NANGARHAR PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN
NANGARHAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Some people don’t talk much about themselves.
That’s the case with Sgt. 1st Class Patrick Ihns, a platoon sergeant with Company B, 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division. The 25-year Army veteran may not talk much about himself, but those around him, especially the soldiers he leads, will tell you all you need to know.
“To get a compliment from this guy is just like Christmas,” Pfc. Richard Reichardt, an infantryman in Ihns’ platoon from Tipton, Iowa, said. “Being in first platoon, you want to strive to do better, because of Sgt. 1st Class Ihns, you don’t want to let him down.”
Ihns, 44, does not look like someone who has been in the military for a quarter of a century. With six deployments under his belt, he is still leading side-by-side with his soldiers.
“He motivates me - he still kicks, he’s still going,” U.S. Army Pfc. Scott Suhr, another infantryman from Olin, Iowa, in Ihns’ platoon, said “I would have never thought he was in 20-some years.”
“If I was in 20 years, I would pray just to be half the soldier he is,” Reichardt added.
The soldiers in his platoon said they see Ihns as the type of guy who has been through any situation imaginable and who always remains calm.
“I try to impress on them to always take a second to think before they do something,” Ihns said. “A lot of time when something happens, your first reaction is to do whatever you’re going to do fast. Sometimes that’s not the best idea.”
The soldiers in his platoon said they look up to Ihns so much, the worst thing they can imagine is disappointing him.
Ironically, when it came to this deployment, it was Ihns who said he was the one who didn’t want to disappoint. Ihns could have retired already. He did not have to go on the deployment, but he didn’t want to let his soldiers down.
“There are a lot of good young guys here, who are here for the right reasons,” Ihns said. “I talked about whether or not I would retire beforehand ... [but] they were friends with my daughter and graduated with her, and I wouldn’t have felt right bailing on them, knowing they’re going when I could have went with them.”
Ihns, who hails from, Massillon, Iowa, and works as an Active Guard Reserve unit readiness non-commissioned officer at the Iowa City, Iowa, armory, has 13 years of Active Duty service under his belt, but spent the last 12 years with units from the Iowa National Guard’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division. He originally enlisted in 1985 and had a short break in service after his first three years when he said he was a young guy who “thought he knew everything.”
He missed the people and camaraderie and came back 14 months later and since deployed to Panama, Saudi Arabia twice, Sinai and is on his second deployment in Afghanistan. He has been a sniper, and has spent all but a year-and-a-half of those 25 years as an infantryman.
“It’s where the rubber meets the road,” Ihns said of being an infantryman. “You’re it.”
The youngest of six children, Ihns said he knew from an early age he wanted to be in the Army. His father also served as a heavy equipment operator.
“It was a way to not to burden my parents, so to speak,” he said with a laugh.
He said his favorite time in the military was serving as a squad leader.
“Squad leader’s the best job, because you’re still more of a doer,” Ihns said.
Reichardt said Ihns has taught him the value of loyalty.
“What makes him stick out is he actually cares about his Soldiers,” Reichardt said.
“He’s very loyal to his platoon. If another sergeant comes up and tries to mess with us for something we’re not responsible for, he’ll be the first one to come up and be like, ‘hey, if you have a problem, come to me.’ Most people would be like 'whatever, I don’t care.'”
Suhr and Riechardt said Ihns is always there to point out a better way of doing things, without humiliating them.
“If you’re willing to learn, he’ll teach you everything he knows,” Reichardt said.
Ihn’s influence on people extends outside the Army.
“He and his wife are always volunteering with things around town, like youth wrestling,” said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Jacob Downs, a supply sergeant with Company B, who lives near Ihns and works with him at the armory. “His kids are older, but he’s still there to help the young kids out. And that has extended to his son, too, now he comes down and helps out, also.”
At the end of the deployment, the soldiers of first platoon will no longer have their experienced leader with all the answers to look to for guidance, at least not in uniform. He will be retiring when he gets back.
“You’re not going to find a better guy than him,” said U.S. Army Spc. Lance Weiskamp, a mortarman from Washburn, Iowa, with Company B. “He’s the kind of guy you want leading you into combat.”
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This work, Respected platoon sergeant ends 25-year career with deployment, by SFC Ryan Matson, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.