Family, Comrades Motivate Soldier
(March 17, 2011)
|KHOWST PROVINCE, Afghanistan (March 14, 2011) – His reasons
for joining the U.S. Army are ones frequently heard from
countless other soldiers: being inspired by a close relative
and the chance to find himself and see some of the world.
But U.S. Army Sgt. Cecil L. Montgomery still serves not
simply because of an attachment to the past, but largely for
two special reasons left behind in Kentucky, one of whom
still gets around on all fours.
Montgomery, a native of the small town of Many,
La., is an infantryman and squad leader attached
to 2nd Platoon, Company D, 1st Battalion, 26th
Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st
Infantry Division, Task Force Duke.
platoon, popularly known as “The Dragoons,” is
based at Combat Outpost Narizah when they're not
out on patrol. Unfortunately for anyone desiring
a laid-back deployment, however, the Dragoons
aren't in the habit of idly sitting on the COP
and watching the days go by.
action-packed infantry life is fine with
Montgomery, though. He picked his military
occupation specialty because the challenge and
the physical aspects of the job intrigued him.
Having had an up-close-and-personal view of Army
life through his father's military service, he
U.S. Army Sgt. Cecil L. Montgomery (right), an infantryman with 2nd Platoon, Company D, 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Task Force Duke, and native of Many, La., scans the security perimeter his platoon had just established in the village of Terkel in Khowst province, March 1,
2011. He stands next to U.S. Army Pfc. Alex Thomas, an infantryman from Chattanooga, Tenn. The two soldiers were on a dismounted patrol with their platoon, meeting villagers and other key leaders in their area of operations.
“I just wanted to do something. College wasn't
working,” he said.
Almost five years into his military career now, Montgomery
said he's leaning toward making a career of it. Ultimately
any decision will be made with his wife, Briana, a supply
Soldier at Fort Knox, Ky. Knowing first-hand what it's like
being a dual-military couple; they also balance those
responsibilities along with caring for their 7-month-old
Civilian life will have to wait,
but that doesn't mean he isn't already looking ahead to the
next stage of his professional career.
“I think I'll
try criminal justice when I get out, maybe try for the (Drug
Enforcement Agency or Federal Bureau of Investigation),” he
For now though, the potential future as a
G-Man is on hold. His daily responsibilities of providing a
safer, more secure Afghanistan take precedence. Some of his
fellow soldiers are glad Montgomery's future civilian
exploits are on the back burner and lay far ahead because,
for them, the present is where he's most valuable.
“(He's) one of the best soldiers I've ever worked with,”
said U.S. Army Spc. Abram Sandoval, an infantryman from
Phoenix, Ariz., and a member of Montgomery's squad. He added
that Montgomery's invaluable experience “helps you think to
be two steps ahead of the enemy.”
The Dragoons spend
most days on an aggressive rotation of combat patrols.
Regular trips to nearby villages are designed to not only
improve security but foster greater understanding and
friendships with local residents. Even on days when not
patrolling, however, they're busy performing security and
other necessary tasks.
So far this tour has been a
far cry from Montgomery's last 12-month deployment to
Afghanistan with Task Force Duke, which he spent in the
notoriously volatile Korengal Valley of Kunar province. That
isolated mountainous region on the eastern border with
Pakistan, filled with caves and canyons, was the scene of
near-daily exchanges of fire between NATO and insurgents,
who used the valley to filter weapons and fighters into
Afghanistan. Coalition forces have since realigned, focusing
on protecting Afghan population centers.
emphasis of helping Afghans learn to help themselves in the
Task Force Duke area of operations, rather than the constant
violence he had been accustomed to in the Korengal Valley,
is a welcomed change of pace for Montgomery.
in fire fights every day,” said Montgomery, recounting the
daily perils of his last deployment.
And just as
competition for athletes is often secondary to the months of
preparation and training, Montgomery admitted that training
and building unit cohesion are essential long before using
such skills on the battlefield. That's why teamwork holds a
special place of importance for him.
“It's the most
important thing you do. You can't do everything by
yourself,” he said.
Montgomery is responsible for
nine other soldiers, his duties consisting of monthly
counselling, accountability of equipment and personnel that
includes vehicles, weapons and communications equipment, not
to mention daily supervision on combat patrols.
all of the aforementioned duties are important, his
infantry-specific skills are most important on this
deployment. Montgomery said the often gruelling nature of
the job would be a lot harder if not for the people he works
with and the training beforehand.
his team's month-long tour at the National Training Center
last August with getting him and his troops ready for the
The Fort Irwin, Calif.- based NTC
is the Army's premiere training facility and is used as a
large-scale training facility to get units ready to go into
“You learn what's new in Afghanistan since
you had been in garrison, as well as being good for the new
guys,” he said.
The most important advice he
dispensed to Soldiers on their first deployment may seem
partly misguided, but other veterans may agree.
“Don't think about home, as hard as that may be. Stay
focused on your job and do the right thing,” he said,
alluding to the need to avoid complacency when out on
Still, as a combat veteran with two
deployments to his credit, Montgomery knows daily life isn't
always about missions. Equally important is dealing with the
inevitable stress associated with the job, and how to cope
with it through leisure activities.
playing X-Box or listening to music. Once we get done with
patrols, I try to relax, watch movies, and get plenty of
sleep,” he said.
To stay in shape, he does push-ups,
pull-ups and sit-ups. Other than that, his normal duties and
patrolling keep him active and burning calories, he said.
As far as what goes in his stomach and where he hangs
his hat, Lady Luck smiled on him and the Dragoons this time
around, as far as he's concerned.
are a whole lot better. The food here is 100 percent better
than COP Restrepo,” he said, referring to the combat outpost
from his last deployment.
His present stay in
Afghanistan may only be two months old, but when factored
with his previous time here, Montgomery is quick to mention
what has stuck with him the most.
“I'll remember how
unique the (Afghans) are. These people have a very strong
desire and drive to succeed,” he said.
importantly is the way Montgomery will be remembered by
those with whom he works.
“He's a squared-away squad
leader, tactically sound and efficient, and that's why he's
my dismounted squad leader,” said U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Andrew
Short, Montgomery's platoon leader and Charleston, W.V.,
“When I need something done, he gets it
done,” said Short.
Daily life will likely continue to
be challenging and tiring for Montgomery and the Dragoons
over the next 10 months. And despite what he may have told
his young soldiers about staying focused on the mission and
not to think about home, he'll be the first to tell you he
thinks a lot about those left behind.
After all, it's
kind of hard not to when one of two people you care about
most is just starting to find her footing in this world,
“I want to see my daughter walk,”
Montgomery said with a smile, allowing himself to think
about his Aubrey's June 25 birthday, when he hopes to join
her on his mid-tour leave.
Article and photo by Army SSgt. John Zumer
Combined Joint Task Force 101
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