PAKTIYA PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN
PAKTIYA PROVINCE, Afghanistan – On a cold fall night, a team of soldiers sit in a heated plywood shack, telling stories and jokes until someone needs to enter or exit the base.
U.S. Army Pfc. Brian Wellinger Jr., a base security member assigned to G Company, 3rd Battalion, 320th Field Artillery, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), works long and varied hours in Afghanistan, so that he can provide a steady life for his 2-year-old daughter, Emma.
Wellinger, who hails from Seminole, Fla., is a quartermaster and chemical equipment repairer. He is trained to fix and maintain water supply systems, but on a cold, star-filled night, he waits to defend Forward Operating Base Lightning in the event of an attack.
Wellinger was tired of working job to job, and while attending college classes, his Federal Pell Grant was cut. After Emma was born prematurely, Wellinger had to face reality. Acting on advice from his grandmother, he made the decision to join the Army in order to provide health insurance and steady support for his daughter.
“I joined the Army for my daughter,” said Wellinger. “I didn’t have health insurance and I really wanted to do things right for her and make sure she had everything she needed.”
“[Wellinger] is an easy-going soldier and likes to joke around, but when it comes to work he’s all business,” said Wellinger’s platoon sergeant, U.S. Army Sgt. Richard Ellsworth, from Tuscon, Ariz., also with G. Co. “With his shift and work environment, it breaks the ice and the monotony of his job and makes work fun.”
Deployed in September 2012, Wellinger began work in Afghanistan as the summer heat was fading. The winter season will bring snow to the mountain valley FOB, and after being raised in Ohio, Wellinger said that he looks forward to the potential thigh-high snow.
Wellinger joked that he would like to build a snow man to hold his 16-pound M-249 Squad Automatic Weapon during the long, cold shifts in the future.
“He’s an all around good guy and genuine,” said co-worker and G. Co. member, U.S. Army Spc. Brice Watson, from Atlanta, Ga. “He looks out for people and is one of the best Soldiers I have worked with. Any task we get, he pays close attention to and is always meticulous. He does the job with no complaints and drives on.”
Wellinger is saving his hard-earned money for a trip to Walt Disney World with Emma after he returns home from his deployment. Once settled into a routine in the U.S., Wellinger wants to start online college courses and eventually work as an X-ray technician.
“I was raised by my grandmother and she worked in the medical field as a certified nurses assistant,” said Wellinger. “I would help her in hospice care. I was able to see the different things she did, and it’s something I’ve always wanted to do.”
When asked about his future with the Army, Wellinger said that deploying once is what he wanted to do. If he could change his military occupation code to an X-ray technician in the medical field, then a re-enlistment may be in his future.
“I thought I’d give [the Army] a try and it turned out to be much easier than I thought,” said Wellinger. “It’s provided pretty well. Health care, money and good experience. It all goes back to my daughter, she needs me to be here and that is why I serve.”
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This work, Why we serve: U.S. Army Pfc. Brian Wellinger Jr., by SPC Michael Germundson, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.