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From The Warehouse To The Frontlines
by U.S. Army Sgt. Leon Cook - September 10, 2014

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ORCHARD COMBAT TRAINING CENTER, Idaho -- One million volunteers from all corners of life comprise the combined total force of the Army. Here's one.

Christopher Stone is a mild-mannered man from Hermiston, Ore. He operates a fork-lift at a local Home Depot stacking pallets and stocking shelves. He hangs out with his family and friends, occasionally eats out, and tries to live his life in peace.

However, this ordinary man is leading a double life.

Pfc. Christopher Stone, a resident of Hermiston, Ore., and a Soldier in the Oregon National Guard's 3rd Combined Arms Battalion, 116th Cavalry Regiment, sits in the driver's seat of an M2A3 Bradley infantry fighting vehicle Aug. 20, 2014. Stone and his unit traveled to Idaho's Orchard Combat Training Center for two weeks of grueling training. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Leon Cook, 20th Public Affairs Detachment)
Pfc. Christopher Stone, a resident of Hermiston, Ore., and a Soldier in the Oregon National Guard's 3rd Combined Arms Battalion, 116th Cavalry Regiment, sits in the driver's seat of an M2A3 Bradley infantry fighting vehicle Aug. 20, 2014. Stone and his unit traveled to Idaho's Orchard Combat Training Center for two weeks of grueling training. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Leon Cook, 20th Public Affairs Detachment)

Stone parks his fork-lift and takes off his vest one weekend a month and two weeks a year for Army camouflage, body armor, and an M2 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle.

Here, he's known as Pfc. Stone of the Oregon National Guard's 3rd Combined Arms Battalion, 116th Cavalry Regiment.

Stone joined the Army in 2012 to follow in the footsteps of his uncle, who served as a sniper on active duty.

“I chose [infantry] as my job and I've been loving it ever since.”

This August, he and his unit traveled to the Orchard Combat Training Center in Idaho for two weeks of annual training.

“I don't get enough sleep, I have to eat [meals ready to eat] all day, every day, and I'm hosing down water. It's terrible and I love it,” Stone said.

In the dusty hills of Idaho, Stone and his unit developed gunnery, movement, and communication techniques to support the total Army force in a unified campaign across the active, reserve, and National Guard components.

The training exercise gave Stone and his fellow Soldiers the tools to shoot as a team, move as a team, and communicate as a team.

The shared hardships led to camaraderie unlike anything he's experienced, said Stone.

“It's all about your battle buddies,” he added.

Stone returned home to his friends, family and job in the last week of August but says the lessons learned and the friendships he formed will stay with him.

By U.S. Army Sgt. Leon Cook
Provided through DVIDS
Copyright 2014

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