Soldier Carries On Predecessors' Work
(November 19, 2010)
During a firefight with
insurgents in the Shal Valley in eastern
Afghanistan's Nuristan province, Army Sgt. James
T. Schmidt checks on his soldiers from his
fighting position on top of a mountain, Nov. 8,
KUNAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan, Nov. 16, 2010 – An
infantry squad leader from Decatur, Ill., finds
inspiration from U.S. soldiers of past wars as
he serves here with Company C, 2nd Battalion,
237th Infantry Regiment, Task Force No Slack.
“I remember coming down to Fort Campbell [in
Kentucky] a couple times and going to the park
and seeing the big guns, and I was like,
‘Whoa,'” Army Sgt. James T. Schmidt said.
“When I think about those guys in the 101st
[Airborne Division] during World War I and World
War II, I mean ... we have so much better
equipment and technology these days,” said
Schmidt after spending four nights on a remote
mountaintop in the bone-chilling cold.
“It just amazes me that those guys went through the same thing we did, but with
so little,” Schmidt continued. “We were sitting up on a mountain yesterday --
cold, pretty cold. But we had cold-weather gear. I was thinking about soldiers
in Bastogne just sucking in the snow and the trees, not knowing when they're
going to get relieved. It must have been tough.”|
It wasn't an easy choice to join the Army, Schmidt said, but it was a calling he
just couldn't refuse.
“I was 24 and working at a gas station,” he said. “I wasn't really doing much
with my life. Joining the Army was always something I wanted to do. After years
of seeing the war go on, I didn't want to grow old and not be able to tell my
grandchildren I participated in this. It would have upset me. I was feeling like
I was sitting on the sidelines when our country was doing something like this.”
Shortly after joining, he deployed with the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team
in Afghanistan's Korengal Valley here. He wears a memorial bracelet every day to
remind himself of the nine friends from his platoon whom he lost during that
“It's just something to remind myself of them and remind myself why I'm here,”
he said. “I think that's why I re-enlisted. I was thinking about getting out
after the last deployment, but I didn't want to give up after these guys gave it
their all. They lost their lives doing something they believed in, and I think
it would have tore me up the rest of my life if I would have just stopped and
not come back here. ... It reminds me of why I'm here.”
He said this deployment to Afghanistan has been a little different.
“I've been down to Forward Operating Base Joyce in 2007, and the roads have
improved,” Schmidt said. “A lot more wells dug, most of the villagers have
electricity, and they seem happier to have us around. There was a lot of just
getting rocks chucked at us my last deployment, and I haven't seen much of that
With a congenial smile and a disarming laugh, Schmidt said he tries to find the
good wherever he is.
“I'm just glad to have done something,” he said. “It goes back to why I joined.
I think we're doing good things here and we're helping the people. I hope it
gets better, because there are good people here. There's just a select few that
ruin it for everybody.”
His platoon sergeant, Army Staff Sgt. Clint J. Lyons from Gibsonville, N.C.,
said Schmidt always tries to put the best face on things.
“He's always got a smile on his face and tries to make the best out of all
situations,” Lyons said.
Schmidt's mettle was tested earlier this month when his squad was bogged down on
a mountain with heavy enemy fire.
“When the initial contact happened, I was pinned down behind rocks,” Lyons said.
“[Schmidt] was in contact and already starting to engage and giving out commands
to his guys. ... His knowledge really helps me out and makes things easier. I
don't have to worry about him while I'm taking care of other things.”
Throughout the firefight, Schmidt's intuition kicked in and he made sure all his
soldiers were being taken care of and doing their jobs.
“Being the noncommissioned officer on the ground, he's that senior guy,” Lyons
said. “A lot of these guys haven't been in contact before, and it was pretty
intense. Some of his guys were afraid to shoot at first, ... so being that NCO, he
helped them. ... He was doing his thing, and he laid down some rounds himself to
show them where the enemies were.”
After four and half years in the military, Schmidt said, he has decided to try
to make a career out of the Army. He said he wants to do it for his wife, for
his 11-year-old daughter, MacKenzie, and for his fellow soldiers who wear the
Screaming Eagle patch.
Article and photo by
Army SSgt. Mark Burrell
210th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
American Forces Press Service
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