News: From artillery to infantry soldier finds purpose in mission change
CONTINGENCY OPERATING SITE WARRIOR, Iraq – In support of Operation New Dawn, numerous soldiers of “Devil Brigade,” 1st Advise and Assist Task Force, 1st Infantry Division, work in capacities and jobs that are not their primary military occupational specialty.
In Devil Brigade, petroleum supply specialists sometimes work as members of a security platoon, and tankers may use trucks instead of tracks.
For Spc. Alvin Anderson, Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 1st Battalion, 5th Field Artillery, 1st AATF, a fires support specialist by MOS, supporting Operation New Dawn called for him to act as an infantryman on his commander’s personal security detail.
Originally a soldier in the National Guard, Anderson said he enlisted in 2007 after receiving a letter in the mail from a recruiter.
“I was on my way to work and I checked the mail before I left and I had this letter from a recruiter,” said the Monroe, La., native.
“That was a Friday,” Anderson said with a laugh. “That Monday I went and took the ASVAB and by the next Friday I was signing to join the Army.”
After serving in the Guard for a few years, the 23 year-old Richwood High School graduate said he switched over to active duty in November 2009 because the pace was not moving fast enough for him and he wanted to deploy.
Fire support specialists normally perform forward observation missions to “spot” artillery shells fired from positions miles from their targets. These specialists relay target and impact location to the awaiting artillery batteries. The specialists are lightly equipped and are not intended to engage the enemy directly.
With U.S. forces’ current role as advisers helping to train Iraqi security forces, fire support specialists do not play a large role in Operation New Dawn.
“When I first joined, I wanted to go infantry at first, but they said I’d have to wait to deploy, so I picked fire support,” said Anderson. “Right now I’m PSD, so I don’t get to do my job out here as fire support, but I still take a lot of pride in it.”
1st Lt. John Drew of Sandy Lake, Pa., Anderson’s platoon leader, said throughout the five months he has known Anderson, Anderson always maintains a good attitude, stays motivated and takes initiative to accomplish required tasks.
“He’s one of the better soldiers in the platoon,” said Drew. “Whenever there’s a detail that comes up, he’s always the first to jump up and volunteer in getting stuff done without being asked for it.”
Drew said no one in the platoon is an infantryman by trade.
“We all have different jobs, but everybody’s adjusting well, and Anderson is doing great,” he said.
On missions, Anderson is a .50-caliber gunner with his commander’s PSD, pulling rear security while the commander attends meetings and engagements.
While he is not doing what he went to school to do, Anderson said the experience he is gaining during this deployment will help him as he progresses in the Army.
“I decided if I stay in, that I want to become a drill sergeant, and I feel I can’t tell somebody about a war I never even fought,” said Anderson. “I feel it’s going to help my career.”
“It’s fun being on PSD,” said Spc. Qualeem Green. “We get to see the country, interact with locals … in all honestly it can’t be explained, only experienced.”
Green, also a fires support specialist serving in Anderson’s platoon, said since their unit arrived to Contingency Operating Site Warrior, Anderson has maintained a positive attitude and a motivation that is inspiring to his fellow soldiers.
“He just stays motivated,” said Green, a Greenville, S.C., native. “He’s always trying to help out and he works hard in representing a leader when there isn’t an NCO around.”
Even though he would like to gain experience in his MOS, Anderson said he still enjoys what he does and being in his unit.
“I love my unit and I love these guys,” said Anderson, “and there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for them. I have their backs and I know they have mine.”