News: Fort Carson soldier displays versatility downrange
Story by Sgt. Antony Lee
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – In early September, during a meet-and-greet for a National Cartoonist Tour at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, a service member waited in line to see Jeff Keane, a cartoonist who creates “The Family Circus,” a comic strip.
The service member approached Spc. Jacob Upchurch, a soldier helping organize the event, and asked if he could meet Keane instead of any of the other cartoonists present. His mom used to read “Family Circus” to him, and she had passed away.
So Upchurch, who is with Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 4th Infantry Division, did what he says now was the “normal” thing to do: he made sure the service member met Keane and even spend more time with him.
“To me that’s normal,” Upchurch, a Princeton, Ky., native, said.
Upchurch is a plans and operations specialist for Regional Command (South) who is serving on his second deployment. He has been stationed at Fort Carson, Colo. – his first duty station – since August 2009.
One of Upchurch’s many jobs is to help organize visits from celebrities who come to KAF to meet with deployed soldiers and provide entertainment. He has helped organize visits from country musician Kellie Pickler, comedian Tommy Davidson and hypnotist Chuck Milligan among other celebrities.
Upchurch said that “seeing soldiers happy when we get visitors” is one of the things that keeps him motivated every day.
Major Tony Noce, Upchurch’s supervisor, said Upchurch is the epitome of what a junior soldier should look like.
“He’s the hardest working soldier I’ve ever worked with,” Noce said, adding that Upchurch has grown immensely in the past six months, since both have been in Afghanistan. “He could probably organize and execute a tour all by himself if he had to.”
Although he is a specialist, Upchurch has actually been working in a noncommissioned officer role.
“He works levels above his pay grade,” Noce said. “Without Upchurch, 70 percent of everything we do wouldn’t be possible. That’s how important he is to the operation.”
During his first deployment, in 2010-2011, Upchurch served in Iraq as an actions and awards clerk as well as a mail clerk. He has learned important lessons since his first deployment he has applied during his current deployment – including how to be a self-sufficient soldier.
“Although I do let my leadership know about the decisions I make, they have allowed me to make choices on my own as a leader,” he said.
Upchurch, who joined the U.S. Army in January 2009, said he joined the military because of his love of country and because he wanted to serve.
“I felt like it was my duty to give back after so many had given,” Upchurch said.
Another one of Upchurch’s responsibilities is to run the “Hero of the Day” program, when units within RC(S) send in recommendations for soldiers who go above and beyond their average duties. The soldier is then recognized by the commanding general and division command sergeant major at the headquarters compound.
“Based on the unit’s recommendation, I’ll print out the certificate, which is then signed by the [commanding general and division command sergeant major],” he said. “I also work with the units to get the soldiers here.”
Noce likened Upchurch, who has several other responsibilities such as setting up video teleconferences and creating information cards of casualties and fallen warriors, to a utility player in baseball – someone who can play several positions.
Upchurch works out when he has free time. He said he is enjoying his second deployment.
“I think it’s going great. We’ve got a great platoon and my leadership is excellent.”