Category Archives: By Example

By Example: Bradley maintenance NCO goes the extra mile


By MEGHAN PORTILLO
NCO Journal

It’s not often that a staff sergeant serves as the logistics lead during a deployment, but that is exactly what Staff Sgt. Christopher Nemier, a 1st Cavalry Division Soldier, did in Lithuania during Operation Atlantic Resolve.

Staff Sgt. Christopher Nemier, a Bradley fighting vehicle maintenance supervisor for B Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, discusses the role of the mechanic in the overall supply system and how maintenance and equipment is tracked during an Oct. 10 visit with senior Lithuanian logisticians in Rukla, Lithuania. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Keith Anderson / U.S. Army News Service)
Staff Sgt. Christopher Nemier, a Bradley fighting vehicle maintenance supervisor for B Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, discusses the role of the mechanic in the overall supply system and how maintenance and equipment is tracked during an Oct. 10 visit with senior Lithuanian logisticians in Rukla, Lithuania. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Keith Anderson / U.S. Army News Service)

While on deployment in Rukla, Lithuania, Nemier, a Bradley fighting vehicle maintenance supervisor attached to B Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, created the standard operating procedures for logistics operations within the country and helped the Lithuanian military develop a maintenance program, all while training and mentoring his Soldiers in the motor pool.

“He had to run and plan all of the logistics for everything we did in that country as far as maintaining supplies for the training missions – ammunition and fuel, allocating maintenance support and getting parts. He would take care of all of that later in the day, and during the workday he would be with all the rest of us in the motor pool,” said Sgt. Jordan Gassie, who was Nemier’s shop foreman in Lithuania. “He had three Soldiers, some brand new to the Army, and he made time to train them, as well as the vehicle operators, up to his own high standards.”

Upon his return from deployment in December 2014, Nemier was recognized by Gen. Daniel B. Allyn, vice chief of staff of the Army, for the work he did with the Lithuanians and for excelling in mission command.

“I told Gen. Allyn that the success of any leader is because of the Soldiers he commands,” Nemier said. “Was I successful? Yes. Did I go above and beyond the aspects of my duty position? Yes. Because my other NCOs allotted me that time. They went above and beyond as well. I even had PFCs stepping up, because they saw what I was doing and knew why I was doing it.”

New place, new SOPs

Atlantic Resolve, led by U.S Army Europe, is a combined arms exercise taking place throughout Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland to enhance multinational interoperability, strengthen relationships among allied militaries, contribute to regional stability and demonstrate the United States’ commitment to NATO.

Staff Sgt. Christopher Nemier, of J Forward Support Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, pictured at left, joins his team as they repair a fuel leak on a Bradley fighting vehicle. (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)
Staff Sgt. Christopher Nemier, of J Forward Support Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, pictured at left, joins his team as they repair a fuel leak on a Bradley fighting vehicle. (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)

Nemier’s unit was the first to bring Bradleys into Lithuania, and as such, faced numerous challenges. One of those challenges was moving vehicles and equipment on Baltic trains, which are a different size than what the Soldiers are used to. Nemier worked with Lithuanian logistics officers and the Corps of Engineers from USAREUR to determine the best method for loading and unloading the vehicles, and the maintenance and logistics SOPs he put in place have paved the way for continued mission success. The division has adapted them for American Soldiers to use in Latvia, Estonia and Poland. Because Atlantic Resolve is an ongoing operation, units are still utilizing those SOPs – adding to them and adapting them as needed – long after Nemier’s departure.

“Normally I would place an officer as the leader of a forward logistics element, but with Nemier’s experience and his wealth of knowledge, he was the easy choice to make,” said Cpt. Jeremy Hunter, commander of J Forward Support Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, which is Nemier’s unit at Fort Hood. “Staff Sgt. Nemier had a lot more experience than the lieutenants I considered, and he had proved that he could not only lead the Soldiers in there but think critically and creatively to solve any of the issues that would come up in a theater that really hasn’t been developed. Lithuania has a smaller army, and I knew he would work closely with his Lithuanian counterparts to really accomplish the goal – to ensure them that the United States is with them, but also to deter the Russian aggression at that point. I had full confidence that he could take a team that we created, lead them and really take that mission and accomplish it without me having to give him direct guidance every day.”

Hunter said he values NCOs, such as Nemier, who show initiative.

“A good NCO will take the mission provided, find the shortfalls within that mission and point them out,” Hunter said. “What makes Nemier stand above the rest is that not only does he point out those shortfalls, but he comes up with solutions and presents them as well to other leaders.”

Working with Lithuanians

The Lithuanian military is very new, Nemier explained. The country didn’t join the European Union until 2004. Its soldiers are in a vulnerable situation and hungry for information.

“Even if [Staff Sgt. Christopher Nemier] is turning a wrench on something himself, he is explaining to everyone the exact purpose of what he is doing, the reason why he is doing it, the system it is part of, how it works, why you do it in a particular order. … He makes everything into a lesson to help the Soldiers learn to make informed decisions on their own,” said Sgt. Jordan Gassie, who served with Nemier in Lithuania. (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)
“Even if [Staff Sgt. Christopher Nemier] is turning a wrench on something himself, he is explaining to everyone the exact purpose of what he is doing, the reason why he is doing it, the system it is part of, how it works, why you do it in a particular order. … He makes everything into a lesson to help the Soldiers learn to make informed decisions on their own,” said Sgt. Jordan Gassie, who served with Nemier in Lithuania. (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)
Some of the daily procedures and common precautions performed by U.S. Soldiers are not even considered in the Baltic countries, he said. For example, the Lithuanians were not prepared to deal with the environmental impact of moving equipment and using it in the field. If a humvee started leaking oil, for example, they would just let it leak. But when Nemier’s unit began showing them the proper way to dispose of the waste, they were eager to learn. Nemier and his team dug up the contaminated soil and showed the Lithuanian soldiers how to build drip pans from boxes and plastic liners. Nemier guided them in creating a hazardous material SOP based on European Union and NATO standards, and that same month, the country passed an inspection for the first time since joining the EU.

Nemier met with members of the Lithuanian Department of Defense, sharing what he could to strengthen the army.

“We were humble when we went in, and they responded very well, because they could see we wanted to set them up for success,” Nemier said. “They still hit me up on email with mechanical questions. It’s a friendship. It really is.”

Nemier also struck up a friendship with the Lithuanian motor sergeant who shared the motor pool with his team. Through broken English and Google Translate, they worked well together and still keep in touch.

The language barrier made everything more difficult, Nemier said, but it taught them patience.

“It forced us to be patient,” he said. “I would teach something on a Bradley, and I would have to go over it 10 times. I had to adjust my leadership style and, as an NCO, you have to be flexible like that. One leadership style is not going to work for ‘Joe A’ and ‘Joe B.’ We struggled for the first couple of weeks, but we figured it out. I think it really made us better leaders.”

Working with Soldiers

Nemier said he always knew patience was an important trait in a good NCO, but working with foreign soldiers really drove the point home. Now, he strives to have even more patience with his Soldiers at Fort Hood.

Private First Class Derrik Steinebach, a member of Nemier's crew within J Forward Support Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, repairs a fuel leak on a Bradley fighting vehicle. (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)
Private First Class Derrik Steinebach, a member of Nemier’s crew within J Forward Support Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, repairs a fuel leak on a Bradley fighting vehicle. (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)

“Patience is so important,” Nemier said. “NCOs need to figure out what the problem is before jumping to conclusions or freaking out. Find out what the problem is and try to come up with solutions. … I don’t scream and yell. I’ll do the 4857 – the counseling form and the paperwork – that is without a doubt, and they will be held accountable for their actions. But, especially a young Soldier who has never experienced anything this major before, I want to show him or her that though they are just a small pebble in a pond, they can create a ripple and affect the entire shoreline. You lose a Brad, you lose a wingman. You lose a flanking position. You lose an infantry squad. So what they do here in the motor pool is important. I want to help young Soldiers see that they can affect the entire pond.”

Helping Soldiers understand the importance of their work and how they fit into the big picture is a huge motivator, Nemier said.

“If I tell Joe to go over there and fix that Bradley, he is going to go over there and fix that Bradley,” he said. “But he doesn’t know why. … Because it’s broken? But, if I say, ‘Hey, you need to go over and fix that Bradley because we are getting ready to go shoot gunnery, and we want the Bradleys to be ready to go for the infantry guys so they don’t get hurt while they are rolling out to the ranges,’ I’ve just motivated that Soldier. He now knows what his work is affecting in the near future.”

Gassie said he appreciated Nemier’s honesty and the time he took to explain each task to his Soldiers.

“Across the board, he is fair and straightforward, whether you are a subordinate, a peer or a superior. He will give you a straight answer,” Gassie said. “And when he describes a maintenance task or a Soldier skill, it’s never ‘Do this because I say so.’ Even if he is turning a wrench on something himself, he is explaining to everyone the exact purpose of what he is doing, the reason why he is doing it, the system it is part of, how it works, why you do it in a particular order. … He makes everything into a lesson to help the Soldiers learn to make informed decisions on their own.”

Hunter said a good NCO is one who, like Nemier – now attending the Senior Leader course at Fort Lee, Virginia – always strives to better himself and remains dedicated to every aspect of his Soldiers’ development.

“Staff Sgt. Nemier has continually pushed himself to learn more and more within his MOS and has also taken time to teach his Soldiers – some of them brand new out of basic training and Advanced Individual Training – so they can also become experts in their field. Above that, he is continually taking the time to develop them into complete Soldiers – really showing them how to succeed, not only in the Army, but in life as well.”

NCOs grow during time as Drill Sergeants, AIT Platoon Sergeant of Year


By JONATHAN (JAY) KOESTER
NCO Journal

Winning any U.S. Army competition brings honor and glory to the victor. But the winners of the Drill Sergeant and AIT Platoon Sergeant of the Year competitions get an additional perk. During their year as reigning champions, they get a new job.

In September 2014, Staff Sgt. Jonathan Miller was named Drill Sergeant of the Year, Staff Sgt. Christopher Croslin was named Army Reserve Drill Sergeant of the Year and Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Russell was named AIT Platoon Sergeant of the Year. After their victories, Miller and Russell immediately went to work at the strategic level at TRADOC’s U.S. Army Center for Initial Military Training at Fort Eustis, Virginia.

The three said their experiences during the past year inspired them and showed them the big picture on Army issues.

“It’s been a learning experience,” Miller said. “Serving as Drill Sergeant of the Year has opened my eyes to a lot of things that I wasn’t aware of before. Working at the strategic level is much different than working as a squad leader or team leader, which is what I was used to. Seeing the big picture up here is truly awesome.”

Russell, who has been in the Army for 13 years and deployed to both Afghanistan and Iraq, also enjoyed his time working at Fort Eustis.

“It’s been eye opening to see the Army at a strategic level and be able to travel and see how other sides of the Army train, how they prepare Soldiers in Advanced Individual Training and basic training,” Russell said. “You get to see the whole picture.”

Croslin served his year as Army Reserve Drill Sergeant of the Year at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. Croslin said he originally joined the Army Reserve so that he could stay near family in Oklahoma.

“I always wanted to serve in the Army and fight for my country,” Croslin said. “I joined in 2004 because of my desire to serve. The way I saw it, our country was at war, and I need to be over there. Whatever it was that I could do, I would serve however they needed me. But at the same time, I love my civilian side of life. I didn’t really want to be moved around the country my whole life. I’m a very family-oriented person, and all my family lives here in Oklahoma. I had the need and the want to serve, but at the same time stay close to my family.”

Though Croslin wasn’t sent to the Center for Initial Military Training at Fort Eustis, his year was still busy at Fort Sill, working with new recruits there, as well as traveling for various duties.

“I think everybody’s experience being Drill Sergeant of the Year is different,” Croslin said. “What I have pulled from it is the experiences I’ve been able to have with senior leadership — working with my command, getting their knowledge on what it means to be a leader. This is a position where you really get to spend some time with those leaders.

“And there was a lot of mentorship with other drill sergeants,” Croslin said. “A lot of drill sergeants look up to you when you become that pinnacle of a drill sergeant, so you have to hold yourself to a higher standard. Because everybody is basing it on: You are what’s right. There is a pressure that comes along with that. I knew that would come with it, but at times, you really realize that all the eyes are on you.”

Croslin credited the NCOs he started his career learning from with jumpstarting his Army Reserve career.

“To start it all off, it would have to be my drill sergeants in Basic Training,” Croslin said. “I remember them like it was yesterday. They set that example from day one in basic training of what it meant to be a Soldier. They showed what it meant to pay attention to detail, and that dedication to your country and to those around you, as well as the development of a team and what it meant to be part of a team.”

Miller said that early example is what made him want to become a drill sergeant.

“NCOs have been a pivotal part of my time in the Army,” Miller said. “As a young Soldier, NCOs were there to help guide me, to help correct any deficiencies that I had and to shape me into not only the Soldier that I was but the NCO I have become. It started with my drill sergeants. Everybody remembers who their drill sergeant was regardless of how long ago they served. Everybody remembers that influential person in their life. And that led me to want to become a drill sergeant, because I realized how pivotal they were in so many Soldiers’ lives.”

Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Russell, from left, Staff Sgt. Christopher Croslin and Staff Sgt. Jonathan Miller led the way on a ruck march during the 2014 competition at Fort Jackson, S.C. (Photo by Jonathan (Jay) Koester / NCO Journal)
Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Russell, from left, Staff Sgt. Christopher Croslin and Staff Sgt. Jonathan Miller led the way on a ruck march during the 2014 competition at Fort Jackson, S.C. (Photo by Jonathan (Jay) Koester / NCO Journal)

A year spent working at the strategic level didn’t change what Miller saw as the problems that need fixing in the Army.

“The biggest change that I’d like to see across the Army is the overall discipline,” Miller said. “We see a degradation of the discipline that Soldiers have nowadays. There’s not the level of competence and discipline that I expect. I may have high hopes, but I think we’ve become lax, and I’d like to see us go back to a much more disciplined Army. Get out of the friendship mentality and get back to the leader-driven Army.”

Russell said he hoped to see more NCOs getting directly involved with their Soldiers’ training and not attempting to use technology as a quick fix.

“I want to see us getting back to the Army as a profession, getting back to the Army ethics,” Russell said. “We need to put more emphasis on training Soldiers and developing the individual Soldier instead of looking for technology to do that.”

Though Russell, Miller and Croslin all enjoyed their year at the top, their stint has come to an end. Recently, three NCOs took their places, as Staff Sgt. Jacob Miller was named 2015 Drill Sergeant of the Year, Staff Sgt. Mark Mercer became the Army Reserve Drill Sergeant of the Year and Sgt. 1st Class Samuel Enriquez was named AIT Platoon Sergeant of the Year.

And the Army goes rolling along.

By Example: DFAC manager’s positive approach encourages creativity


By MEGHAN PORTILLO
NCO Journal

Word on the street is that Black Jack Inn Dining Facility at Fort Hood, Texas, is the place to be at meal time, and the leadership skills of the DFAC’s manager, Sgt. 1st Class Brandon Myles with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 115th Brigade Support Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division, have a lot to do with that.

The dining facility serves about 2,400 diners per day, more than any other DFAC on post.

An average DFAC serves 400 Soldiers for lunch, Myles said, but Black Jack, which supports a brigade as well as the Basic Leader Course, often feeds 250 within the first 30 minutes.

Myles said he strives every day to create a positive environment for the 91 NCOs and Soldiers employed at the facility. By being generous with public praise and rewarding individuals who display stellar performance with an extra day off, he has enabled the DFAC personnel to be creative in a stressful and often thankless line of work.

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Why did you join the Army?

I joined because my brother joined. He was food service. He came home, looked like he had himself together, and I thought I should give it a shot. If he can do it, I can do it. Now, I’ve been in the Army longer than any of my brothers. I’ve continued to serve because it really is rewarding. I enjoy helping people and serving people. When I first came in, I thought I was going to do about three years. I moved up a lot faster than I thought I would and started seeing it from a different light. I was no longer a worker bee. I became an NCO who could actually help people. I love the Army, and I love working with Soldiers.

How does your role help the Army as a whole?

We keep everybody fed, but it’s bigger than that. It’s keeping everybody safe, maintaining proper temps. Two thousand four hundred people may come through here. If we mishandle something, it could be 2,400 who can’t do their jobs the next day. We could kill 2,400. So it is an important job, and one I tell my Soldiers they should be proud of. Food service is probably one of the biggest morale boosters for those Soldiers who come through that door. You can either see it as a thousand critics coming through, or you can see it as being showcased every day. People go to the motor pool on Mondays. They go to S1 when they need something. We service about 2,400 people a day every single day. So you should take pride in it and put the best out there for them. Show that you are creative and have fun with it.

How do you encourage NCOs to keep Soldiers motivated?

Because it is a thankless job, you can’t come down hard on them. You honestly can’t. It’s a stressful environment. It’s high tempo; it’s nonstop. You have to lighten the air. You have got to find the good stuff. Find something that is correct. Look for the positive. Give them public praise. If I see somebody really squared away, I will give them the rest of the day off. We allow them to play music in the kitchen. Sometimes we play music throughout the serving period and put it on the PA system. You can hear them singing right now.

And, if you do really well here, we can send you down to the actual culinary arts building – maybe you will get a week to go work on a different side of your craft. If we have special events, we might just have them stop working in here and work that particular event. Recently, General Martin Dempsey came in. So we took a team of people and said, “Get creative. Bounce ideas off of each other. This is your sole mission.” They really love stuff like that, because they get recognized for it.

What about your NCOs makes you proud?

Normally when you work this closely with people, not everybody gets along – especially the senior NCOs. As a sergeant first class, you could just make sure your people are in the building and then go on your way. But it’s really not like that here. I’m not the highest ranking sergeant first class here, but the others actually have no problem working for me. One of them was actually my Advanced Individual Training instructor. He taught me when I was a private, 13 years ago.

I think we all work well together because we share the same vision: For those 90 minutes [of service time,] we are going to be the best on the installation. Honestly, it is a competition. Nobody says it, but we want business from across post. We want everybody’s business. We want to be the best. The NCOs here, we truly share that vision. They’ll call me in the middle of the night, saying, “Hey man, what about this meal?” or, “How about we do this tomorrow?” They just bounce crazy ideas, and we run with it. Normally, in an environment this stressful, it is hard to be creative, much less find joy in your work, and they actually do that.

How have other NCOs helped you in your career?

I had good NCOs who actually care. Regardless of PCS moves, they were still just a phone call away. They expected a lot of me but were also approachable at the same time. They taught me more than just the food service side of the house. They taught me more than just how to cook. If you can help people and motivate them to want to do whatever it is that they do, I think that is kind of special. And that is what I had. I had only joined because my brother had joined. I was only a cook because my brother was a cook. Somewhere in there, a select few NCOs stood out and inspired me. They enjoyed their work. They taught me how to be a better person, how to be a better father, how to handle my finances. They were counselors to me, and I just try to mirror that and give that back.

What advice do you have for junior NCOs?

Be the example. Just remember somebody is watching, and wants to be you. You might not even know who it is, but a subordinate is watching you. You are creating another you. Somebody is going to emulate what it is that you do, be it right or wrong. You really are part of something bigger than yourself, especially when you become an NCO. It’s no longer just about you. You are responsible for more than yourself. People come from all different walks of life. You have to be approachable. You have to know your audience. What makes one person tick won’t make another person tick. You just have to find what works.

Sgt. 1st Class Brandon Myles speaks to the morning shift at Black Jack Inn Dining Facility at Fort Hood, Texas. Before each shift, Myles checks employees’ uniforms and hands, and lets them know their duties for the day. After each shift, he focuses on the positive during an After Action Review.  (Photo by Meghan Portillo/NCO Journal)
Sgt. 1st Class Brandon Myles speaks to the morning shift at Black Jack Inn Dining Facility at Fort Hood, Texas. Before each shift, Myles checks employees’ uniforms and hands, and lets them know their duties for the day. After each shift, he focuses on the positive during an After Action Review. (Photo by Meghan Portillo/NCO Journal)

By Example: Combat medic braved enemy bullets, flames to save Soldiers


By JONATHAN (JAY) KOESTER
NCO Journal

This story is part of a periodic NCO Journal feature that takes a closer look at an Army award in an NCO’s career. This month, we focus on the career of an NCO who was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. The Distinguished Service Cross is the Army’s second-highest award, behind only the Medal of Honor. AR 600-8-22 says of the Distinguished Service Cross, “The act or acts of heroism must have been so notable and have involved risk of life so extraordinary as to set the individual apart from his or her comrades.”

Then-Spc. Christopher B. Waiters, a combat medic, had just finished a long overnight clearance mission with the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, in Baqubah, Iraq. He and his team had been out since 10 p.m., so about 8 a.m. the next morning, April 5, 2007, Waiters laid down to get some sleep.

“Then I just heard this thunderous boom,” Waiters said. “First it was like, ‘Whoa, what just happened? Wake up everybody!’ Then over the radio you hear, ‘Hey! We have guys in a burning [Bradley]!’ [Using my nickname], my XO, 1st Lt. Timothy Price, said, ‘Hey Voodoo, let’s roll!’

“So we go, and it’s just us two trucks,” Waiters said. “It wasn’t very far away, maybe a 3-minute drive. We came around a corner, and as soon as we did, we started getting shot at. So, I faced my vehicle east, he faced his west. Two bad guys came out, and I immediately raised my weapon and dropped them. We were about 120 meters from the burning [Bradley], and the whole road was on fire. There were people everywhere, just scattered.”

Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, then the vice chief of staff of the Army, presents the Distinguished Service Cross to Staff Sgt. Christopher B. Waiters on Oct. 23, 2008, during a ceremony at Fort Lewis, Wash. (Photo by Phil Sussman)
Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, then the vice chief of staff of the Army, presents the Distinguished Service Cross to Staff Sgt. Christopher B. Waiters on Oct. 23, 2008, during a ceremony at Fort Lewis, Wash. (Photo by Phil Sussman)

Waiters didn’t immediately think of the consequences of his next decision. He quickly decided he had to run to the burning Bradley Fighting Vehicle despite the incoming enemy fire. Price told him not to leave because he wouldn’t make it back.

“Next thing you know, I was going down the road,” Waiters said. “I didn’t think about the decision I had made until the bullets were already coming at me. That’s when you think about, ‘What have I done?’ After that, it was just pure adrenaline and fear.”

Halfway to the Bradley, Waiters was pinned down by enemy fire. Then a truck came around the corner, firing from a gun turret on the back. “Tim, my XO, destroyed the driver and gunner with his .50-cal, which allowed me to keep running down the road.”

After dropping his weapon and gear because of the weight, Waiters jumped on top of the Bradley and pulled two Soldiers out. He treated the two Soldiers and evacuated them to safety, but he then learned there was a third Soldier still trapped in the back of the Bradley.

“So I ran back down ‘Death’s Alley,’ as I like to call it,” Waiters said. “By that time, my whole unit had converged on me. It turned into a rescue mission. We had snipers up, and they were taking guys out. We had platoons moving and clearing as they made their way down.”

Roaring flames prevented Waiters from reaching the third Soldier from the top of the Bradley, so he kicked open the back door. He tried again and again to reach the Soldier through the flames. On his fifth attempt, he was able to grab the Soldier and pull him out, but the Soldier had already died. Waiters secured his body and proceeded on with the mission.

“I had melted boots, melted gloves,” Waiters said. “I had been shot in my [body armor] plates front and back a few times. I had a long 60 minutes of, ‘I shouldn’t be alive.’”

Another medic on the scene, Sgt. Jeffrey Anello, told the Fort Lewis, Wash., Northwest Guardian he was shocked when he surveyed the wreckage.

“Seeing the Bradley smoldering and knowing he was able to retrieve two of the Soldiers in it alive, it was amazing,” Anello said. “By the looks of it, nobody should have been alive. We’re very proud of Sgt. Waiters, [after] serving alongside him for three-and-a-half years. It sets a standard for us, of putting others before yourself, to do your job.”

For his actions that day, Waiters received the Distinguished Service Cross. Waiters is now a staff sergeant serving as a platoon sergeant with the 1st Squadron, 71st Calvary Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, at Fort Drum, N.Y.

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Tell me how your actions that day represent the best of the U.S. Army.

A lot of people call me a hero. I don’t think I’m a hero. I think every Soldier is a hero because they raise their right hand, and they’re willing to die. I think it’s just looking out for people you don’t even know. I didn’t know those Soldiers. To me, they just wore my uniform. Those are brothers. They would have helped me on any given day. My job is a medic. If that’s what I have to die doing, that’s what I have to die doing. That’s what I signed up for.

What do you hope your Soldiers can learn from the actions you took that day?

Never give up, and always give your best. What I always tell my Soldiers is that you can’t save everybody, but you can save people. It’s all about, are you willing to die that day to do it? Are you willing to stick to that oath that you solemnly swore to do? Do that to the fullest, everyday of your life. That’s what makes you a Soldier. It’s not a 9-to-5 job. It’s a career. It’s a life choice you make. You just have to be able to conquer your fears and go out and give it your all.

What makes a good NCO?

After being struck by an improvised explosive device in Baqubah, Iraq, a Bradley Fighting Vehicle immediately caught fire with its occupants still inside. Then-Spc. Christopher B. Waiters attempts to climb into the burning vehicle to rescue a trapped Soldier. Waiters had previously treated and evacuated two other casualties back to his Stryker. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army)
After being struck by an improvised explosive device in Baqubah, Iraq, a Bradley Fighting Vehicle immediately caught fire with its occupants still inside. Then-Spc. Christopher B. Waiters attempts to climb into the burning vehicle to rescue a trapped Soldier. Waiters had previously treated and evacuated two other casualties back to his Stryker. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army)

A good NCO is a guy who you know you can count on. A good NCO is not that screamer, that barker, anymore. A good NCO is the guy who can look at you and say, “I’m disappointed,” and you, as that Soldier, are going to take that to heart. A good NCO is the guy you can call any day of the week. A good NCO is going to get you the answers. He’s going to work harder to make your life easier. … It’s guidance. It’s wisdom. It’s a guy who can take what he did as a young Soldier and take it and teach it to the rest, so that we become a successful corps.

What role have NCOs played in your development?

I got some good leadership. They guided me in the right direction. But I grew up with, “Don’t come back without the mission being accomplished,” even if it was just, “Go to S-1 and get this.” It was always, “Get the mission accomplished.”

What advice do you have for young Soldiers and other NCOs?

Be patient. The new guys want to get in there; they want to be leaders. But they need to watch what their leaders do, instead of just trying to jump in there. They need to ask questions. A lot of new NCOs don’t want to ask those questions because they feel like they’re stupid. They’re not stupid; you’re learning. If they are open to learning, they are going to be successful NCOs. You have to give respect and earn it at the same time. Back in the day, you could just yell at all Soldiers. That’s the way it was. Now, you need to know every one of your Soldiers. You need to know that you can’t raise your voice to this guy, because he’ll shut you out. Once a Soldier shuts you out, there’s no getting to them. Then you have to know that you can talk to this other guy in a calm tone of voice, and that’s worse than yelling at him. You have to understand them, know their backgrounds, their families, all that stuff. With the new Army, you have to know each individual Soldier; you can’t treat them all as one unit.

What is your MOS, and how did you get into it?

I’m a 68W (health care specialist). I was originally a 91B, combat medic. The recruiter sat down at the house, and he went over all the MOSs. Of course he started off with all [maneuver] series. And my dad sat there and said, “Infantryman? No. Armor? No.” My dad was a retired sergeant first class. It came to 91B combat medic. I like medicine. You can’t save all, but I can save as many as I can. It’s interesting. I think it’s the most gratifying job you can have. You’re respected by all.

By Example: Bank security escort turns dangerous, training helps survival


By JONATHAN (JAY) KOESTER
NCO Journal

This story is part of a periodic NCO Journal feature that takes a closer look at an Army award in an NCO’s career. This month, we focus on the career of an NCO who was awarded the Bronze Star with “V” device. The Bronze Star may be awarded for bravery, acts of merit or meritorious service. The “V” device denotes individuals who were awarded a decoration in recognition of valorous acts performed during direct combat with an enemy force.

Staff Sgt. Matthew Prout, the NCO in charge of the 88th Military Police Detachment at Camp Zama, Japan, was a private first class serving in Baqubah, Iraq, in June 2007 when his valorous actions under fire earned him the Bronze Star with “V” device.

Prout had spent most of the day working with Iraqi police, teaching them the skills they would need to be Iraqi police liaison officers. On the way back to base, they were asked to do a money escort to allow paychecks to be picked up for the Iraqi police. Prout’s unit had already had two people injured within a three-block radius of the bank, so they knew it was a dangerous area.

“Once we got there, we sat around for 15 or 20 minutes waiting for the Iraqi police to go inside and get their money and get out, so we could leave,” Prout said. “My vehicle was the rear vehicle of the convoy, pulling security.”

The attack on the convoy began with a rocket-propelled grenade shot at Prout’s vehicle.

“On initial impact, our team leader hopped out of the vehicle because it blew through his Kevlar, but it didn’t kill him,” Prout said. “It put shrapnel all through his back and along the top side of his head. We had an Iraqi police liaison officer in the back right seat. She was also injured from shrapnel. For me, I took shrapnel in both legs, up to the thigh, and both knees, with burns along my wrist.

“After initial impact, I started returning fire,” Prout said. “I was on the (.50-caliber machine gun), and I returned fire. Another vehicle pulled up on our right-hand side and started engaging the enemy from there. Our team leader who had hopped out yanked off his Kevlar, and the other team leaders from the vehicle on our right side hopped out and started to attend to him. Our driver was uninjured. From there, for the next 30 seconds, we returned fire while other vehicles pulled back and started doing a block embracing so they could get medics to the vehicle and get everyone loaded.”

The Soldiers in Prout’s vehicle moved up to the next vehicle, but there wasn’t enough room for everybody. Prout continued to engage enemies to the front until a third vehicle pulled up, allowing him and an interpreter to get in. The door to that vehicle was broken and could only be closed from the outside, leaving them stuck until another team came up to get the door closed.

From there, they made their way to the nearest forward operating base, doing first aid where they could.

“While in the back of the vehicle, I did first aid on myself because between the driver, gunner and vehicle commander, there wasn’t enough space for anyone to get back and help me,” Prout said.

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Tell me how your actions that day represent the best of the U.S. Army.

The actions show the willingness to engage the enemy no matter what, to never give up. We try to fulfill the Soldier’s Creed. At the same time, “never leave a fallen comrade.” Because even though people were injured along the way, everyone came back to their initial training of doing the steps necessary to get everyone home safe. The bottom line is that it was the training we did prior to deployment and during the deployment that allowed us to get everyone home safe.

Now that you are an NCO, what do you hope your Soldiers can learn from the actions you took that day?

Staff Sgt. Matthew Prout, the NCO in charge of the 88th Military Police Detachment, demonstrates modern Army combatives to Japanese police officers on Jan. 22, 2013, at Camp Zama, Japan. (Photo by Tetsuo Nakahara, U.S. Army Garrison Japan Public Affairs)
Staff Sgt. Matthew Prout, the NCO in charge of the 88th Military Police Detachment, demonstrates modern Army combatives to Japanese police officers on Jan. 22, 2013, at Camp Zama, Japan. (Photo by Tetsuo Nakahara, U.S. Army Garrison Japan Public Affairs)

The biggest lesson is that the fight is never over. No matter how bad you’re hurt, no matter how bleak things may seem at the time, no matter how much chaos there is, by relying on your training and what you’ve learned, and ensuring that you train properly with realistic trainings that show different situations, you can be prepared. By falling back on your training, it allows you to ensure that everyone comes home; everyone will remain safe. It also shows them that by facing your fears, you are able to overcome.

Why did you decide to join the Army?

I initially joined the Army because I had been in college for about two years, and it just wasn’t for me. I wanted to do more in life. I wanted to do something because, I felt like at school, I wasn’t motivated. I had no desire to go to class, do homework and things like that. So, I thought by joining the Army it would allow me to see the world, do more, have a more productive life and be a citizen that gives something instead of just takes and takes.

Why have you continued to serve?

I continue to serve mainly for the life experience. I know few other people will see what I’ve seen or do what I’ve done. From the people I meet, to the lessons I learn, my development has taken me from a young adult to realizing the seriousness of life. The way it has developed me as a person, I look forward to seeing how it will develop me in the future. I know too many of my friends who are back in the States, stuck in the same type of lifestyle, doing the same type of thing day in and day out, and they’ve never left the States. Whereas, I’ve gone through countless countries and seen countless things, things that I know I would have never done and never seen if I hadn’t joined the Army.

What role have NCOs played in your development?

They have been the main motivating force because the leadership I had as a private coming into the military showed me what correct leadership should look like. It allows me to have an example to strive to be like. I know that all the NCOs I had in the beginning knew everything from A to Z. They were squared-away, and they made sure, by any means necessary, we would learn what we needed to learn, no matter how long it took. They had the patience and the different types of teaching styles that helped everyone in the squad to grow, develop and learn. That pushed us to want to do more, instead of being satisfied with being mediocre.

What advice do you have for junior NCOs?

Never stop learning. Whatever rank you may come up to, you can always learn something new, so don’t be closed-minded. Don’t be afraid to ask someone for advice or for what their opinion is, no matter what their rank. Those people who you least expect will sometimes surprise you the most and inspire you to change your leadership style.

What is your MOS and why did you choose it?

31B military police. Initially I wanted to work for the U.S. Capitol Police in Washington, D.C. I felt doing military police would be a good start for me to get some experience. But, as of now, I’ve stayed a lot longer and keep staying in because of the sights and things I’ve seen. The Army allows you to learn so much more about the world. The military is a much more satisfying job than most civilian jobs. The impact you have on people is far greater and far longer lasting than at some small company, working 9-to-5.