Face of Defense: Former NCO Patrols as Cavalry Officer

PARWAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan — The grave­yard shift requires wak­ing while oth­ers are leav­ing work, work­ing while oth­ers sleep and sleep­ing while the world moves through the nor­mal hus­tle and bus­tle of its day.
Army 1st Lt. Ger­ry Hol­loway of the Iowa Nation­al Guard and his sol­diers of 2nd Pla­toon, Troop C, 1st Squadron, 113th Cav­al­ry Reg­i­ment, Task Force Red­horse, are all too famil­iar with the grave­yard shift.

The moon filled the sky with a bright, smoky haze dot­ted by a few stars as Hol­loway stepped out into the brisk night air Jan. 19 at Com­bat Out­post Red Hill, also known as Push­taysark. With no street lights or store lights to com­pete with them, bright stars are a com­mon sky­scape at most com­bat out­posts in Afghanistan.

“It’s a beau­ti­ful sight to wake up, step out­side and see the stars every morn­ing,” said Hol­loway, a father of five from Mel­bourn, Iowa. “Of course, our morn­ing is everyone’s night time on our shift.”

Hol­loway and his crew con­sist­ing of infantry­men, a medic, and a cook who dou­bles as one of the company’s two female engage­ment team mem­bers rove and patrol the streets of the sur­round­ing areas look­ing for insur­gent activ­i­ties and ensur­ing that the local peo­ple are safe through­out the night.

This mis­sion is sim­i­lar to those Hol­loway per­formed as a team leader when he deployed to Iraq in 2005 and 2006. He and his team of three sol­diers con­duct­ed con­voy secu­ri­ty oper­a­tions north of Bagh­dad when he was assigned as a non­com­mis­sioned offi­cer in Task Force Red­horse, which is part of the 34th Infantry Division’s 2nd Brigade Com­bat Team, Task Force Red Bulls.

“Some­times I miss being an NCO,” he said. “I miss the respon­si­bil­i­ties of tak­ing care of sol­diers and mak­ing sure mis­sions get accom­plished. I still ensure that mis­sions get accom­plished as an offi­cer, but it’s dif­fer­ent.”

Holloway’s deep-root­ed ties to the NCO corps are evi­dent while he’s on patrol and through­out oper­a­tions, as he ensures sol­diers have their sen­si­tive items, take prop­er safe­ty pre­cau­tions and con­duct oth­er tasks for which NCOs nor­mal­ly are respon­si­ble.

“As a lieu­tenant, now I am respon­si­ble for devel­op­ing the plan, and the NCOs in my pla­toon are in charge of car­ry­ing the plan out,” he said. “Some­times it’s hard to shut that NCO side of me off. I real­ly do try to not micro­man­age, but it’s hard.”

Holloway’s 2007 appli­ca­tion for a direct com­mis­sion was accept­ed in Octo­ber 2008. He said he loves being an offi­cer and con­sid­ers it one of the best deci­sions he’s ever made. “The detailed lev­els of plan­ning are what I enjoy about being an offi­cer,” he explained. “I like to get into the nuts and bolts on how to accom­plish a mis­sion. As an NCO, I would get my orders and exe­cute. I get to help build those orders now, and I make sure that my NCOs are fol­low­ing through with them.”

Army Capt. Richard Rush, Troop C com­man­der and Altoona, Iowa, res­i­dent, deployed with Hol­loway when he was an NCO as now as an offi­cer. The tran­si­tion is a huge step, he said, not­ing that it’s com­mon for offi­cers with enlist­ed ser­vice to oper­ate as NCOs.

“I think he’s adapt­ed well to the offi­cer envi­ron­ment,” he said.

The sol­diers enjoy Holloway’s lead­er­ship style.

“Lieu­tenant Hol­loway is not like a lot of offi­cers who joined then became offi­cers,” said Army Sgt. Stephanie Bliss, a Sioux City, Iowa, res­i­dent. “He knows how to talk to sol­diers, and he’s very low-key. I like it.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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