FORT EUSTIS, VA – A former U.S. Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) soldier was surprised to find the Army has evolved much in the last twelve years. After immediately requesting a transfer to TRADOC on September 12, 2001 and spending over a decade instructing in numerous Army schools, he decided it was time for much needed change.
“Something was missing from my life,” said Sergeant First Class Will Travis. “Even though I had the most important job in the military, training those who fight, I knew it was finally time to deploy overseas when I was passed over for promotion.”
SFC Travis was eager to reintegrate into the Army after being out for so long. He was assigned as the scout/sniper section platoon sergeant with HHC 1-160th Infantry Battalion.
“I knew I would immediately earn my soldiers respect due to my extensive teaching experience,” said SFC Travis. “The platoon even welcomed me with a heartfelt nickname — Sergeant Va-Jay-Jay. Whatever that means.”
The excitement soon wore off when Travis discovered everything he knew about the Army was wrong. Upon showing up to formation for his first field exercise wearing a LBE (load bearing equipment), woodland kevlar helmet, and wielding a M-16A2, Travis knew he had much to learn.
“The terminology and equipment was so foreign to me,” said Travis. “I was confused when told we were taking plate carriers to Afghanistan. Do they not have food trays in the dining facility over there?”
Luckily, SFC Travis found a mentor and only friend in his new platoon leader, 2nd Lieutenant Mark Ching. The young officer, a 2011 Cal State Fullerton ROTC graduate, took pity on his platoon sergeant.
“You have to feel for the guy,” said 2LT Ching. “I know how difficult it is to be thrown into a leadership position with having no creditable military experience.”
The two quickly bonded during the long hours Lieutenant Ching taught Travis how to properly clean a weapon, turn on a radio, and read a map.
However, within days of deploying to Afghanistan, Travis had a change of heart.
“I went back to TRADOC,” Travis admitted. “I’m happy being surrounded by E-7 and E-8 slick sleeves. Granted, some soldiers have deployed and hate being here, but we’re a happy family regardless.”
In a moment of self reflection, Travis told the Duffel Blog he would leave the military three years shy of retirement.
“I honestly love the Army,” Travis said. “But not this Army. It makes no sense and quite frankly scares me. I was trained to fight a standing military using tactics and equipment from the 90’s. I don’t belong here. I really, really don’t.”