News: The Patriot Files: 'Big Boy Rules'
LANGLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Va. — Looking back on his deployment to Afghanistan, the most memorable experience Staff Sgt. Robert Taylor had was not the time his base was attacked while he was in the shower, or the time a 120 mm rocket whizzed by the truck he was driving - striking a target 50-feet behind.
It was the 12 days he spent at a village stability platform with U.S. Army Special Forces soldiers.
"It was 12 days with no running water and sub-zero temperatures," Taylor said. "It was the best deployment ever."
Taylor, who currently works as a power production technician for the 633rd Civil Engineer Squadron, said he was originally dispatched to replace the generators at the VSP. However, because the conditions did not suit generator replacement, Taylor stayed in the area to help service the existing generators. He also pulled guard duty, and helped out wherever he was needed - all in freezing cold weather.
"I knew it was going to be somewhat cold," he said. "But, we were waking up in the morning to knock snow off the tents before they collapsed under the weight."
There were times Taylor said he would be working on a generator for only 10 minutes before his hands began to shake. But despite the cold, he knew people were relying on him.
"I sometimes took me an hour to warm up enough so I could fall asleep," Taylor said. "But, I took it all as doing my job. Out there, you don't want to be that weak link."
The lessons Taylor learned were translated into the advice he gave Senior Airman Stephen Gonzalez, 633rd CES power production technician. Gonzalez is preparing to embark on his first deployment, a mission to Afghanistan where he will be advising forward operating bases on their power equipment needs and procedures.
"Sgt. Taylor taught me that you can't second guess yourself out there," Gonzalez said. "You have to know your job. If you make a mistake, you may not get the chance to correct it."
Taylor carried the same mentality with him during his tour throughout Afghanistan. In the 12 days at the VSP, Taylor said he felt a huge sense of camaraderie with the soldiers stationed there. The mission came first, and everything else was a distant second.
"We didn't know anyone's ranks," Taylor said. "Everyone was on a first name basis. Everyone had a job to get done."
Taylor said that while the actual conditions felt terrible in the moment, looking back he thoroughly enjoyed the experience. He felt trusted by leadership at all levels to do his job with a lot of freedom.
"You don't want to be that one guy who can't pull his weight, and has to have others pull it for him," he said. "You can't do that out there. You just can't."
Having others rely on him to get the job done was an incredibly rewarding experience, according to Taylor. It pushed him to improve his job skills, and raise his level of performance so he could continue to operate with the freedom his leaders trusted him with. Taylor called it his "big boy rules."
"I really had a lot of freedom to do my job," he said. "To be the only generator mechanic out there meant I had to be good. And as long as I made everything work my leadership was happy, and let me keep working as I was. Those are the big boy rules."
Editor's Note: This story is part of an ongoing series highlighting service members with exceptional experiences throughout their military careers.
Date Posted:05.23.2012 09:52
Location:LANGLEY AIR FORCE BASE, VA, US
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