Face of Defense: Soldier Adapts to Mission Change

CONTINGENCY OPERATING SITE WARRIOR, Iraq — In sup­port of Oper­a­tion New Dawn, numer­ous sol­diers of “Dev­il Brigade,” 1st Advise and Assist Task Force, 1st Infantry Divi­sion, work in capac­i­ties and jobs that are not their pri­ma­ry mil­i­tary occu­pa­tion­al spe­cial­ty.

Army Spc. Alvin Ander­son enters the gunner’s tur­ret to observe move­ment in Kirkuk, Iraq, Aug. 1, 2011. Ander­son, trained as a fires sup­port spe­cial­ist, cur­rent­ly serves as a per­son­al secu­ri­ty detail vehi­cle gun­ner while deployed to U.S. Divi­sion North in sup­port of Oper­a­tion New Dawn.
U.S. Army pho­to by Staff Sgt. Robert DeDeaux
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In Dev­il Brigade, petro­le­um sup­ply spe­cial­ists some­times work as mem­bers of a secu­ri­ty pla­toon, and tankers may use trucks instead of tracks.

For Army Spc. Alvin Ander­son, Head­quar­ters and Head­quar­ters Bat­tery, 1st Bat­tal­ion, 5th Field Artillery, a fires sup­port spe­cial­ist by trade, sup­port­ing Oper­a­tion New Dawn called for him to act as an infantry­man on his commander’s per­son­al secu­ri­ty detail, or PSD.

Ander­son said he enlist­ed in the Nation­al Guard in 2007 after receiv­ing a let­ter from a recruiter.

“I was on my way to work and I checked the mail before I left, and I had this let­ter from a recruiter,” the Mon­roe, La., native said.

“That was a Fri­day,” he added with a laugh. “That Mon­day, I went and took the [apti­tude test], and by the next Fri­day, I was sign­ing to join the Army.”

After serv­ing in the Guard for a few years, the 23 year-old Rich­wood High School grad­u­ate said, he switched over to active duty in Novem­ber 2009 because the pace was not mov­ing fast enough for him and he want­ed to deploy.

Fire sup­port spe­cial­ists nor­mal­ly per­form for­ward obser­va­tion mis­sions to spot artillery shells fired from posi­tions miles from their tar­gets. These spe­cial­ists relay tar­get and impact loca­tion to the await­ing artillery bat­ter­ies. The spe­cial­ists are light­ly equipped and are not intend­ed to engage the ene­my direct­ly.

With U.S. forces’ cur­rent role as advi­sors help­ing to train Iraqi secu­ri­ty forces, fire sup­port spe­cial­ists do not play a large role in Oper­a­tion New Dawn.

“When I first joined, I want­ed to go infantry at first, but they said I’d have to wait to deploy, so I picked fire sup­port,” said Ander­son. “Right now I’m PSD, so I don’t get to do my job out here as fire sup­port, but I still take a lot of pride in it.”

Army 1st Lieu­tenant John Drew of Sandy Lake, Pa., Anderson’s pla­toon leader, said Ander­son always main­tains a good atti­tude, stays moti­vat­ed and takes ini­tia­tive to accom­plish required tasks.

“He’s one of the bet­ter sol­diers in the pla­toon,” Drew said. “When­ev­er there’s a detail that comes up, he’s always the first to jump up and vol­un­teer in get­ting stuff done with­out being asked for it.”

Drew said no one in the pla­toon is an infantry­man by trade.

“We all have dif­fer­ent jobs, but everybody’s adjust­ing well, and Ander­son is doing great,” he said.

On mis­sions, Ander­son is a .50-cal­iber gun­ner with his commander’s PSD, pulling rear secu­ri­ty while the com­man­der attends meet­ings and engage­ments. While he is not doing what he went to school to do, Ander­son said, the expe­ri­ence he is gain­ing dur­ing this deploy­ment will help him as he pro­gress­es in the Army.

“I decid­ed if I stay in, I want to become a drill sergeant, and I feel I can’t tell some­body about a war I nev­er even fought,” Ander­son said. “I feel it’s going to help my career.”

Army Spc. Qualeem Green, also a fires sup­port spe­cial­ist serv­ing in Anderson’s pla­toon, said since their unit arrived here, Ander­son has main­tained a pos­i­tive atti­tude and a moti­va­tion that is inspir­ing to his fel­low sol­diers.

“He just stays moti­vat­ed,” said Green, a Greenville, S.C., native. “He’s always try­ing to help out and he works hard in rep­re­sent­ing a leader when there isn’t [a non­com­mis­sioned offi­cer] around.”

Even though he would like to gain expe­ri­ence in his spe­cial­ty, Ander­son said, he still enjoys what he does and being in his unit.

“I love my unit, and I love these guys,” he said, “and there’s noth­ing I wouldn’t do for them. I have their backs, and I know they have mine.”

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

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