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NCO Brings 'Tough Love' to Landing Zone
by Army Staff Sgt. Luke Graziani - October 13, 2011

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Staff Sgt. Shannon Politte, a native of New Orleans and material management supervisor for Company A, 172nd Support Battalion, 172nd Infantry Brigade, Task Force Blackhawk, signals to the forklift driver to halt during loading operations to ship cargo on Oct. 5, 2011 at Forward Operating Base Sharana. Politte, as the non-commissioned officer in charge, oversees all lift operations at the helicopter landing zone where she is assigned. Photo by Army Staff Sgt. Luke Graziani
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Shannon Politte, a native of New Orleans and material management supervisor for Company A, 172nd Support Battalion, 172nd Infantry Brigade, Task Force Blackhawk, directs passengers to their flights at the flight line on Oct. 5, 2011 at Forward Operating Base Sharana. Politte, whose parents were both Servicemembers, displays natural leadership ability as the noncommissioned officer in charge at the helicopter landing zone. Photo by Army Staff Sgt. Luke Graziani
  PAKTIKA PROVINCE, Afghanistan (10/7/2011) – Being the only girl in a family of nine brothers is challenging, to say the least. Having two parents who were both in the military adds to the challenge.

Growing up in New Orleans, the young girl learned to be tough on her own but yet depended on her large tight-knit family for guidance and support.

She was a tomboy, to the surprise of no one, with a very strong, independent personality. She was raised with firm military values, working for what she wanted and appreciating what she was given.

Her parents pushed her to seek greater things outside of her neighborhood in New Orleans and with their help she attended college, but decided to pursue a military career partway through.

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Shannon Politte looks back on her formative years with pride because she was able to take those things that made her who she is and become a successful non-commissioned officer in the Army.

“I had to struggle and work hard for what I wanted,” she recalled. “My parents didn't give a lot – we had to earn a lot.”

“My dad was Air Force and my mom was Army,” she explained, and with two military parents, they emphasized, “Duty and responsibility. It's my duty to serve my country and do what I have to do.”

Politte spent three years as a drill sergeant at Fort Jackson, S.C., before being assigned to Company A, 172nd Support Battalion, 172nd Infantry Brigade, Task Force Blackhawk.

The time “on the trail”, instructing new recruits at basic training as a drill sergeant, taught her not only about training and leading soldiers but also about who she was as a person and leader.

“Being a drill sergeant – I loved it,” she recalls fondly. “Being with the soldiers from sun up to sun down and instilling the Army values in soldiers,” helped her understand who she is inside, grow as a person and develop as a non-commissioned officer.

She is now the NCO in-charge of the helicopter landing zone at Forward Operating Base Sharana and is responsible for operations at the HLZ and the 18 soldiers assigned to her.

“I knew this was going to be a challenging role,” she said. “I have three sections in one. I knew I had to stay on my toes.”

The HLZ is a 24/7 operation – there is always something going on, whether it be flights coming in or passengers or equipment going out.

“I knew it was going to be stressful,” she said. “Sometimes it can be very demanding. It's a big responsibility and a big challenge.”

Pollitte said that with so much happening all the time and with an area of operation so spread out, it's almost as if she has to be at multiple places at once.

“I can't be everywhere at one time,” she said. “But I have to know all things that go on here at the HLZ.”

Managing stress is vital to maintaining not only her soldiers' mental health but her own as well. Politte keeps a vigilant eye on her troops, but is able to take time to decompress herself by keeping in touch with her family.

“I'm really family oriented,” she said. “I center myself around my family. I talk to them everyday or every other day. It makes my day much brighter. As long as I talk to them I'm happy.”

Politte and her soldiers take pride in their jobs and their vital role in the overall mission. She understands the importance of running things smoothly at the HLZ and getting equipment and supplies to the outlying areas.

“It don't matter if it's clothes, food, water,” she said. “It makes me feel good that I'm supplying the war. If we don't supply them how will they get it? Some of those (places) don't have goat trails or roads to get there.”

It's not just mission essential items that Politte and her team push out to the units. Sometimes, when the moment arises, she is able to get comfort items to the soldiers in the outposts that don't have access to them.

“Some of (them) don't have hot meals”, she explains and she has been able to ship out barbeque pits and coals so the Soldiers at the outposts can enjoy a little bit of home.

Politte will be eligible for sergeant first class soon, but her mind is focused on taking care of her soldiers.

“I push promotion,” she said. “I push that knowledge. Not just what they study out of the books, but what they know and what they display as a leader. I push my soldiers so they can become greater than me. I let them use me as a stepping stool to get to that next level. I push them hard.”

As tough as she seems on the outside, it's readily apparent that her heart is for her soldiers.

“I give all the credit to my soldiers,” she said. “I feel that if my soldiers are happy, I'm happy.”

“An old sergeant major told me, ‘You can't give a soldier everything they ask for, don't spoil them,'” she recalled. “'Tough love and make them happy with basic necessities - basic necessities and that soldier will work for you all day long.'”

More associated images in frame below

By Army Staff Sgt. Luke Graziani
Combined Joint Task Force 1 - Afghanistan
Provided through DVIDS
Copyright 2011

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