IRAQ - Many soldiers have hidden talents that surface during deployments. Some write poetry to pass the time, others sing. Some play an instrument, others draw. However, their talents rarely stay a secret.
Such is the case for Spc. Brandon Tate, a food service specialist with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Sustainment Brigade, 103rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), and a Clifton Park, N.Y., native.
Tate has been drawing since age six, and has been the reigning Phillip A. Connelly centerpiece award-winner at Fort Stewart, Ga., for two years straight. His 9-foot gingerbread football stadium earned him first place in 2008, and his life-sized 1957 Chevrolet and matching cake earned him first place in 2009. However, no one expected what he created in 2010.
It started off small with Tate designing the brigade’s coin. Later, once his company took oversight of the Oasis Dining Facility, he painted the two t-walls outside to reflect the 3rd Sust. Bde. unit patch. Lt. Col. Heidi Hoyle, commander of the 3rd STB, and a Bay City, Mich., native, was so impressed with his work, that she had him paint the t-walls in front of her headquarters. His finished product not only displayed the “Hellraisers’” logo, but also incorporated the American and Iraqi flags, along with a rising sun representing Operation New Dawn.
“The whole concept came from [Command Sgt. Maj. Anthony] Whitney,” explained Tate. “He said he wanted a transition from OIF [Operation Iraqi Freedom] to OND [Operation New Dawn]. I thought nothing would be better than to start with the symbols for both.”
Once he finished that project, Capt. Vanessa Parker, commander of HHC, 3rd STB, and a Cincinnati, Ohio, native, almost immediately commissioned Tate to paint the t-walls outside of the company headquarters. This time he was given more freedom to create, so he ran with it.
“The most recent Titan that they’d been using was really primitive, so I was told to reinvent the wheel and come up with a whole new concept,” said Tate. “It looks a little more Spartan-like, but it looked the role for something I would like to see in our company. I put a river behind it, symbolizing the Marne River.”
“I wish I could take it home with me to Fort Stewart,” said Parker. “I love my t-wall! The Soldier definitely has great talent.”
She added that the design for the Titan t-wall led to the company’s new t-shirts, which Sgt. 1st Class Kelvin Conyers, medical operations noncommissioned officer with the 3rd Sust. Bde., and a Manning, S.C. native, quickly ordered.
“It’s really nice,” said Conyers. “It signifies the true strength of the Titan spirit.”
Although the Titan mural seems to be a favorite among 3rd Sust. Bde. Soldiers, Tate said the work he’s most proud of isn’t yet complete. He’s been working on a World War II, 3rd Infantry Division mural depicting actual 3rd ID Soldiers, since his arrival here. He had to stop the project to work on the t-walls. He said he hopes to finish it soon so it can serve as a legacy here after the unit leaves next spring.
“That’s the one I’m most proud of because that one is the most challenging,” said Tate. “Reality is the most challenging.”
He admitted that his work since he’s been in Iraq is actually a first for him. He has always drawn but has never painted on such a large scale. The project wound up being more of an asset than a liability when he started on the t-walls outside Oasis. He already had a picture in mind.
“Regardless of the media that I use, it all carries over,” he said. “The most confident I am is when I have a picture that I can view when drawing it.”
The fact that his ability comes easily shouldn’t be surprising. His father is a graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology, which is the same school that turned out such designers as Calvin Klein. Tate said he hopes to pass on the talent he learned from his father to his own son one day.
He added that his dream is to attend Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota, Fla., and to one day work for Pixar Animation Studios as a storyboard illustrator. For now, he feels good to have contributed his talent to the brigade. Currently, there is a waiting list of units outside the brigade waiting for his brushes to grace their t-walls.
“I enjoy every project, especially when it’s [complete],” he said. “I actually like trying to do better on the next t-wall than I did on the previous. This was my intention, so I guess this is my calling.”
This work, 3SB cook displays artistry throughout brigade, by MSG Rhonda Lawson, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.