As a Drill Sergeant in the Army, I remember one time after we’d just shipped all the newly graduated Privates, I walked back into my platoon bay, sat down on a bunk and asked myself, Did I give them everything they needed to know in order to make it? All had successfully passed the end of cycle test, but there is so much more than just the test to get a successful military career started and I hoped I had. I never got to meet any Privates I had in Basic Training later on so I guess I’ll never know the answer.
Later on I was a 1st Squad Leader in my Combat Engineer platoon. I now had eight other soldiers I was directly responsible for. I was also the newest guy in the platoon, so I was the unknown factor. How was I going to present myself as a leader? Did I know my job well enough to lead these guys even though they didn’t know me? I started in and used my two team leaders to their fullest, letting them do the jobs they did and tried not to micro-manage them. I guess in doing this I was being a good leader. This and other leadership skills must have worked, because my squad ended up winning the Company wide squad competition in 12B skills that year. I felt I made a difference there.
It must have been around March 1996 and I found myself a Sergeant First Class, NCOIC of a team of soldiers living at a place called Cowboy TOC over the Sava river between Croatia and Bosnia. Our team had been regulating traffic crossing the pontoon bridge for some time, and now we had some people up from the museum in Zuponja wanting to document the crossing area. I got to talking to one of the translators and ask her how she felt with NATO being there. She told me that for at least one year she didn’t have to worry about being shot at or being shelled. They could plant their gardens and enjoy the summer evenings. I never stopped to think about it, but what difference were we making in these people’s lives, and how long would it last?
I spent six months in Kosovo in 2001 as the Senior NCO of the U.S. Nation Support Element in Pristina. During that six months I worked with many service members and civilians all belonging to the U.S. Element there. I look back at it sometimes and wonder what difference I made there?
In 2002 I went to Kiev, Ukraine and gave courses to the Ministry of Defense, General Staff. I always wondered what effect I had and if I made a difference, especially now with all the unrest and turmoil in that country now. Was what I did forgotten or was some of it put to use? Was there any long term effects or were they short term – probably never find out.
I did the Iraqi thing, departed home in January 2003 and didn’t get back until end of March 2004. With all the happenings since I was there, I wonder what difference I really made? I know in the overall picture of things, I did nothing, but down at the personal level, the people I met, what difference did I make?
Now after my military career, I got my own business traveling around shoeing horses. I meet people every day in the course of my work. I’ve also made a hobby of writing a couple books: GUIDE’S LIFE and THOUGHTS OF A CRAZY OLD MAN. Many asked if I sell many, well I don’t plan on quitting my day job!
Through-out my entire life, from school through adult and now I have made some difference in life. My biggest question, I guess – was the difference good or bad?