Face of Defense: Infantryman Doubles as Outpost Mayor

GHAZNI PROVINCE, Afghanistan — He’s nev­er had to take a plat­form to the vot­ers, deal with crit­i­cal media cov­er­age or bal­ance the books at City Hall. But as may­or of Com­bat Out­post Deh Yak here, Army Staff Sgt. Wes­ley Shealey has more in com­mon with his civil­ian coun­ter­parts than most peo­ple know.
Both work to ensure the safe­ty and health of their com­mu­ni­ties, pro­vide recre­ation­al oppor­tu­ni­ties and facil­i­tate order­ly traf­fic flow. The big dif­fer­ence is that Shealey gov­erns in east­ern Afghanistan.

Shealey, a 1st Infantry Divi­sion infantry­man assigned to the Fort Knox, Ky.-based Head­quar­ters and Head­quar­ters Com­pa­ny, 2nd Bat­tal­ion, 2nd Infantry Reg­i­ment, 3rd Brigade Com­bat Team, Task Force Duke, is serv­ing a one-year deploy­ment here that began in Jan­u­ary.

Less than a week into his tour, the Jack­sonville, Fla., native was des­ig­nat­ed by his supe­ri­ors to be the com­bat outpost’s may­or, large­ly because he had the ini­tia­tive and per­son­al­i­ty need­ed to inter­act not only with the local peo­ple, but also with sol­diers seek­ing answers to numer­ous prob­lems.

He’s bal­anc­ing his new may­oral duties along­side his reg­u­lar job as the non­com­mis­sioned offi­cer in charge of the company’s oper­a­tions intel­li­gence team. “I’m still only get­ting one pay­check,” he joked.

The mayor’s duties are a full-time job in their own right. Hav­ing days off like a civil­ian may­or is a lux­u­ry Shealey has­n’t enjoyed yet, large­ly due to the upkeep of the plumb­ing and elec­tri­cal sys­tems on which his con­stituents depend.

“The [com­bat out­post] may­or is a jack of all trades, with one of the most impor­tant posi­tions on any instal­la­tion,” said Army 1st Sgt. Michael Berry of the 2nd Battalion’s Com­pa­ny C and a native of Colum­bia, S.C.

Berry and Army Capt. Michael Car­rion of Bell Buck­le, Tenn., Com­pa­ny C’s com­man­der, receive a dai­ly report from Shealey sum­ma­riz­ing con­cerns such as the need to main­tain ade­quate fuel resources to keep tac­ti­cal oper­a­tions run­ning seam­less­ly.

“You can’t sur­vive with­out it,” Berry said of Shealey’s role.

As for his oth­er may­oral duties, name the civil­ian equiv­a­lent and odds are good that Shealey is doing it.

Waste water and fresh water con­cerns? He puri­fies and reg­u­lar­ly tests the non­potable water his sol­diers use for hygiene, and he stages bot­tled water across the out­post for drink­ing.

Fire pre­ven­tion? He main­tains fire-con­trol mea­sures and equip­ment near the outpost’s many fuel points, which have pumps that require his new gen­er­a­tor-mechan­ic skills.

Shealey even dab­bles in police-type work, ensur­ing local work­ers are prop­er­ly escort­ed around the out­post and that trucks mak­ing deliv­er­ies fol­low traf­fic reg­u­la­tions. He also super­vis­es the morale, wel­fare and recre­ation cen­ter, acquires new fit­ness equip­ment and assists with oth­er morale issues.

For sol­diers deployed to such a dis­tant, iso­lat­ed loca­tion, those oth­er issues often come down to receiv­ing let­ters and pack­ages from home. The may­or helps to sort the mail and puts the word out when it arrives, but he’s not a mir­a­cle work­er when it comes to the post office.

“Mail is a lit­tle slow, with some let­ters tak­ing a month to get here,” he said. “It’s one of the biggest issues.”

Shealey has a full-time assis­tant: Army Spc. Vic­tor Gar­cia, a Com­pa­ny C infantry­man from Den­ver who knew Shealey long before the present deploy­ment.

“He was one of the first men­tors I had at Fort Knox,” Gar­cia said.

Effec­tive­ly gov­ern­ing Com­bat Out­post Deh Yak and devel­op­ing young sol­diers into lead­ers are Shealey’s main pro­fes­sion­al tasks, but a planned retire­ment from the Army also is on the hori­zon, along with a pos­si­ble return to his civil­ian career as a para­medic, a posi­tion he held dur­ing a break in mil­i­tary ser­vice from 1999 to 2003.

His wife, Alisha, is a nurse, and they have three sons who range in age from 5 to 9. Though they undoubt­ed­ly look for­ward to Shealey switch­ing to the hats he wears as hus­band and father, the chance to make a pos­i­tive con­tri­bu­tion for his com­mu­ni­ty and its res­i­dents here is impor­tant to him, he said.

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

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