News: Former drill sergeant continues to train troops
Story by Sgt. Harold McGill
ZHARAY DISTRICT, Afghanistan -- Soldiers from Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division braved extremely warm and cold temperatures, sandstorms and bitter winds, March 18-20, to help begin a road building project in Kandahar province.
In addition to carrying out his normal duties, Staff Sgt. Jonathan B. James of Crestview, Fla., 2nd squad leader, 1st Platoon, played multiple roles in helping his fellow soldiers accomplish the mission.
“Staff Sgt. James brings a confidence that is calming and reassuring,” said 1st Lt. Thomas “Mac” Brinker the platoon leader for first platoon.
“In addition to doing his job very well, Staff Sgt. James is comic relief for the platoon,” said Brinker. “He is always up for a good laugh.
The former drill sergeant joined the military at age 25 when he left his job as a truck driver. He joined the Army in order to get benefits and provide a better life for his family. He said he had always been interested in joining the military.
“I was just following in my older brother’s footsteps when I became Infantry,” he said.
Staff Sgt. James says that he embraces the challenges presented by his job and does whatever it takes to get it done.
“The most challenging part is keeping my guys’ heads in the game and trying to keep their minds off distractions back home,” said James.
“He keeps the troops motivated and is always checking on them and just talking with them,” said Staff Sgt. Matthew D. Hawkland who is from Baltimore, Md. and is the squad leader of 3rd Squad, 1st Platoon.
“He’s a funny guy, I love James. He picks everybody up and even helps keep me up,” added Hawkland.
James says he was taught to always train soldiers. “I don’t care if it’s even during combat, you can always use a moment to teach,” said James.
His fellow squad leaders note the value of James’ background. “His base of knowledge is pretty extensive because he has been in the Army for a while and is a former drill sergeant,” said Hawkland.
Although James just came to the 82nd Airborne Division in November, he has already taken on an important role in preparing troops for missions. In that short amount of time, the relationship he has established with his fellow paratroopers is evident.
“Being an infantryman allows soldiers to form a special bond with one another,” said James. “There are special memories formed that troops can look back on later.”