Few members of today's Army have a perspective on these
changes like that of 46-year-old Staff Sgt. Peter Winston.
A Palm Beach, Fla. native, Winston joined the Army in 1981
at the age of 17 and received training in Nuclear,
Biological and Chemical Warfare.
After serving nearly nine years, he was separated in 1989
for medical reasons. Following a 19-year break in service,
Winston was watching a speech by President Barack Obama on
television, and his comments on the war in Afghanistan
inspired him to rejoin the Army in January 2009.
Now, Winston has a unique perspective few Soldiers ever
He has seen the many changes the Army has made as if they
had happened all at once, rather than as a gradual
One thing that has not changed, however, is Winston's
passion for the Army.
“I always wanted to be a Soldier,” he said. “I felt I needed
to do what was my responsibility, which was to serve my
country. My dad's best friend was a paratrooper, and I
wanted to be a paratrooper.”
I did everything I could to put myself in that position,” he
During his first period of enlistment, Winston served with
the 82nd Airborne and was later assigned to 4th Battalion,
9th Infantry Regiment, in Alaska.
“Back then the Army was run mostly by Vietnam Veterans. We
had so much respect for [them],” he said. “When you walked
in and saw a guy with that patch from some unit from Vietnam
or he was in his dress greens and had that yellow and green
ribbon on their chest, you had an idea what they had been
Master Sgt. Anthony Schofield, Senior Garrison Career
Counselor, Fort Riley, served with Winston in Alaska.
“His work ethic and his character are by far the best that I
have had the opportunity to serve with,” Schofield said. “I
would be proud to have him work for and with me anywhere and
Winston eventually completed Jumpmaster school. He later
volunteered for Special Forces and was injured during the
assessment course. In 1989, Winston was medically separated
from the Army as a staff sergeant.
“I got out and, six to eight months later, Desert Storm
happened,” he said. “All of the sudden, everyone but me can
go, and I really missed the boat on that one.”
Over the next 19 years, Winston worked for General Motors as
a mechanic, owned a water damage business and a sign
business, and worked for Arbitron, a top marketing research
“During my time out, I really felt like I had a lot of
unfinished business. [There were] things I had trained to do
that I never got to do,” Winston said.
So, when the war in Afghanistan was heating up, Winston felt
it was time to go back.
“I thought, if there was an opportunity for me to go in and
use all of these things that I had trained my whole life to
do, and never got to do, that this was probably going to be
my last opportunity,” he said.
Winston also believed he had much to offer the Army.
“I wanted to do for my Soldiers what the Vietnam vets, my
leaders, my mentors, did for me,” he said. “I owe a lot of
what I am today to the time and efforts of the Vietnam
veterans who taught me the ropes.”
It wasn't easy, though. Winston had to overcome two
After four and a half months of seeing doctors and making
his case, he was finally told he could enlist. He returned
to the Army as a cavalry scout, and was assigned within the
1st Infantry Division.
Winston is still learning to deal with the changes over the
last 20 years.
“When I was in the first time, you had two different kinds
of Soldiers. You had lifers, and you had those who joined to
get college,” he said.
“Now there are myriad reasons for people coming in. I guess
in this case unemployment and the current economic situation
have played a big role in people's motivation to become
Encountering the new generation of Soldiers has been a bit
of a culture-shock for Winston, but he credits the success
of our nation and advancement of technology with making life
better for today's youth.
“Parents always say I want to do for my kids more than my
parents did for me,” he said. “I think we were successful in
But Winston is not sure all the changes have been positive.
“I think the Army now has to gear itself toward taking these
somewhat-coddled youngsters and we have to gradually bring
them up to a level of awareness that was much higher in my
generation,” he said.
Winston quickly reevaluated his leadership style to
accommodate the changes.
“You find as a noncommissioned officer you are even more
challenged to find a way to communicate your message in a
[politically correct] fashion,” he said. “The sensitivity
requires you to really have to reposition your message in a
less aggressive, less abrasive way. I find I have to take a
On a positive note, Winston is very impressed with the
technological advancements the military has made in the last
“The technology amazes me. I am blown away by the
During his previous service, Winston had to carry a book
containing communications information. If captured by the
enemy, the book had to be destroyed. Now the equipment is
electronic and all information can be cleared with the touch
of a button.
“Instead of eating a book, I'm pushing a button,” he said.
“I always dreaded the day if we got overrun, it's like, all
right, who's eating this book?”
Since deploying with Security Company, Division Headquarters
and Headquarters Battalion, Winston was previously assigned
to the Entry Control Point, and recently volunteered and was
selected to be part of the Personal Security Detail for the
1st Inf. Div. Command Group.
“I'm really proud to be in the 1st ID. There's a lot of
esprit de corps here; there's a lot of history,” Winston
“I'm really proud to be on the PSD. I'm really proud of the
NCO's I work with in this unit,” he added. “They are very
In the future, Winston plans to apply to become an Army
“That's what I really want to do more than anything else
right now, and it's how I think I can best serve the Army. I
have a unique perspective.”
In his spare time, Winston enjoys hunting, fishing, and
working on cars. He attended Methodist College at Fort Bragg
in pursuit of a business degree.
When asked about his future plans, Winston's love of the
Army shines through.
“I'm going to stay until they chain me up to a humvee and
drag me off the base.”