Monday, July 25, 2011

Who Fights Our Wars: Captain Bryson Meczywor

During the July drill weekend, Captain Bryson Meczywor passed command of Echo Company 2-104th to his long-time executive officer, First Lieutenant Brian Marquardt.  Meczywor assumed command of Echo in November of 2008 just as we were getting ready to deploy to Iraq.  He had just three months to get to know his soldiers in Echo in Pennsylvania before many new soldiers were added to our ranks at Fort Sill OK.  Meczywor interviewed every soldier under his command.

The commander who preceded Meczywor was older (not old like me, but almost 40!) had family and work problems and was not very involved with the unit.  Meczywor worked full time as a recruiter, was just 25 years old, had prior enlisted service in the artillery, and was all Army.  I don't think he scored less than 300 on the PT Test during the entire deployment.  He dove into everything Echo from his first day in command.

Echo Company maintains motor vehicles for the 2-104th Aviation Battalion, fuels the aircraft, cooks the food and, if necessary, provides ground security for the battalion.  From train up at Fort Sill beginning at the end January of 2009 to Annual Training in June of this year, Meczywor pushed Echo to do more than what the regulations require in every area.

In Iraq, the 110 or so men and women of Echo Company set up fueling operations in FOBs (Forward Operating Bases) covering about a quarter of the entire area of the country of Iraq.  Echo soldiers rotated in and out of Normandy, Riflestock, Garry Owen and other bases fueling every kind of aircraft that could land in their FOBs.  These 24/7 fueling operations were rocket and mortar targets--especially Garry Owen.  Meczywor flew all over Iraq and was on the ground with his soldiers wherever they were assigned.

Echo trained harder than any other company in weapons and security operations both in Fort Sill and in Kuwait.  We never were called on to provide convoy or perimeter security in Iraq, but Echo was ready.

The day before we left for Iraq, Meczywor told us we were being assigned to a different base in the south, not the base where we originally assigned.  This change would leave Meczywor in a terrible position for the first month of the deployment.  All of our equipment was 200 miles away from Tallil Air Base at Balad Air Base.  Meczywor went to Balad to get our equipment while we moved into a base without facilities for Army Aviation.  Higher headquarters took away some of the best Echo NCOs to rewire buildings, build and remodel facilities and get aircraft maintenance facilities in working order.  At the same time, Echo troops were setting up fueling operations Iraq.  He kept all of these operations going and then started over a month later when the motor pool, company headquarters and two of the fueling operations were moved.

Meczywor gave me my favorite extra duty of my army career in Fort Sill when he put me in charge of remedial PT (physical training).  For the time we were in Fort Sill, I was the sergeant in charge of fitness training for the 40 soldiers who flunked the fitness test when we first mobilized.  We got most of the soldiers who flunked at least to a passing score.  When I joined, I was worried I would have trouble keeping up physically.  Being in charge of remedial PT reminded me I could make it whenever I doubted myself.

It's hard to be a good leader without being an SOB.  As much as I respect Meczywor as a leader, we had our difficulties.  We butted heads when I moved to battalion headquarters in the middle of deployment. He didn't want me to go and made his feelings very clear.  It was a compliment of sorts.  He thought I was worth keeping in Echo or we would not have had a problem.

Our deployment was more drama than action, but I very much believe that if things had gone badly, Meczywor would have shown how good he and Echo really were.


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