KANDAHAR, Afghanistan -- Like many people, Capt. Daniel F. Gwosch, the Company commander of Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, has many memories about the time he spent in college. Unfortunately, one of his most vivid is of a day that far too many Americans remember all too well.
“I had just left my English class on a Tuesday morning and was upset because I had made a C on a paper,” said the native of Greenfield, Mass.
Gwosch said he made it to a TV in time to see the second plane hit the towers on the morning of Sept. 11.
Even though he had just become part of the Clemson University Reserve Officer Training Corps program a few weeks before, the Freshman history major gained a whole new perspective on how much his life was about to change.
“It clicked for me that morning what my role in ROTC was and what my job would be. At that moment I understood exactly what I had to do,” said Gwosch.
He said that for the next four years he was part of a group of guys who all knew what their roles would be in the upcoming events that have played such a central part of the 29-year old officer’s life over the past 10 years.
Gwosch is on his 4th deployment since 2007. Since graduating Clemson, he has had the opportunity to do a job he loves.
“My favorite part about my job is the small moments when you see the troopers excel at their specific tasks. Everybody has a role. If you do your job well, then everybody will succeed as a team.”
While Gwosch stressed his love for watching his troops excel at their individual tasks, he also noted that those individual responsibilities aren’t all his soldiers concern themselves with when out on a mission.
“I think that’s what makes the Paratroopers great. That individual trooper is not just worried about doing his mission. He does his job and then he looks left and right to see how he can help out the guys around him. That’s why we’re able to succeed, and I think the Afghan National Army guys are picking up on that,” he said.
Gwosch believes that his ability to rise up through the ranks and effectively lead isn’t just from his own personal efforts.
He says that as a leader one has to rely on lower level leadership and the chain of command becomes very important.
“Rank structure plays a very important role in the American Army and the Afghans are starting to pick that up. If I were out there trying to push 62 guys a mile through the mud before day-light that wouldn’t happen without the lower level leaders,” he said.
His love of his job and his attention to detail are things that troops on the ground find invaluable.
“He is a good man. Our Company has never run so smooth. To serve with him is an honor, just as it is to serve with all the Paratroopers in our unit,” said Spc. Benjamin Wilbur Troy Reynolds, an infantryman in 2nd Platoon, Alpha Company, 1-508th PIR, 4th BCT, 82nd Abn. Div.
Gwosch feels that, as policy and objectives change, his job as a leader on the ground presents itself with new challenges.
“The most challenging part of my job is re-energizing the troops to be focused on the mission,” said Gwosch.
He noted that the mission has changed and is no longer only about going outside the wire and getting the enemy.
“It’s making sure the ANSF are fully prepared for the mission at hand,” he said.
Gwosch stresses heavily the significant role his time at Clemson has played in his personal life and in his career.
“There were 22 of us that graduated from Clemson together and I have former roommates who are now officers in the Marines and the Air Force. We have traveled back and forth and we have always maintained one thing, and that’s our Clemson bond,” said Gwosch.
With so many deployments and so much moving around, the former students have to find ways to maintain that bond.
“We break out our Clemson flag on deployments and post pictures and that’s our pride,” he said. “The scream and the roar of the Tiger and the orange flag.”
Gwosch says that he really enjoyed his time at school but that something about ROTC made his experience that much more special.
“There are times over four years where you think, ‘hey this is college, ya know?’ It’s a good time. But ROTC was able to always keep you grounded on the positive things. If you are looking for leadership position after college and you’re looking for a job, ROTC is definitely the way to go,” said Gwosch.
His leadership lessons didn’t end with his studies at Clemson. He says that his experiences in the Army have made him a better leader.
“You can’t come up with better leadership than figuring out how to lead 30 guys as a platoon leader and then as a company commander how to lead 140 guys. At 29 years old, you can’t be in a better executive position than that and Clemson offered all those things to me,” he said.
He said the University and ROTC put him in the right direction, kept him grounded and gave him good classes and great friends.
His education and experience seem to be paying their dividends both in his career and his ability to lead.
Reynolds noted that Gwosch can be tough on his troops but quickly pointed out that this doesn’t make him hard to follow.
“His overall intent and mission goals are spot on and I will follow him anywhere,” said Reynolds.