News: Young officer leads from the front
Story by Sgt. Harold McGill
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - Soldiers from Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division braved both extremely warm and cold temperatures, sandstorms, and bitter winds March 18-20 to help begin a road building project in Zharay district, Kandahar province, Afghanistan.
Leading the way throughout the entire mission was 1st Lt. Thomas “Mac” Brinker, platoon leader of 1st Platoon and native of Katy, Texas.
First Lt. Brinker was responsible for ensuring the proper cutting of the road and the supervision of all the different elements involved in the mission. This meant he had to coordinate an engineering team, Civil Affairs, EOP, Psychological Operations, and a dog team to make sure that all participants were on the same page throughout the mission.
“I would have to say the most difficult part, for me, was managing so many different assets and making all parties content,” said Brinker.
Staff Sgt. Matthew D. Hawkland the 3rd Squad leader for 1st Platoon, suggested that Brinker’s hard work helps prepare him to deal with such challenges.
“He’s a go-getter and is working very hard to learn his job,” said Hawkland. “He is getting a handle on it.”
Hawkland says that Brinker doesn’t try to rule with absolute authority. Rather he uses the input of his non-commissioned officers to get the job done.
“Whatever he says goes but he is good about seeking our opinions,” he said.
Hawkland suggested that Brinker isn’t at all held back by the fact that he is a younger officer with little experience. He says that Brinker’s efforts to learn on the job certainly set him apart.
“He does a very good job of taking what the higher-ups say and making it into a good mission. He manages to come up with a good plan that fulfills the commander’s intent while keeping his senior non-commissioned officers happy as well,” said Hawkland.
With this statement, Hawkland described what Brinker says is one his favorite parts of his job.
“I love that I am given a task, some guidance and from there I am expected to accomplish it,” said Brinker. “I like being given the freedom to make decisions.”
Brinker went on to describe even more reasons why he loves what he is doing. He said that the best part of his job, by far, was his men.
After graduating from Cinco Ranch High School, Brinker attended the United States Military Academy. His choice of colleges seemed to make perfect sense based on his plans for the future.
“For me, an Army career is a definite,” said Brinker. “It kind of runs in my family.”
Not only did Brinker want to be in the Army but his strong desire to be an Infantryman led him to add 3 additional years onto his initial contract when he joined in May of 2010. He wasn’t done shaping his military path there though.
“I added 3 more years so I could get to 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division and deploy as a platoon leader. I came out of college with an 11 year contract,” he said.
Even though he seems certain that the Army is his correct career choice, he suggested that he might look into other options once his time in the military is complete.
“Being a teacher is something that I have always considered as a possible career choice,” he said.
He said that he may end up training and teaching others while staying in the military but suggested that his experiences now will certainly have him ready to mentor whether it’s in the classroom or in the field.
“I find times where I have to provide people individual guidance, whether it’s about life lessons or military tasks,” said Brinker. “My job now will give me experience to relate to other people and adverse situations.”
His current team members seem to think he will be able to learn how to do just about anything he puts his mind to.
“He has a thirst for knowledge that is unparalleled,” said Hawkland.