Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff re-enlists Commando Soldiers in Iraq

CAMP VICTORY, Iraq — “It’s a great honor to be standing with … forty-some Soldiers who decided that serving our country is worth their time, their energy and perhaps even their life,” said Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Peter Pace, just before he led 42 Soldiers under the 3rd Infantry Division in the oath of enlistment.
Fourteen of the Soldiers were from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) out of Fort Drum, N.Y., and met with Pace in a 9 a.m. formation.
Despite worries about stretching the military too thin, Soldiers continue to re-enlist.
“I want to keep serving our country, and I love the Army – of course, the bonus didn’t hurt either,” said Pfc. Jesse McFarlane, a native of Nampa, Idaho, and a gunner with the 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 2nd BCT personal security detachment. “I was going to re-enlist anyway, but this was an extra kick; how many people can say they’ve been re-enlisted by a four-star general?”
Sgt. 1st Class Eugene Burr, a native of Boonville, N.Y., and a 2nd BCT career counselor, was pleased with the turnout, he said.
“I’m really proud of the fact that out of 42 Soldiers re-enlisting, 14 of them are 10th Mountain Division,” Burr said.
Staff Sgt. Michael Baird, a native of Searsmont, Maine, raised his right hand in front of Pace with the other 41 troops.
“Since I was 15 years old, I wanted to join the Army. I love it, I joined as soon as I was 18,” said Baird, a supply specialist with Company C, 210th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd BCT. September will be his six-year mark with the company – but he chose Fort Carson, Colo., for his next duty station.
Pride in the Army and military service is a motivator for many Soldiers’ re-enlisting. That pride also motivated Pace.
“I feel personal pride as well,” Pace said. “When someone you respect chooses to re-enlist, it reaffirms our own service and commitment. I know great Soldiers wanting to re-enlist makes others want to continue their service.”
Pace graduated from the Naval Academy in 1967 and will leave the Joint Chiefs of Staff after October.
“As I near the end of nearly 40 years of service, I look at the faces of these Soldiers and realize there are so many wonderful patriots ready to serve. It is my honor to re-enlist you, and to thank you for your service and sacrifices,” he said.
Since August 2006, 704 Soldiers have re-enlisted. The 1st Squadron, 89th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd BCT, has exceeded their goals twice over.
It’s not just for the extra money Soldiers get, Burr said.
“I think people would re-enlist even without a bonus,” he said, noting that several have utilized their option to choose a duty station. “They realize that wherever they go, they will deploy, so they re-enlist for a duty station close to home so they can spend time with their families,” said Burr. “One of the guys re-enlisted to be a dog handler, and he was just happy to get the slot. Until two weeks ago, he wasn’t planning to re-enlist.
“Really, I didn’t think we’d be so busy at this point in time, since our brigade has completed our original mission. But I’m still working fourteen-hour days, and we have lots of Soldiers still slated to re-enlist before we go back to Fort Drum. I think we will end up with around 850 re-enlistees.”
After the ceremony, Burr reflected on the significance of having Pace lead the oath.
“I think it was a really good day for these (re-enlistees),” he said. “When I hear speeches like that, the hair on the back of my neck stands up. To hear him talk about Soldiers like that, after serving for 40 years, it choked me up a little. It’s awesome.”

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