BAYJI, Iraq — Sgt. Jared Gilmore a mortarman with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division had a quick decision to make and only a split second to make it.
As a live-grenade landed near him and other Soldiers defending a small patrol base, he picked it up and threw it back.
Gilmore, a 27 year-old native of Ruston, La. is currently deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Prior to deploying to Iraq, he did two tours of duty in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
"It was a completely different kind of war over there," Gilmore said.
"It was an incredibly mountainous terrain. You'd wake up to do your patrol and it isn't like doing patrols through a city, it was [throwing] on your rucksack and all your gear and [walking] up and down mountains at six thousand feet."
During Gilmore's last deployment to Afghanistan with the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team his unit was establishing a vehicle patrol base in a town called Wanat when they were ambushed by more than 150 Taliban fighters.
After throwing back an enemy hand grenade saving his life and most likely the lives of nearby fellow Soldiers, Gilmore grabbed an M240 machine gun and set up "a support by fire" position to repel the attackers and provide suppressive fire for fellow Soldiers.
"I was pretty exposed the whole time," he said.
With his quick thinking and that of other brave Soldiers in his unit, they were able to successfully repel the enemy attackers. For his actions, Gilmore was awarded the Silver Star.
He says his experiences really changed him as a person.
"Before I joined the Army, I didn't really think about conflicts in other places and how it would affect the people, the population and the American Soldiers over there fighting."
"I guess it was more of a wake-up call. This is the real world. This is how things really work. It's not all nice and tidy. It's a chaotic world," Gilmore said.
Now Gilmore works at the Bayji Oil Refinery in Iraq where instead of loading mortar tubes his unit has been conducting talks and engagements with local Iraqi leaders on a regular basis.
"They've got a lot of projects going on right now and they're trying to get a lot of these facilities back up and running because they're not producing as much as they should be right now," he said.
"The refinery produces over sixty percent of the income here in Iraq, so this is a major facilitator of their income. [We're] just here to make sure it's running smoothly."
Gilmore said being involved with the draw-down of U.S. forces in Iraq has been a learning experience. He also says he has learned a lot overall while serving in the U.S. Army.
"It has taught me a lot of things I never would have learned if I had just been a civilian. It's helped me grow as a man too," he said.
He says his family has been very encouraging throughout his Army career.
"They've always supported me and they've always been proud of me," he said.
Gilmore, whose unit is preparing to redeploy back to the U.S. soon said he's eager to get back home to his wife Kristin and their six month-old son Brady.
He and his family are also preparing to move to Fort Benning, Ga., in December to be an instructor at Mortar Square, training new Soldiers to be indirect fire infantrymen.
"I'm ready to move on to something new and I think teaching would be a really great job," Gilmore said.
Looking back at all his experiences so far, he has been proud to serve and said it has been worth it.
"I definitely wouldn't be who I am today if I hadn't joined the Army," he said.
This work, NCO's Army experiences mold his life, by SSG Richard Colletta, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.