News: 236 Rakkasans re-enlist in combat zone
Story by Pfc. Christopher McKenna
FORWARD OPERATING BASE SALERNO, Afghanistan – A total of 236 Task Force Rakkasan soldiers gathered at various combat outposts and forward operating bases across Afghanistan to take the oath of re-enlistment Oct. 10.
While stress in a combat zone is abundant, these Rakkasan soldiers chose to add to their time with the Army, with many stabilizing to remain with the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division.
“Doing this in a combat zone means that I get to stay out here with all of my brothers and continue to serve,” said U.S. Army Spc. Alex Masteller, Troop A., 1st Squadron, 33rd Cavalry Regiment, from Marion, Ohio. “Being a Rakkasan out here means being as hard as a soldier can be.”
U.S. Army Maj. Gen. John Campbell, the 101st Airborne Division commander, officiated the ceremony from Forward Operating Base Salerno, where 77 soldiers who were re-enlisting were joined by 169 more via video teleconferences.
“Whenever you have an opportunity to re-enlist any soldier, it is pretty awesome, but whenever you have an opportunity to re-enlist 236, that’s unique. That’s special,” Campbell said.
The process leading to the ceremony was a journey that started in June. Originally, the intention was to have 101 soldiers re-enlist, but when the number of soldiers re-enlisting grew, so did the goal. After passing 101 re-enlistees, brigade officials set the next goal at 187 - as in the 187th Infantry Regiment.
“This is a huge deal. One half of one percent of our nation is serving right now,” Campbell said. “You guys are a minority, but you’re doing it because it’s noble work, and I am proud to serve.”
By the time the date of the ceremony had arrived, 236 Rakkasans had re-enlisted in theater - matching the exact number of years the U.S. Army has been in existence.
“We just got the idea for 10-10-10 on Oct. 1, because it only happens every thousand years,” said U.S. Army Master Sgt. Ron Yancey, 3rd Brigade Combat Team senior career counselor from Batesville, Miss. “When we decided what we wanted to do, our battalion career counselors took the ball and rolled with it, coming up with what we had today.”
Oct. 1 marked the beginning of a new fiscal year. And while the old year may be over, the deployment continues and soldiers are still re-enlisting, Yancey said.
“It hasn’t been an issue trying to get soldiers to re-enlist this deployment,” Yancey said. “With the economy the way it has been, soldiers are basically being economically driven to re-enlist.”
While it may make economic sense, adding time onto an Army career during a deployment is never an easy decision.
“I’ve been with the Rakkasans for two years now and it's like a family. I love it here,” said U.S. Army Spc. Robert Barth, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 626th Brigade Support Battalion mechanic, from Moreno Valley, Calif.
Barth was the first member of his family to enlist in the military and takes great pride in knowing he is serving his country.
“It means a lot to me,” Barth said. “I’m out here with my other family on this deployment and don’t see the need to go anywhere else. I’ve been in this long and haven’t had any problems so I figured I might as well stay in for some more time.”