Soldier Finds Niche in Nuristan
(December 16, 2010)
Army Pfc. Raymond Cecil
raises the elevation on his howitzer at Forward
Operating Base Kalagush in eastern Afghanistan's
Nuristan province Dec. 12, 2010. U.S. Army photo
by Sgt. Bill Murray
WASHINGTON, Dec. 13, 2010 – Since arriving here several
months ago to serve with Task Force Bastogne, Army Pfc.
Raymond Cecil -- a cannon crewmember with Battery A, 2nd
Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, has made a
positive impression on his leaders.
“He's an extremely motivated, competent and confident
soldier,” said Army 1st Sgt. Jeremy Barton, Cecil's senior
enlisted advisor for Battery A. “He is very respectful and
is always in the thick of things. He is always learning and
training, and is excelling at his job. I am proud of Cecil
and would love to have more soldiers with his attitude,
initiative and ability to learn and retain information.”
To some, it's not surprising to hear the Tennessee native --
a 1st Brigade Combat Team soldier with the 101st Airborne
Division -- is doing so well. He's the fourth generation in
his family to join the military and deploy to war.
“When Cecil was in the third grade, his father was diagnosed
with multiple sclerosis and was in and out of
hospitals for treatment,” explained Barton, a
Clarksville, Tenn., native. Cecil, 21, has known
since he was a boy he wanted to join the
military. His father's debilitating disease only
slowed him down a little.
“It got a little crazy,” he said. “It seemed like we spent almost every night in
the [emergency room] or hospital. He has almost kicked the bucket on us a few
times. It's not a fun thing to have happen to someone in your family -- no
disease is ever fun on a family.”|
When Cecil was 12 and a few years after he learned his father had MS, the
attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, changed his world. In response to those attacks,
Cecil's father, who was a regional manager for Waste Management, was asked to
assist in the Pentagon clean-up efforts in the attack's wake. On his last day on
the assignment, he fell from the back of a trash container, landed on a concrete
road barrier and broke his back. The injury resulted in many painful surgeries,
and combined with his MS, made him unable to go back to work.
It was only a matter of time before Cecil decided to drop out of high school and
start working full time to help in supporting his family. After working for
three years in various jobs, he decided it was time to join the military.
“Before I joined the Army, I was a jack-of-all-trades, I guess you would say,”
Cecil recounted. “I did construction and home maintenance, detailed cars, worked
as a janitor. There isn't much good out there for someone who doesn't have a
At 19, he met with an Army recruiter. He enlisted in the Army on Feb. 13, 2009,
and left for the Army Preparatory School at Fort Jackson, S.C., June 1.
After obtaining his GED diploma at Fort Jackson, Cecil shipped out to Fort Sill,
Okla., where he completed basic training, followed by advanced individual
training to be a cannon crewmember.
“A cannon crewmember wasn't my first choice,” Cecil said, “but it was that or
the infantry when I went to [the Military Entrance Processing Station]. It's an
OK job, I guess. It's better than scrubbing floors.”
Just days after completing his initial training, Cecil arrived at his first duty
assignment with Battery A, 2nd Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment at Fort
Campbell, Ky. A little more than a year later, he was sent to the Joint
Readiness Training Center, Fort Polk, La., in January, to prepare for war with
his fellow Bastogne Bulldogs.
“My dad was very supportive, and happy I was getting out of my crowd and
dead-end jobs,” Cecil recalled. “My mother and sister cried and went crazy,
almost. They didn't like it at all for about a week or two, but they came
around. My parents are both very proud of me. My dad doesn't worry too much, or
at least that he lets on. My mom cries every time she watches the news, but she
still knows I can handle whatever the Taliban throws at me.”
He proved that May 26.
“There was a complex attack on our [forward operating base],” Cecil said. “Me
and my section fought in an intense battle for a couple of hours. After that,
you always feel good about yourself -- that you made it out of something like
that alive. It really builds trust in yourself, your fellow soldiers and your
leadership. I knew then I had the best chain of leadership in the Army, because
they had properly prepared me and the others for just that situation.”
On this deployment, Cecil is responsible for manning an M198 howitzer as the
assistant gunner. He is also a gunner on the 120 mm mortar. His job, he said, is
to defend his base and shoot the cannons to suppress the enemy when soldiers are
under attack on the battlefield.
Although Cecil realizes his mission here and the importance of it all, he still
finds time to think about his dreams, goals and of his future.
“Some of my dreams might sound crazy, but I plan on doing every single one of
them, because the minimum is never good enough,” Cecil said. “I will climb Mount
Everest one day, and when I get home, I plan on doing my first marathon.”
His platoon leader, Army Capt. William Mayville, a Fayetteville, N.C., native,
has no doubt Cecil will do great things and is proud to have him on his team.
“Cecil is a go-to guy,” he said. “I think he feels satisfaction from the fact he
is looked up to by his peers and his superiors look to him to get things done.
It is the constant search for that feeling that is what drives him to be the
best at whatever it is he is doing, and once that is complete, move on to the
“He strives to be the best in every discipline of his profession,” Mayville
continued. “He is head and shoulders above his peers in terms of performance.
He's an absolute asset to his section and platoon. I wish there were more
soldiers like him.”
By Army SFC Paula Taylor|
Task Force Bastogne
American Forces Press Service
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