Former British Soldier Joins U.S. Army
(January 19, 2010)
Army Spc. Robert Sumner, a native of Birmingham, England, and a British army
veteran, now serves with the U.S. Army at Forward Operation Base Joyce in
eastern Afghanistan's Kunar province.
|KUNAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan, Jan. 14, 2010 –
Army Spc. Robert Sumner looks like any other
American soldier. But when he speaks, his thick
British accent separates him from the crowd.
Serving here with the 10th Mountain Division's
1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, Sumner
realizes his road from the British Isles to the
mountains of Afghanistan was a long and
Sumner said he always dreamed of being a
soldier, and after graduating from high school
in 1996, he enlisted in the British army,
serving in Cyprus, Hong Kong, Kosovo, Bosnia and
Northern Ireland until 2003.
In 2004, he began working for a private security
firm, and he continued working there until 2005,
when he came to the United States for the first
time to attend training in Arkansas. There, he
met and married his wife, Katherine.
For two years, Sumner lived with his new wife in
his new home. But he wanted to give something
back to his new
country, and in July 2007, he enlisted in the U.S. Army.
“I enlisted in the U.S. Army because I wanted to do
something for this country that has given me so much,”
Sumner said. “When people ask me in the future, ‘What have
you done for this country?' I'll have something to say.”
Sumner joined the 10th Mountain Division, based in Fort
Drum, N.Y., after asking one of his drill sergeants in basic
training which unit is the most deployed in the Army.
“When I was going to Fort Drum, I was all excited about
going over there,” Sumner said. “I imagined, ‘A mountain
division. They should have a lot of mountains to climb, and
I'm an avid hiker. That should be fun.' But soon after I
arrived, I realized that Fort Drum is flat, and that they
just get a lot of snow.”
Before deploying in January 2009, Sumner was serving as an
infantryman in the reconnaissance platoon. But he suffered
an injury during training and was removed from that
“I had a foot injury,” Sumner said. “An infantryman's feet
are very important. So our sergeant major decided to pull me
out from that duty and assigned me to the personal security
detachment, mostly due to my experience as a contractor.
When I arrived in Afghanistan, they placed me in the PSD as
temporary duty, but three months later, I was still doing it
even though I was fully recovered.”
Sumner uses his experience in personal security operations
as a PSD team leader for Army Lt. Col. Frederick O'Donnell,
the battalion commander.
“The first time I met Sumner was back in Fort Drum,”
O'Donnell said. “Back then, he was assigned to Combat
Company. He was a private first class leading an entire
squad during a live-fire exercise. I was impressed just by
watching his execution; he displayed a lot of ability. It is
funny to me, because he called some of his soldiers
‘blokes,' just like they do back in England. The way he gave
the commands reflected his background and experience.”
Army Staff Sgt. Mike Cruz, noncommissioned officer in charge
of the personal security detachment and Sumner's squad
leader, also had praise for Sumner.
“I really appreciate his expertise as a soldier,” Cruz said.
“He is a great asset for the team, and he helps me train the
other guys in the PSD.”
Sumner noted the difference in the core of the loyalty
professed by soldiers in the two armies in which he's
“British soldiers often said they fight for the queen,” he
said. “Over here in America, we fight for the American
people. American people have been so good to me.
“When I went back to the U.S. for my rest and recreation,”
he continued, “people were clapping at the airport and
offered to pay for my meal. I was so amazed. Nobody does
that in England. Maybe they appreciate my service over
there, but they just showed it in a different way. I'm now
31 years old, but I've still got a long way to go. I love
the Army, and I feel that I can do so much more.”
Article and photo by
Army Sgt. Teddy Wade
55th Signal Company
American Forces Press Service
Comment on this article