FORT CHAFFEE, Ark. – The transition from an enlisted soldier to a
commissioned officer isn't easy. It takes time and diligence, not to
mention the right skills and talents, and usually is a one-way trip.
Not for Sgt. 1st Class Richard Thomas Llewellyn. A native of
Ballston Spa, N.Y., Llewellyn enlisted as an airborne infantryman
August 1995. After his first duty assignment with the 101st Airborne
Division (Air Assault), Llewellyn, now the assistant operations
noncommissioned officer for the 854th Engineer Battalion (Forward
Support), was accepted into prep school at West Point to become an
officer, where he was quickly given a role within the cadre.
July 18, 2013 -- Sgt. 1st Class Richard Thomas Llewellyn, the
assistant operations noncommissioned officer with the 854th Engineer
Battalion (Forward Support), began his career as an enlisted
infantryman in 1995 and transitioned into the Army Reserve after the
Sept. 11 attacks. After becoming an officer and reaching the rank of
first lieutenant, Llewellyn, a native of Ballston Spa, N.Y.,
resigned his commission to take a position with the 854th Engineer
Battalion to work closer with soldiers. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt.
“My platoon sergeant from Fort Campbell was one of the
NCOs and knew my working ability and requested me as cadre
right there,” Llewellyn said.
Like all candidates at
the prep school, Llewellyn was required to play a sport; he
chose football. Unfortunately, a football injury led to his
disqualification from the program.
“I was the second shortest person
on the team, and I took quite a beating on my body,”
Not losing his motivation, Llewellyn
went on to win Soldier of the Month boards in Fort Knox,
Ky., where he was inspired by a major general to seek out a
Green to Gold scholarship. Llewellyn was accepted at Sienna
College in Loudonville, N.Y., for a full ride.
to Gold is a two-year program that provides eligible, active
duty enlisted soldiers an opportunity to complete a degree
and be commissioned as an Army officer.
terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, Llewellyn faced the choice of
leaving his loved ones and deploy to Afghanistan or entering
the Army Reserve (not realizing at the time that infantry
was not an option for the Reserve).
Either way, his
Green to Gold scholarship was over. Ironically, after
arriving at his new Reserve unit, Llewellyn went back on
active duty to become a drill sergeant for several years.
“I loved being a drill sergeant,” Llewellyn said. “I
like the whole aspect of teaching. I like to make sure my
soldiers understand why we do something, to think outside
After finishing his tour as a drill
sergeant, Llewellyn went to the Basic Non-Commissioned
Officer Course (now the Advanced Leadership Course) and
Advanced Non-Commissioned Officer Course (now the Senior
Leadership Course), earning the title of distinguished honor
graduate for each.
Llewellyn recalled his commander
telling him that since being an NCO clearly wasn't
challenging him enough he should put in his packet for
direct commission – finally, he was an officer.
Llewellyn became a Military Transition Team commander in
Iraq and then a mentor-adviser in Kosovo, filling a
lieutenant colonel position as a first lieutenant.
“When you go from enlisted to officer, you learn a lot more
as far as logistics,” Llewellyn said. “Officers do a lot of
the planning. Instead of one shop, you're overseeing
everything that you're going to need to bring everything
together. Unless you're at the E-7 level or above, you don't
see the big picture.”
Llewellyn came to the 854th,
currently here supporting the River Assault exercise, to get
training handling military dogs – he's a full-time police
officer working with dogs as a civilian. The catch, however,
was that the only slots available were for enlisted, and
they needed strong NCOs.
No problem, Llewellyn said.
Having the knowledge of both sides, Llewellyn said he could
better set his fellow Soldiers up for success.
“You're here to be (a soldier); it's not the Boy Scouts,
it's not the Girl Scouts,” Llewellyn said. “I understand
it's the Reserve, but they want to be soldiers. They need
that tough love now and then. They want to see that pride
“We're all here to be one team, one
fight,” Llewellyn said. “Those who know my background know
I'm going to help them out.”
As someone nearing
retirement, there's a large difference in pay between an
officer – especially one with enlisted experience – and an
enlisted soldier. That, he said, made no difference; his
course was set, and he didn't want to have any regrets about
“I know what my passion is,” Llewellyn
said. “It's beneficial for myself and for the unit. I should
By U.S. Army Sgt. Michael Crawford
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