Friday, September 07, 2007

Why I serve: Capt. Rich Thompson

Sgt. Chris McCann
2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI) PAO
Multi-National Division – Center

CAMP STRIKER, Iraq — Soldiers serve for a number or reasons – out of patriotism, a desire to learn new skills, or to protect loved ones at home.
For Capt. Rich Thompson, a battle captain and soon-to-be commander in the 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) out of Fort Drum, N.Y., it is a combination.
Thompson, a native of Londonderry, N.H., began contemplating a military career when he was just a child.
“I wanted to be in the Marine Corps when I was little,” he said. As he grew up, however, the Army began to exert a stronger pull.
“There were a lot of people who influenced me in my life, especially Army officers at school. I decided that the choices in the Army offered me more control over my future.”
Now, it’s not just the future he thinks of; it’s the friends he has made while serving in the U.S. Army.
“I like the people,” said Thompson. “There’s definitely more of a closeness with co-workers than in the civilian world. We spend a lot more time together, more hours at work, and we’re in more life-threatening situations than someone who works at, say, IBM.”
Thompson holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science, but said he thinks a degree in management might have been better in his work as an officer.
“There are a lot of interpersonal skills learned,” he said of management. “Dealing with senior noncommissioned officers who are old enough to be my father – it’s intimidating, especially as a new lieutenant, to be in charge. It can be overwhelming.”
As his skills have grown, however, he finds it less so.
“The Soldiers keep me motivated,” he said. “Growing up, my role models were mostly current or retired military. They instilled a lot of patriotism, which caught on.”
Thompson attended a military high school, which he credits with changing his life.
“That was the turning point,” he said, laughing, “that’s when I went from being a potential inmate to a contributing member of society.”
His parents have been pleased with his growth, he said.
“My parents and my girlfriend have been very supportive,” said Thompson. “Of course, they don’t want to see me get hurt, but they’re proud. I’m sure they’d rather I had a safer job, but I tell them I don’t get outside the wire much.”
People – at home or at Camp Striker, Iraq, with him – continue to keep him focused on his career as he prepares to take command of Company D, 2-14 upon the 2nd BCT’s redeployment to Fort Drum.
“The best part about this job (as a battle captain) is that I get to observe the field-grade officers on a daily basis, and see how the commanders of our five companies work – the different things they’ve done, what’s worked and what hasn’t. It’s given me plenty of time to contemplate how to work with my company when we return to Iraq in a year.”
Being in command, he said, will help him continue to hone his skills.
“As a commander, I’ll have a wonderful opportunity to influence Soldiers. It’s a job not many people are willing to do, and that not everyone is deemed capable of doing.”
And while each day is preparation for the next, Thompson tries to have fun.
“The people I’ve met, and the camaraderie I’ve developed with the Soldiers and the other officers – it’s definitely completely different from the civilian world.”

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