Thursday, December 24, 2009

Who Fights This War? And Just Keeps Going

I have mentioned my roommate before. Sgt. Nickey Smith joined Echo Company with a dozen other guys from Connecticut at the beginning of the deployment at Fort Sill. All the other CT guys in our company are fuelers and have mostly been assigned to remote bases to refuel aircraft. Nickey was the only CT guy assigned to the motor pool. And from his first day he was put in the squad with the squad leader who was already showing signs of being overwhelmed at Fort Sill. More and more as training progressed, Nickey found himself in charge of a team and picking up the slack as his squad leader fell apart. Shortly after we arrived in Iraq, Nickey got assigned to as the maintenance sergeant at one of the fueling bases. Life is a lot more Spartan on these bases, but one of Nickey's best friends was there and he was away from the drama of his squad. He was very happy to go and not so happy to be back.
When he got back, his squad leader fell apart completely and was assigned to another company doing and enlisted man's job. Nickey took over as squad leader and as a maintenance team leader. For a while he was the only sergeant double assigned that way.
Despite all this, he was rated as just average when he got his NCOER (NCO evaluation report). When many other sergeants, myself included, took jobs at battalion or somewhere else, Nickey stayed in the motor pool, worked at a job a pay grade above his own, and did everything necessary to continue the mission. When the PT Test loomed before us, and the maintenance soldiers had to report to the motor pool at 0600, Nickey was getting up at 0300 to work out at least three days per week.
Two nights ago when I came back from my work he was sitting on his bed surrounded by papers making sure all of his squad got good evaluations for the work they did here in Iraq. Earlier in the year he made sure they got awards when that ball had been dropped by his predecessor.
Nickey fits no definition of average. I encouraged him to appeal his NCOER. He was told it was too late and he would have to wait until we return to America. Nickey deserves better. There's a lot of things I will miss about my year in the Army when I return to civilian life, but I won't miss the way paperwork crushes reality.

Family Black Sheep Flies a MEDEVAC Blackhawk

Brooklyn-born Amira Talifi, (not her real name) is a helicopter pilot I served with in the Army National Guard. She is one of seven ch...