Living The Dream
(April 6, 2011)
|April 2, 2011 -- "I have a third-grade yearbook. It has all
of our pictures in it. Everybody's got what they want to be
when they grow up: an astronaut, a doctor, a professional
ball player or whatever. I wanted to be an Army man. I've
wanted to be in the Army as far back as I can remember. So
it's all I ever wanted. It's all I've ever done.”
It's hard to picture the 6-foot-2-inch,
235-pound Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Cordell, a
soldier with the 103rd Sustainment Command
(Expeditionary), as an 8-year-old child in the
“small country town” of Cordova, Ala., dreaming
of being the man he has become today.
Limited imagination aside, not many people who
set a course at the age of 8 actually travel the
uncertain road of life and end up at their
planned destination when they've reached
Cordell is now 35 years old
and has been in the Army for 15 years. He came
in the service as an active-duty soldier and
spent the first six and a half years of his
Army Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Cordell, the non-commissioned officer in charge of military intelligence with the 103rd Sustainment Command (Expeditonary) and members of his core workout group take a break from their daily workout
on April 2, 2011. This group consists of Master Sgt. Matthew Neumann, Sgt Javier Pagan, Maj. Robert Webb, Staff Sgt. Clark Potter, Sgt. 1st Class Scott Wiliams, and Staff Sgt. Jesse Hartman.
career in the infantry before reclassifying to
work in military intelligence.
He has been deployed six times: once in 1999 to Bosnia as a
member of an infantry unit, three times from November 2001
through January 2004 to Kuwait with a military intelligence
battalion, once to Baghdad with a civil affairs unit in
2006, and his latest deployment began here with the 103rd
ESC last June.
As a husband and father of three,
Cordell admitted his service, including the multiple
deployments, has been “bittersweet” at times. His mood grew
a little somber as he discussed how his children felt about
his job in the Army.
“I know they're proud,
especially my son,” he said.
He went on to say his
oldest daughter in particular was also starting to have
regrets about him being gone so much, and it was hard to be
away from them.
“I try not to let it affect my
motivation or my job,” he said.
Being separated from
one's family and friends can be difficult, so some may think
‘How does a soldier not let this affect his or her
“I put myself out there for all these
people to depend on me so if I couldn't show up or if I
couldn't perform, then I would be letting people down, and
I'm not going to let that happen,” he said.
though being a soldier was all he ever wanted to do, when
Cordell was faced with the choice of staying in the military
or gaining custody of his two oldest children from his first
marriage, it wasn't much of a choice at all.
judge told my lawyer if I wanted them I had to be home,”
Cordell said. “Of course I got out.”
After a year and
a half of separation from the Army, Cordell re-enlisted in
the Army Reserve in October 2001. The battalion he was
assigned to mobilized a month later.
“When Sept. 11
happened, I went and joined the reserves,” Cordell said.
In 2004 after his mobilization, Cordell spent
approximately six months as a drilling Reservist and unit
administrator before he joined the Active Guard Reserve in
Alabama. In February of last year, he completed a permanent
change of station to Iowa to accept a position with the
As the non-commissioned officer-in-charge
of military intelligence for the 103rd ESC, Cordell is
responsible for managing and training the analysts under him
to gather and compile information into “a product that
people can make sense of.”
“Sgt. 1st Class Cordell
is exactly what an NCO should be,” said Sgt. 1st Class
Michael Lensch, the force protection NCOIC with the 103rd
ESC, and a Des Moines, Iowa, native. “He holds himself and
soldiers to the highest standards and never lets them quit.
I know that everyone tries a little harder when Sgt. 1st
Class Cordell is around.” However, the extent of his effort
goes far beyond where his job description ends.
addition to his NCOIC duties, Cordell also developed and ran
the Soldier and NCO of the month boards, was a member of the
103rd ESC personal security detachment, and assisted
countless Soldiers with their physical training.
don't think hardly a day went by that someone, sometimes not
even in our unit, would come up to him and ask a question
regarding health, diet or working out,” Lensch said.
“As far as PT training, it's just something I've always
loved,” Cordell said. “I love learning and pushing the
limits, but I think even more, I like seeing people
accomplish their fitness goals.”
For this reason,
Cordell is pursuing a bachelor's degree in health and sports
As Cordell's roommate for the length of this
deployment, Lensch said he witnessed Cordell get up early in
the morning to work out with a group of soldiers, work out
with a different group in the afternoon, and work out with
yet another group in the evening after working a 12-hour
“Anything that can be done to help other
soldiers, I try to do it,” Cordell said.
definitely dedicated to his job as well as giving an
incredible amount of free time to help soldiers with their
physical fitness,” said Staff Sgt. Scott Williams, the
support operations medical logistics NCOIC with the 103rd
ESC, and an Iowa City, Iowa, native.
It is this
dedication and effort that earned him the Bronze Star Medal
and Army Achievement Medal at an awards ceremony held in the
Provider Chapel here recently.
When asked about the
two awards he received, Cordell put his modesty on display
saying it was “kind of embarrassing” because he didn't feel
that he had done anything to deserve recognition above his
“I didn't do anything that other people didn't
do,” Cordell said. “I call it just doing what I'm supposed
to do as an NCO and a person.”
Cordell has always felt as
a person he was obligated to succeed and push himself to new
“To be honest, all of that comes from fear of
failing, no matter what it's in,” Cordell said. “Ever since
I was a kid, I wanted to be the best at everything I do, and
I can't stand to feel like I've let someone down.”
This is Cordell's way of channeling his fears and using them
to his advantage. Fortunately for the 103rd ESC, it was to
their advantage as well.
“I believe that the overall
fitness and morale of many soldiers would not be what it is
if it wasn't for [Cordell] showing them the way and giving
them the tools they needed to succeed,” Lensch said.
As the 103rd ESC prepares to leave the country, Cordell will
return home to resume the duties of being the man of the
house. He will return as a man awarded for his dedication.
He will return being a man that made a difference in the
lives of the Soldiers he deployed with. He will return as a
respected man in the Army who was once a boy that wanted to
be an Army man.
Article and photo by Army Sgt. Stephen Scott
310th Expeditionary Sustainment Command
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