News: Multi-deployment veteran passes on knowledge
JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq – It’s not uncommon to meet soldiers serving on their second or third deployment, but finding a soldier on a seventh tour is a little more difficult.
Sgt. 1st Class Peter Dees, a motor sergeant with 3rd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, “Red Dragons,” 2nd Advise and Assist Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, has deployed all over the world, and now he passes his experience on to soldiers who work for him at Joint Base Balad, Iraq.
Dees started his military career like many other soldiers, in the Army Reserve. After four years in the Reserve, he enlisted for active duty service as a vehicle mechanic.
Only a few years later, in 1998, Dees went on his first deployment as part of a rapid response force deployed to Kuwait when Saddam Hussein disallowed weapons inspectors into Iraq.
After stressful months in Kuwait, Dees returned to the U.S., only to be deployed soon afterward to Kosovo, where he and his soldiers maintained vehicles for the peacekeeping force there.
Following that mission, Dees enjoyed a brief break until his unit was called on to take part in the invasion of Iraq in March 2003. “It was scary,” said Dees, an Elkhart, Ind., native. Neither he nor his fellow soldiers knew what to expect.
As combat units pushed their way to Baghdad, Dees, then a sergeant, was part of a team of track vehicle recovery operators supporting them.
“We were very busy,” Dees said. “All kinds of stuff broke.”
After finishing his third deployment, Dees returned to the States briefly. He then returned to Iraq after a little more than a year, to conditions that hadn’t improved as much as he had hoped.
“We didn’t have much set up then,” he said, adding that he and his mechanics fixed vehicles and constructed armor out of an abandoned factory for his unit.
“It’s been a huge increase since then,” Dees said about vehicle armor.
We went from making our own armor to it coming standard on these vehicles. They just keep getting safer every year, he explained.
Dees has since returned three more times to Iraq, each time in different locations, conducting vehicle maintenance.
Dees, now on his seventh deployment and fifth to Iraq, is working at one of the largest bases in the country.
Dees said this is his best deployment so far because soldiers now stay in regular rooms. They now have an unprecedented level off access to communication tools that allow them to stay in contact with families back home.
Dees, a senior leader now, uses his experiences to help his soldiers, many of whom are on their first deployment.
“One of the big benefits of being deployed so many times was being able to anticipate how things would go here,” said Dees.
Before they left the States, Dees helped prepare his soldiers mentally for the stresses and hardships they would encounter on deployment. Soldiers benefit from having numerous leaders with deployment experience, said Dees.
“Back in [Operation Iraqi Freedom I], we had very few leaders that had deployment-type experience,” he said. “Soldiers [now] are very confident that their leaders can lead them through anything we do.”
Dees said one of his goals before coming back to Iraq was to make sure his soldiers had a good idea of what to expect when they arrived.
“As soon as I got a soldier in, I was upfront with them,” he said.
Dees said he told soldiers when the unit expected to deploy and gave them as much information about the upcoming deployment as he could.
“He told us what to expect when we first got here,” said Pfc. Nicholas Denton a field artillery mechanic from Houston, with the Red Dragons. “He also told us to expect the unexpected.”
Before deploying, Dees also hosted several section cookouts for his soldiers and their spouses. During the cookouts, he introduced his wife, Beverly, who has been married to him through all of his deployments.
Beverly, a former soldier with deployment experience herself, is the head of the unit’s Family Readiness Group, and she uses her experience to help Families of deployed soldiers.
“If they have any issues, they can call her,” said Dees. “She’s been incredibly supportive.”
With his wife in charge of the unit’s FRG in the States, Dees said he is free to focus on working with his soldiers.
“That’s all I’m here for is the soldiers, to teach and train them so they can take my place one day,” he said.
For the soldiers that work for Dees, he is a nearly-endless source of information.
“Sometimes I have questions … I go to him and he shows me what to do,” said Denton.
Dees later quizzes Soldiers on the information to make sure they retained it correctly, he continued.
“It gives me a lot of confidence,” said Denton. “This is my first deployment … knowing that he has deployed seven times, he knows what he is talking about.”
Although Dees is ready for a break after this deployment, he said he is prepared to go again.
Regardless of where Dees ends up in the Army, he said, the knowledge gained from numerous deployments will enable him to prepare young mechanics for their own future missions.