Today marks an important transition in my life. Today officially ends my career as a Soldier in the Idaho Army National Guard. Twelve years ago I went through the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) in Boise and raised my right hand and took the oath of enlistment. I enlisted with the Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) of 96B/35F - All-Source Intelligence Analyst; as I was a minor, my parents had to sign my paperwork and that was a chore...convincing my mother that this was something I wanted to do. After my Junior year of high school ended I attended Basic Training at Fort Jackson, SC, and once I completed that I went back home and attended my Senior year. Once I graduated high school, I attended Advanced Individual Training (AIT) at Ft. Huachuca, AZ. Not counting Basic Training, this was the first experience on my own and it was an eye-opening experience.
After AIT I attended training exercises in Hawaii and Japan which were experiences of a lifetime. Shortly after my trip to Japan, I was activated to deploy to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom III, at FOB Warrior in Kirkuk (northern Iraq), with a trip through New York, Texas, and Louisiana for pre-deployment training. This was a difficult experience leaving home with only the hope that I would survive. Thankfully, the Almighty saw it necessary that I survive and come home back to my amazing family and friends. It was during the pre-deployment training that I was exposed to Freemasonry and which sent me down the road to join.
In 2007, I found myself once again in Ft. Huachuca attending MOS training for Unmanned Aircraft Operators. The next year I would be hired as the first Operations NCO for the Tactical Unmanned Aircraft Systems (TUAS) Platoon. It was at the end of 2008 that I was promoted to Sergeant. I had the pleasure of creating the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) and preparing and executing, the fielding of the Shadow TUAS for the State of Idaho. This was a tough time as I was also serving my Lodge as Worshipful Master and it all kept me very busy.
I served in this position until 2010 when we deployed to Iraq in support of Operation New Dawn. I was deployed to COB Adder in Talil and COS Garry Owen in Al Amarah (southern Iraq). I primarily served as Mission Coordinator and Shift Supervisor for the TUAS Platoon, but I would also act as Instructor-Operator when needed. During this deployment, I didn't go home for my mid-tour leave, but visited Italy which was an amazing time and I am thankful for the hospitality of the Italian Masons. This deployment was very trying though as the base I was on was affectionately called "Fort Incoming" because of the high rate of indirect fire we took during our time.
I had injured my back and I was informed that I could not re-enlist so I knew I was on my final lap. I started ensuring that I would pass on all of my knowledge to the TUAS Operators, and eventually, I was transferred out of the TUAS Platoon and back to my old job as an All Source Intelligence Analyst. I jumped back into it and I was put into various leadership roles and enjoyed my final year. I am thankful for the leaders of my Company who have worked with me and made this transition as painless as possible.
My time was filled with great times as well as low points, but in the end, I gained a great deal of experience and a group of Brothers- and Sisters-in-Arms that I wouldn't trade for the world. I had the honor of being Guidon Bearer for my company during the first deployment and served in a variety of leadership roles. My entire career was in the same company, though the name changed in 2006. I saw four Company commanders and five First Sergeants come and go. I've seen a host of soldiers pass through, some leaving after their initial enlistment and some going on in their military careers. There are many people I will always remember: Ryan, Laura, Tony, Becky, Brandon, Julie, Eric, Gabby, Michael, Jack, Kingsbury, Chris, Jake, Heather, Tettleton, Trout, Jason, Wolf, Dehaven, Blood, Hagob, Shandera, and Charles, I can never thank you all for the experiences I had with each of you. I now enter into a new chapter in my life and I am mixed between excitement and apprehension as my entire adult life has been in the military. I hope I'm ready for this.