By J.M. Simpson
My Spring Break at Pierce College is just about up, and I have to return home in order to meet my classes. But before I leave Afghanistan and the 864th ECB (H) at FOB Sharana, I would like to say a few words about some of the soldiers I met and worked with.
Col. Richard Stevens: OK, so he’s not from Fort Lewis. But he took the time to treat me as an equal; he reiterated a lot of what I learned on this assignment; he did not fear the fact that I am the press. I appreciate that, Sir. Thank you.
Lt. Col. Mark Deschenes: He doesn’t say much, but when he does talk he can go on and on and on. But that’s not bad; he knows a helluva lot about what his soldiers are doing in Afghanistan. He’s a no nonsense kind of guy who gets the job done. Moreover, many of the soldiers serving with him say he is the best commanding officer they have ever worked with. I agree.
I appreciate everything he did for me. At no point during my five embedments have I had a battalion commander do as much for me in terms of getting me out to get my stories. Thank you, Sir. I think I have told “your story.”
Maj. James DeLapp: I enjoyed talking with and listening to you. You are without a doubt one of the brightest guys I have run across in a long time. The battalion is well served by your presence. Thank you for everything; especially the use of the DSN line.
Maj. Kenneth Frey: Allowing me access to the TOC and the information contained therein helped immensely in my understanding of the huge tasks the 864th confronts. Thank you for your trust in me; I wish it were like this at Fort Lewis. I will not forget your trust.
Capt. Eric Parthemore: We only spoke for a moment or two while at FOB Kushamond, but I recall you saying that you’ve got some decisions to make. Good luck. You are a fine man soldier.
Capt. Kenya Saenz: Thank you for all your work. Being a PAO is hard work, but I think you did a great job. Particularly when it came to getting the visa for Qatar.
CSM Charles Turner: I was told (tongue in cheek, of course) never to quote you. Well, I am.
Remember the talk you gave the soldiers at FOB Kushamond moments after the commander awarded some CABs and gave out some coins? Remember what you told the soldiers? You told them to not to become preoccupied on coming home; you told them to “sprint through to the finish line.” That’s good advice … coming from a damn fine sergeant major.
Sgt. Donald Kenney: When you get back, I am going to attach a Radio Flyer wagon to the back of my car, tie you in the wagon and drive back and forth on the worst bit of road I can find. And when I am done, I will smile and say, “See. That’s what it’s like riding over unimproved roads in the back end of your MRAP.” All kidding aside, I appreciate what you did on that day to FOB Kushamond.
Sgt. Justin Rook: You told me the 864th ECB (H) is the best engineer battalion in the Army. I think you’re right. Be safe.
Spc. Chris Hammond: I appreciate and respect your modesty. But you are a story – and hence an example – waiting to be told. Thank you for your service to this country.
I could go on, but these are the folks who stand out in my memory.
Fort Lewis, you have every right to be proud of these soldiers. They have worked incredible hard; they have faced and overcome engineering challenges that literally stagger the imagination.
And they will all be home soon.