News: Far from home, a Tenn. volunteer trains for war
Story by Spc. Christopher Smythers
ORO GRANDE BASE CAMP, N.M. – From the hills of Tennessee, the Volunteer State, one of the cavalry’s newest troopers trains in earnest.
Older than his peers, the 31-year-old prepares for what is scheduled to be his first - and possibly the Army’s last - deployment to Afghanistan.
Pfc. Jason L. Tullis, a cavalry scout with 1st Squadron, 13th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, originally from Franklin, Tenn., joined the Army later in life than most soldiers.
A graduate of Nashville Auto Diesel College, he spent his early adult years working in the trade he had studied but felt unfulfilled.
With time creeping ever forward, he knew one opportunity was slipping away. The idea of missing a valuable life experience led him into a local recruiting station.
“I felt like it was my duty to serve,” he said. “I wanted to do it when I was a kid, but, at 31, it was kind of my last chance.”
After joining, however, Tullis began to experience the challenges of learning a new career.
The combat skills he was learning were completely new, and his instructors relentlessly drilled him in order to make the skills become second nature.
“The main focus was repetition and drilling it into the privates' heads,” he said. “They promoted teamwork, and rehearsal made the drills become muscle memory.”
Tullis said he absorbed every bit of knowledge and advice offered. He had great respect for his instructors and appreciated the experience they brought to the table.
The training was intense, and he felt ready to deploy after basic, he said. Training is never complete, however, and, after arriving at Fort Bliss, Tullis discovered he had much more to learn.
“This is an accelerated level of training,” Tullis said. “If I hadn’t learned what I did in basic, this would have been much harder. The training I got there helped me prepare for this.”
The complexity of the lessons advanced, but the method of training remained the same, he said. Rehearsal was the key.
“Practice makes perfect,” Tullis said, “so the more we train here, the better we're going to be down range.
“It's like building a house. Basic training laid the foundation, and this type of rehearsal builds it up.”
“Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse,” said Sgt. 1st Class George H. Grullon, Tullis’ platoon sergeant. “In the beginning, we were like a knife with rust. Right now, the knife is being cleaned. By the time we are done with this training exercise, the knife will be clean and sharp.
“I'm experienced. Most of this stuff is not new to me, but he is new to the Army.
“Every day, Tullis is learning something different. We make mistakes together, and we all learn from it, but he asks a lot of good questions. I like that. That tells me he is concerned and he wants to learn and better himself.”
The next phase of training will bring the brigade to the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif.
“We'll be doing a lot of the same things we're doing here,” said Tullis, “but NTC is a level up from what were doing now.”
Tullis receives focused training and the guidance of experienced leaders. Showing constant improvement, he becomes more skilled with every repetition and every rehearsal.
“As a platoon sergeant, I have [noncommissioned officers] below me,” said Grullon. “We all mentor him to make him a better soldier. He’s getting better every day.”