the first S1 NCOIC I worked for. He was a former Drill Instructor who was selected for an AC/RC tour. He was usually the first guy in the office, and one of the last to leave. And he'd never leave unless he was sure that the mission was accomplished. Reports done, Evals ready for signature, and all the other tasks in a 1 shop were ready for the next day. His number one passion was for Soldiers; he would always place them first.
I had never thought much about him until I pinned on those three stripes. Suddenly it clicked for me. This was more than rank. This was more than money. This was about the success of my unit. And the success of my unit was a small, but important cog, in the success of our Army, and by extension, our Nation. At the time I liked the Army; it was a good paycheck and it was a good way to meet women in Southie bars. But I've always loved the USA. History is my favorite subject, and because of that I realize how unique and special the US is in the history of the world. I also know how fragile it's success is, and that fragility is protected, often times with great personal sacrifice, by the men and women of the Armed Forces.
I, as a Sergeant, was important to the Soldiers in my charge. As the PSNCO for my unit I was important to all the Soldiers in the unit. These were my friends, and since I was a couple thousand miles form home, a surrogate family. I couldn't let them down. So I kicked my dedication up a notch and tried to be the best NCO I could. It wasn't easy at first, but I've had some great leaders to aspire to be like, and I'd like to think I've had some success in that regard. When I was promoted to Staff Sergeant a couple years back I was forced to leave the unit Id come to love. But, I left it with a good cadre of fellow Sergeants. Sergeant who I'd mentored as PFCs and SPCs to get a packet done. In some cases to pass their APFT. And otherwise to get promoted. Our unit was hurting for leaders and only these young Soldiers would be able to stop the pain. They did. When our supply sergeant, who was a good friend of mine, was finally promoted from SPC to SGT he thanked me for the time and effort I'd put into helping him make it. It was a small moment, but one for which I will be eternally thankful. That young NCO has since finished his music degree and was selected for a direct commission so he will be a 2nd Luitenant in a month or two.
When I was advanced to Specialist I was told "The Army recognizes achievements with awards. A promotion is how the Army recognizes potential." I remembered that was my commander pinned on my Staff Sergeant rank. Nothing I had done before was why I was promoted. I was promoted because someone, somewhere thought I could do more. And I've always tried to live up to that. The position I took over when I was promoted was a wreck. Pay was a problem. People weren't getting promoted. NCOERs were consistently three months late in getting done. Awards were late, if ever done. So on and so on. After a year, when I was selected for Recruiting, those problems were fixed.
I've now been on recruiting for six months now. Longest six months of my professional life. But today it got a little bit better. I found out I've been selected for promotion to Sergeant First Class. I'm giddy. I didn't imagine it would happen. I'm thrilled at the chance of getting to try and meet a whole new set of expectations. Gotta love the challenge.
Anyway, Mrs. SSG B and I will be going out tonight to celebrate. And then staying in tonight to celebrate a bit more. Yay!