One tradition that I really miss in today’s Army, other than shining boots , is that in this new high speed ACU uniform you cannot be pinned on with a new rank and have it punched right into your chest. I have had all of my ranks from Private First Class to Staff Sergeant punched right through my uniform and to my skin. It feels like a rite of passage to the next rank. …now we have Velcro rank. With all of the pros of not having to sew-on and pin-on all tabs, badges, and rank the down fall for me is I might have to get my next promotion in the Army all weather coat to keep this small tradition alive. Out of coincidence, I started a new tradition for myself. I had the privilege back in 2006 to attend BNCOC at the same time my mentor and good friend was attending ANCOC. I did all I could to be the best because he was around. I received the top spot in my class simply because he was around to push me to greatness. He was promoted to SFC during ANCOC and he gave me the honor to Velcro on his rank (not pinning ;) ). He gave me his SSG rank and told me that I should have it because I would need it soon. I put his initials on the back of this rank and kept it in my pocket everyday as a reminder to be tall that I could be everyday. This rank helped me get the Distinguished Honor Graduate spot, get a 329 PT Test, expert on marksmanship, go from 470 to 749 promotion points, and get promoted to SSG all within 6 months. Once I took my SGT rank off I put my initials on the back and hoped to give it to someone to inspire the same motivation I received. I have been holding on to this SGT rank and a SFC rank I received from another great mentor in my pocket for the last couple of years every day I have worn the uniform. The one other thing I have been holding was two 1st Infantry Division patches. One red patch for the division and one subdued patch in honor of the 1st ID Band that has been deployed for the past year. They bulk up my pockets and slow me down at all the airport security stops but they are one of the most important things I carry.
This week I had the opportunity to stop by the School of Music to talk to the musicians that I audition and enlisted into the Army. This is always a memorable time because the last time I had a chance to see most of them was when they were a civilian taking their auditions. I usually walk up and down the practice rooms at the School and look for familiar names on the ID card put up in the practice window. I saw one of my piano players that I auditioned back in April and that’s the last time we met face to face. I usually like to burst in the practice room and catch them by surprise. Now this is the make or break moment for a recruiter. If I did not take care of this musician during the recruiting process or leave out any important facts I would most likely be greeted with a punch to the face! As expected, I am always greeted with a smile. SPC Wilson Flory caught me up on his Army story and told me he was doing well. He said he lost a ton of weight and he looks a couple of years younger too. He told me that all of the other students that were at the School are awesome and he hangs out with other people that I enlisted. Hearing all these great stories truly makes me light up. SPC Flory reminded me that he is going to be headed out to the 1st Infantry Division in a couple of weeks as his first duty assignment. This is the point where I really believe that things happen for a reason. I reached into my pocket and pulled out my 1ID patch that I have been carrying and told him why I was carrying it. The 1 ID band has been slowly returning from deployment and the whole unit will be back the same time SPC Flory will be getting there. This has a ton of meaning to me because my friends from my last unit have returned safely and I had the chance to give one of my recruits his first patch and keep my tradition going. He seemed pretty excited and I told him again, from our first phone call about the Army till the day you get to your unit and become a fully MOS qualified soldier your Band Liaison will always be taking care of you. When I leave this position next year maybe I will be able to pass on my recruiting badge to the next Soldier to welcome them to the team and this awesome job recruiting Americas next military musicians. I feel lucky to be in the position that I am in. I get to directly see musicians go from Civilian to Soldier and start on a great career in the Army Bands.
I also want to say thanks to SFC Justin Ahrens for being a great model for what an NCO should be like and never letting me slack off.