DRUM, N.Y. - Throughout its history, the 3rd Brigade Combat
Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI) has maintained 3,000 to
4,000 Soldiers. Typically, Soldiers receive assignments to
multiple duty stations throughout their careers.
Only a few have an opportunity to remain in the same duty
station, let alone the same unit for more than a few years. Only
eight Soldiers have had the distinction of participating in all four
Spartan Brigade deployments to Afghanistan.
and their enlisted advisers fulfill their obligations at the
company, battalion and brigade levels during their careers, which
makes it uncommon for an officer or a senior enlisted adviser to
stay in the same unit for more than a few years.
Noncommissioned officers train Soldiers to be competent to prepare
them for what they might face in a deployment environment. The eight
Soldiers who participated in all four of the brigade's deployments
to Afghanistan have all grown to become noncommissioned officers.
Some of those NCOs reflected on their experiences.
2004, soon after a deployment to Afghanistan with another brigade,
Sgt. 1st Class Aaron L. Jongeneel became a member of 3rd Squadron,
71st Cavalry Regiment. Then a young sergeant, Jongeneel was among
the few NCOs in his platoon.
“At first, it was upsetting,”
Jongeneel said. “I was one of three Soldiers to transfer from my
previous unit. I didn't know any of the other Soldiers. After some
time, the unit received more troops, and my platoon sergeant and I
recognized the opportunity to build a unit from scratch.”
Four months after becoming a part of the Spartan Brigade, Jongeneel
was the first Soldier in his squadron to participate in the unit's
staff sergeant promotion board. Soon after that, Jongeneel became a
staff sergeant, which put him a supervisory role.
challenging time for Jongeneel in the Spartan Brigade was during the
brigade's first deployment in the winter of 2006. It was his second
deployment, the first as a Spartan.
In combat, NCOs must
remain steadfast to maintain esprit de corps, especially during the
loss of comrades.
Those deaths hit Jongeneel hard, especially
the loss of Sgt. 1st Class Jared C. Monti, also a member of 3-71
Cavalry, whose family later received the Medal of Honor on his
“Losing so many Soldiers had a huge effect on the
morale of the troops,” Jongeneel said. “Sgt. 1st Class Monti's death
affected the entire squadron. As a leader, you had to maintain focus
on the mission at hand. As a noncommissioned officer, I understood
that the morale of my troops affected them in battle, and I had to
remain positive to keep them alive. In return, my Soldiers'
resilience made me resilient. They kept me going.”
face many challenges and overcome many obstacles throughout their
As leaders of junior enlisted Soldiers, NCOs have
the duty and obligation to maintain the welfare of their Soldiers.
Sgt 1st. Class Keith A. Rondo, a member of 3rd Brigade Special
Troops Battalion, described an experience he had fulfilling that
Sgt. Justin Griffin was one of Rondo's Soldiers during
the brigade's second deployment. Rondo's experience with Griffin is
one that they will always share.
“While assaulting a
building, Sgt. Griffin was shot in the shoulder,” Rondo recalled.
“As a leader and a noncommissioned officer, I decided to spend the
two weeks of (mid-tour leave) that I had with him at Walter Reed
(Army Medical Center). That is what we do. It's part of the job.”
During his most recent visit to Fort Drum, Griffin attended the
final 3rd BSTB Ball, where he addressed the battalion in a speech.
The highlight of his address was his experience with Rondo.
“It was very nice of him to spend his leave with me,” Griffin said.
“He wheeled me through the halls to get food and look out the
windows on a wheelchair. We had a great time. He definitely made a
Making a difference is a good way to see an
obstacle as an opportunity. One of the obstacles Rondo faced was
transition. The inactivation marks a transition for all Spartan
Soldiers, especially the few who have been on all four Spartan
“The inactivation was upsetting,” Rondo said. “I
have been in the 3rd Brigade Special Troops Battalion my entire
career, but everyone has to do new things. I wonder where I'll go
According to Rondo, Spartan Soldiers will fare
well wherever they go.
“Many Soldiers will miss the brigade,
but it's a good thing that all of these quality Soldiers will share
the Spartan legacy wherever they go in their careers,” he said.
In their careers, Soldiers are promoted and given more
responsibility. The more experience they have, the better they can
The transition to an administrative position
was a challenge for Sgt. 1st Class Adam P. Kapchus, a member of 2nd
Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment. Like most NCOs, Kapchus spent the
majority of his early career with his troops, training and then
leading them into combat. Being able to have hands-on management of
the Soldiers he trained gave him a sense of pride and camaraderie.
“The last deployment was toughest for me,” Kapchus said. “I was
a battle captain, which meant I stayed in the tactical operations
center and attended to communications for the entire Logar province.
It was tough because I wasn't with the guys. I was there for them,
but not with them, and that was a challenge for me.”
one of the Soldiers who participated on every Spartan deployment is
Staff Sgt. Michael A. Conzo, 3rd BSTB, and his challenge after the
inactivation will be transition as well.
“I have never been a
part of an engineering battalion, and I will be a part of the 41st
Engineers Battalion,” Conzo said. “That will be a challenge, but we
all have to move on to bigger and better things.”
Spartans move to their next chapter, they all take with them the
Spartan legacy. That is especially true of the Soldiers who
experienced every Spartan deployment: Sgt. 1st Class David W.
Fisher, Sgt. 1st Class Aaron L. Jongeneel, Sgt. 1st Class Adam P.
Kapchus, Sgt. 1st Class Keith A. Rondo, Staff Sgt. Michael A. Conzo,
Staff Sgt. Frank Iannacone, Staff Sgt. Keith M. Quinlan and Sgt.
Ueilan P. Tonumaipea.
By U.S. Army Spc. Osama Ayyad
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