PANJWA'I DISTRICT, AFGHANISTAN
FORWARD OPERATING BASE MASUM GHAR, Afghanistan - Scanning the Afghanistan terrain from the rear gunner's hatch of an Army Stryker combat vehicle, Sgt. James Bailey, a cavalry scout with the 5th Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division is responsible for providing security for his fellow troopers.
Equipped with a number of specialized weapons, Bailey is ready for
anything his unit may face. For the terrorist he has bullets, for the
local kids walking the streets of Kandahar, Afghanistan, he carries a
couple of their favorites like candy and a sleeve full of pens.
As a scout, Bailey is working with International Security Assistance
Forces and Afghan National Security Forces to ensure a brighter future for the people of Afghanistan.
As a non-commissioned officer with C Troop, 5-1CAV, Bailey's mission is, in many ways, challenging.
As a leader of soldiers, Bailey must perform each mission above
standard, ensure the safety of his soldiers and maintain their morale.
It's Bailey's ability to accomplish the mission while also improving the morale of his soldiers every day, that has inspired the soldiers he leads.
"There is never a moment when you will find Bailey that he doesn't have a smile on his face," said Pfc. Bryan Ward. "He's the type of friend and NCO that you always want to be around."
It's important to stay optimistic for the guys around you, said Bailey.
"I always do whatever I have to do to keep their morale up."
Recently, Ward, a fellow cavalry scout, was so impressed by Bailey's
unwavering optimism and morale that he posted the following on a social networking site: "Sergeant James Bailey, you are my greatest mentor and good friend. You are what I aspire to be when I'm an NCO, always happy even when you are in pain, enduring it so that you can stay with your fellow soldiers till the end of the deployment."
On Feb. 7, just a few short days after Ward posted the inspirational words on Bailey's wall, Ward's Stryker was struck by an improvised explosive device as his unit made their routine visits to the local Afghan Police checkpoints throughout the Dand district, in the southern Kandahar province.
Ward said he woke up from the blasts a few moments later and began to perform a head to toe sweep to check for any injuries when we realized he had multiple injuries.
Despite having a number of broken bones and other injuries to his arms and face, Ward thought about what his role model would do and had nothing else to say except "Roll Tide."
"The first thing that popped in my mind was give me more morphine then I thought 'Roll Tide'," Ward laughed. "Knowing Sgt. Bailey, it doesn't matter what he's doing or what is going on around him he's always ready to accomplish the mission and he always finds a way to be happy...I admired that."
As unconventional as it may seem the two simple words "Roll Tide" have long been a way for Bailey to inspire his soldiers and bring a smile to their face.
Bailey, a Birmingham, Ala., native, inherited the chant after watching the Alabama football team line up on Saturdays for college football.
"The only thing he loves more than his soldiers is the Crimson
Tide...and he will never let you forget it," said Spc. Jason Harris,
longtime friend and fellow cavalry scout.
After hearing about the events surrounding his son's brush with death, Wade Ward, Bryan's father, had his own impression of Bailey's leadership qualities.
"Sgt. Bailey's level of leadership sets the example for every soldiers," said Wade. "He goes above and beyond what is expected of him."
Many people would think 'he's just a college football fan' but he uses something so simple to uplift the people around him, said Wade Ward. "It speaks volumes about the types of leaders throughout the unit and I have nothing but good things to say about Bailey."
Wade added, that Bailey's positive attitude and his unwavering optimism helped his son get through a very difficult and painful time and in many ways the stories of Bailey's 'glass-half full approach have even changed his outlook on life. According to Wade, he uses the catch phrase 'Roll Tide' whenever he's having a bad day.
In a combat environment a bond like the one that Bailey shared with battle buddies, like Ward, is often unbreakable.
"Bailey is someone I look up to and hope to be like when I'm an NCO," said Bryan.
"It made me proud that I made that kind of impression on someone," said Bailey.
When combined, his love for 'Bama', his soldiers and overall happiness undoubtedly makes him an easy favorite for most popular soldier but his enthusiasm and positive outlook on life isn't the only thing that has earned him the respect of his soldiers.
Behind the southern charm and unbreakable smile Bailey often times fought through unbearable pain to join his battle buddies in daily operations. For months Bailey was hampered with a hernia, but instead of getting deployment-ending surgery Bailey woke up every morning masking the pain with a smile.
"I never have a bad day...I'm always happy," said Bailey as a smile
spread across his face.
After talking to his commander, the two of them came up with an
alternative option that would allow Bailey to get the surgery he needed and still rejoin his battle buddies as the 1/25th SBCT prepares to re-deploy within the next few weeks.
Excited, Bailey said he is already looking forward to using his recovery as an example of resiliency and dedication and hopes that he can continue to serve as an example to his younger soldiers.
"As long as I get to wake up and see my guys it's a good day," said
||PANJWA'I DISTRICT, AF
||BIRMINGHAM, AL, US
||LEEDS, AL, US
This work, Cavalry NCO inspires Soldiers during combat, by SSG Thomas Duval, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.