ZHARAY DISTRICT, Afghanistan -- Soldiers from Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion, 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.
One of the soldiers who played a key role in the mission was Spc. Grant M. Allen, age 22, of Highland, Calif. As a member of 3rd Squad, 1st Platoon, Charlie Company, Allen was responsible for pulling security and helping engineers with the actual building of the road.
Allen, who is on his first deployment, says he became an Infantryman because he feels this is one of the vital parts of the military.
He says that as the economy slowed down he needed to find other work options and also needed a change of pace in his personal life.
“I was just being a kid. Maybe having a little too much fun and wanted the structure that the military could offer,” said Allen.
His prior experience as an ironworker had Allen ready for the physical challenges presented at One-Station Unit Training and those that come from being Infantry.
When asked how he felt about his job, his response was simple.
“I love it,” said Allen.
His love for his job has led Allen to consider making the military a career. Even if he doesn’t, he says he has already gotten a lot out of his military experience.
He feels that the structure and discipline he has experienced coupled with other things he has learned can be used to make him a better person no matter what he does with his future.
Allen’s efforts don’t go unnoticed by his leadership.
“He has set himself above his peers by taking charge real early,” said Staff Sgt. Matthew D. Hawkland who is from Baltimore, Md. and is Allen’s squad leader.
“He has a thirst for knowledge and is very motivated,” he added. “He tries to pick those up around him. He keeps the guys motivated and positive. He’s always looking at the small victories and helping take their minds off of challenging situations.”
First Lt. Thomas “Mac” Brinker the platoon leader for 1st platoon echoed Hawkland’s sentiments.
“Spc. Allen takes guidance from his squad leader and turns it into action,” said Brinker. “He is on top of it.”
While the overall goal of the mission was to build the road in hopes of increasing stability and security for the Afghans, Allen said he hopes the mission accomplishes more than that.
“If it helps U.S. forces get from one place to another on a secured route it makes me feel good because I know a lot of my brothers will come home safe and it could help guys in my company make it home from their deployment,” he said.
He went on to add that he feels it makes a big difference for the U.S. troops to be out working among the local population.
“They will push Taliban out and it will help us win the hearts and minds of civilians,” Allen said.
He said that military life does present frustrations but said keeping certain things in mind can go a long way in dealing with these.
“You signed a contract to serve your country and there is always a higher purpose for what you are doing,” Allen said.
Allen’s love for his job is something that plays a big role in what he considers an important factor in making this a successful deployment.
“Doing our job and what we came out here to do and then having all my boys come home to see their families would make this a success for me,” he said.
After being out for 60 hours pulling security, sleeping on the open ground and helping to build a fence, Allen was given a little bit of time off. He had time to clean up and reorganize his gear before starting a 6-hour guard shift. He seemed all too happy to get back to work.