As I reflect on the past year, I am faced with the changes in life that have hit so hard in many ways, and yet, have made me a better person, soldier, Non-Commissioned Officer and a leader. Being a man of high ideals, those beliefs have been strengthened through the hardships, trials, blessings and defeats over the past year. I have changed in many ways, and it shall be up to those who know me best to evaluate those changes as either for the good, or for the worse. I only hope that they are mostly for the best. As a soldier, I have experienced things that are only touched on in training. Live fire is one thing, however, one knows not how they will act when it is not an invisible laser that “kills” you in training, but a live bullet zinging past your head, or slamming into the concrete near you. One knows not how they will react when faced with hostile forces who only retain the interest in seeing you pass into the next life. I have realized that the title “Sergeant” is not just a rank that demands respect. It is a position of authority, that if abused, shall only prove the fact that while soldiers may do what you say because they “have” to or because the Sergeant “said so”, they will never, ever give 100% if you are not willing to care for them as soldiers and men, and if you do not give 110% of everything that you have 110% of the time. Leadership is rewarding if done well. I respect each and every one of my men for who they are—Professional Soldiers, willing to do a job and accomplish any task handed to them. They have grown over this year and it will be difficult to leave them upon our return back to the United States. I will always remember this time as one of the best years of my life. Yes, I have lost friends and fellow soldiers, however, I have forged new friendships that will not easily fade into the dark recesses of time. I have made bonds with men, who only 18 months ago, had no idea who I was, what I stood for and if I could do the job—both leadership, and soldiers. I have tried my best to be the best leader possible and do my job the best that I know how. I only hope that in years to come, my men can look back and evaluate me as being a good leader. It is not the senior, but rather the subordinate who rates the leader. A leader is directly reflected in the actions of his soldiers.
As the time begins to wind down and we look toward the day when we shall return to our loved ones, I am faced with the age old problem of “smelling the barn” among the troops. I can only pray that as the time draws closer and closer, that I can keep my men's frame of mind in the right place and we will all go home together, sit around the barbecue and speak of battles won, friendships made, and our future lives. I will truly miss the time that I have spent this year, but there are more soldiers to train and another generation of leaders to mold. I only hope that I can be a part of it for as long as they will have me.