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    ‘First Lightning’ Battalion soldiers continue to re-enlist while deployed

    ‘First Lightning’ Battalion soldiers continue to reenlist while deployed

    Courtesy Photo | Spc. Daniel Heverns (left), with Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 1st Battalion,...... read more read more



    Courtesy Story

    2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division Public Affairs

    By 1st Lt. Kai Gonsalves

    BAGHDAD—Soldiers with 1st “First Lightning” Battalion, 7th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Advise and Assist Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, United States Division – Center know well what it means to live by their unit’s motto—“never broken by hardship or battle.”

    The high rate of deployments, however, has not stopped soldiers, both junior and senior in rank, from re-enlisting to continue serving their country.

    Many senior leaders are on at least their second deployment; some soldiers are currently on their fifth combat tour. There are also numerous young soldiers in the unit who are getting their first experience of what it is to serve in a combat zone on the battalion’s current deployment in support of Operation New Dawn.

    The 1st Bn., 7th FA Regt., 2nd AAB, 1st Inf. Div., USD – C has upheld a stellar retention rate despite the frequency of deployments. The “First Lightning” Battalion has maintained an overall average of 100 percent for its 2011 fiscal year retention mission, said Staff Sgt. Olen Gay, the career counselor with 1st Bn., 7th FA Regt., 2nd AAB, 1st Inf. Div., USD – C and an Aiken, S.C., native.

    “Most of these soldiers not only love their job as artillerymen,” Gay said, “but most of all, they love the Army and serving their country.”

    The soldiers that have re-enlisted for this fiscal period have overcome specific challenges and obstacles regarding their re-enlistment due to recent changes in the Army’s retention program. The Army is going through a downsizing period during which the overall strength has to be reduced by the 2014 fiscal year.

    For example, Spc. Brandon Demarest, a cannon crewmember with Battery A, 1st Bn., 7th FA Regt., 2nd AAB, 1st Inf. Div., USD – C and a Fayetteville, Ark., native, was unable to re-enlist for his current military occupational specialty due to changes in the Army’s retention goals. However, that did not prevent him from finding another avenue by which he can continue to serve, as he changed his career field to that of a utilities equipment mechanic.

    “Even though I love my (current) job, I am just as happy to (be) a utilities equipment repairer, so that I can continue my career in the Armed Forces,” Demarest said.

    While some soldiers will be changing jobs when the battalion returns from Iraq, others will be moving on to new duty stations which they were able to select from amongst the career options available upon re-enlistment.

    Spc. Thomas Reed, a small arms repairer with Company G., 1st Bn., 7th FA Regt., 2nd AAB, 1st Inf. Div., USD – C and a Centerville, Tenn., native, selected Fort Campbell, Ky., as his next duty assignment.

    “I chose Ft. Campbell because it allows me to be closer to my family,” Reed said. “It also lets me to continue to serve in a job that keeps small arms weapons ready for the fight.”



    Date Taken: 02.24.2011
    Date Posted: 02.24.2011 09:38
    Story ID: 65992
    Location: BAGHDAD, IQ 

    Web Views: 242
    Downloads: 0