I grew up as an Army brat. My father served for 30 years in the Army, so I was surrounded by the military lifestyle. I was actually born in Germany on one of my father’s overseas tours, and I lived in Kentucky, Kansas, Missouri and Wisconsin before graduating and deciding that I was going to pursue an Army career.
I first seriously considered my own role in the Armed Forces when I was in high school. I enrolled in Junior ROTC when I was at an age where I understood more about my father’s work.
I attended the United States Military Academy for a year before transferring to another school and entering ROTC. I was in a program called the Simultaneous Membership Program, which meant I participated with a local National Guard unit on weekends while I was still a student. It put me into a practical leadership role, working with Soldiers while still in school.
ROTC gave me great role models to see how leadership is applied. The faculty was excellent, and I reach out to them periodically. They’re still interested in how I’m doing and what I’ve gone on to do. Those bonds are lasting.
My first job was as a battalion signal officer of a military intelligence unit in Korea. I was the guy that any time a computer broke, they were going to call me to try and get it fixed. And even if I didn’t know how to get it fixed, I was supposed to know whom to call to make that happen. Being an MI unit, they had a lot of top-secret information, so I had to get a higher level of security clearance to work with that material. And, of course, there was the uniqueness of working in Korea, because we also worked with Korean units and supported them. It was very eye-opening as a young lieutenant, being thrown that much responsibility in a country where you don’t speak much of the language.
From there I went to Germany, where I was in a signal unit and was surrounded by other folks who had some of the same background that I did. At first I was the company executive officer, meaning I was in charge of all of the equipment maintenance and a lot of the administrative running of a company, which was about anywhere from 80 to 100 people. Soon after I arrived in that unit, we deployed for a year to Bosnia. We were a communications relay for all of the other Army bases.
Since then I’ve had various jobs: I was company commander in Arizona for a couple of years, and I worked in England running a communication center for three years. I went back to Germany for another assignment and deployed as part of Multi-National Corps Iraq. All of the experiences that I’ve had have helped me do my current job better because either I’ve dealt with situations or I’ve dealt with specific technologies that are included in what I do now.
In my current position as Army North G6 chief of operations and plans, my focus is the United States. I’m doing the same things I’ve done throughout my career, but I’m doing them for American citizens. When we’re called into action, it’s usually in response to a natural disaster. Last year, I deployed twice to help coordinate the Department of Defense response to Hurricanes Gustav and Ike. And if something unnatural were to happen in the United States, like a nuclear, chemical or biological event, we’re part of the forces that are going to respond.
I’m looking ahead all the time. I’ve got a big whiteboard in my office filled with all of the future missions and who’s going to be doing what so we don’t run out of resources. It’s figuring out who’s got the right skills and is available to cover the various missions we handle.
One of the things that I’m personally working on is a master’s degree, as well as various IT certifications so that I can make myself a more valuable member of the team. There are just more things that I’ll be able to accomplish with that kind of education and training.
All of the experiences that I’ve had in the Military are going to make it so easy for me to make that transition to civilian life when the time comes. The work ethic, the people that you interact with, the training you get — even the way of thinking you’ll be exposed to in the Military — are only going to set you up for success.