News: Patriot Soldier’s unique promotion goes airborne
Story by Sgt. Eric Provost
NANGARHAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Promotions are very special achievements for service members. Many could tell you the story behind each one of their promotions. Some even wear their next rank on the underside of their collar in anticipation of the day they’ll get to put it on their chest. It’s one of those accomplishments that needs to be shared with friends and family.
Despite being thousands of miles from her home of Belton, Texas, U.S. Army Spc. Michelle Garcia, a human resourses specialist with 4th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 4th Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, Task Force Patriot, deployed to Forward Operating Base Fenty, still found a way to be with family recently on the day she advanced to the rank of specialist.
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jonathan Billeck, Garcia’s uncle from Heidenheimer, Texas, also stationed at Fenty, said he was happy to have the opportunity to be a part of the ceremony.
“She’s a hard worker. The family’s always been proud of her and we’ll continue to be proud of her. No doubt about that,” said Billeck.
Billeck is a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter pilot with 3rd Battalion, 501st Aviation Regiment, Task Force Dragon, who flies in support of Task Force Patriot.
“It gave me a lot of motivation. Every day at work I’d think about the day and that it was coming up faster and faster and when we finally came out here and met up with my uncle, it felt like time actually slowed down. It was an amazing moment,” said Garcia.
The ceremony took place above Nangarhar Province, inside Billeck’s Black Hawk while he piloted it. Col. Mario Diaz, commander of 4th Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, Task Force Patriot, performed the actual promotion while Command Sgt. Maj. Noe Salinas, the brigade’s senior enlisted advisor, read the official orders.
“This is a very special thing that I will cherish,” said Garica. “The family back home, they’re just glad to know that my uncle and I can at least see each other, and they know that we’re safe.”
Billeck had mentioned to Diaz on a mission that he’d like the opportunity to fly his niece during the deployment. Diaz, in turn, coordinated not just the flight for them but the promotion ceremony to go along with it.
“For Col. Diaz to take the time to do this, to care about a family affair like this, It meant a lot to me,” said Billeck. “He’s a good commander, a good leader who cares about his people and this showed a lot of his character.”
Garcia even assisted her uncle in going through the pre-flight checks on the Black Hawk before the ceremony and he taught her a few things about the mechanics of the helicopter and how it worked.
She said she’s always been interested in mechanics and is seriously considering changing career fields and becoming a helicopter mechanic.