GHAZNI PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN
GHAZNI PROVINCE, Afghanistan – U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael P. Wilson is a caricature of a different time and a different war, a 40’s propaganda poster saying: “Follow me!”
It would be easy to imagine this man in an olive drab uniform, with a 5 o’clock shadow and a cigarette between his teeth leading paratroopers through fire fights in 1944.
The only thing that’s changed is the year and the uniform.
Hailing from Rochester N.H., Wilson, the platoon sergeant for 3rd Platoon, Delta Company, 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, has been in the Army for 10 years.
“I signed up between my junior and senior year of high school,” said Wilson. “I left for basic [training] two days after graduation.”
Wilson did four previous deployments to Iraq before coming to Afghanistan, all with the 82nd Infantry Division.
“I get out of bed in the morning for the dudes I work with,” said Wilson. “I take a lot of pride in working with a really good group of guys.”
On his latest mission he helped lead his platoon on a three-day trek through the Afghan plains, covering more than 30 km on foot and directly engaging insurgents.
For Wilson, that’s a day at the office. This man operates at his best when the rounds are flying.
“His leadership under fire kept us alive,” said U.S. Army Capt. Jeff Johnson, who works with the Security Forces Advisory and Assistance Team. “We took machine gun fire within a meter of where we were and he kept us moving.”
For Wilson, caring for soldiers and helping the men of his platoon is the zenith of his profession.
“He’s one of those kinds of leaders that anyone would be glad to follow anywhere,” said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Christopher J. Murray, an explosive ordnance disposal technician, with 18th EOD, 192nd Ordnance Battalion, 52nd Ordnance Group, who has now finished three dismounted patrols with Wilson, all lasting between 48 and 72 hours.
“He’s always looking out for his troops, making sure they’re taken care of,” added Murray.
Wilson loves every moment of it.
“I serve because it’s awesome. It’s an awesome job,” said Wilson. “I really can’t see myself doing anything else.”
Wilson has 15 soldiers in his platoon, but his greatest responsibility is back in Fayetteville, N.C. Chloe is his 3-year-old daughter, who he adopted when she was 18 months old.
When Wilson isn’t taking up arms for his country, he spends his time playing the guitar, brewing beer and spending time with Chloe.
“My free time is spent with Chloe and my girlfriend, relaxing on the couch, or drinking one of my home brews on my porch,” said Wilson.
On the other side of the world from North Carolina in Ghazni, Afghanistan, Wilson stays focused on his soldiers.
“My soldiers are always my priority, and I take pride in leading them and mentoring them into our future leaders,” said Wilson. “Without them, the Army wouldn’t be as enjoyable for me.”
With tattoos up and down his arms and a different kind of war to fight, Wilson represents a modern version of the time-tested and continuously proven legacy of the 82nd Airborne Division: paratroopers are always in the lead and always ready to fight.
"I never fail a fellow trooper. I cherish as a sacred trust the lives of men with whom I serve. Leaders have my fullest loyalty, and those I lead never find me lacking." – excerpt from the Airborne Creed.
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This work, Why we serve: Michael P. Wilson leading the way through Afghanistan, by SPC Alex Amen, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.