JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va., Feb. 4, 2015 —
More than 5,800 soldiers come through Fort Eustis, Virginia, each year for advanced individual training to learn the basics of helicopter and boat maintenance.
Most students graduate and move on to installations around the globe, but for some, Fort Eustis remains their home.
Army Pvt. Jeffery Kemp, 331st Transportation Company, 11th Transportation Battalion, 7th Transportation Brigade watercraft engineer, began his new career at Fort Eustis as a student with the U.S. Army Transportation School.
Kemp adjusted quickly after basic military training to the continuous schedule of school, formation, preparing his room for inspections and studying.
“[AIT] was a consistent schedule with strict, but necessary, rules,” he said. “We were only allowed to go off post on the weekends, because our main priority was training.”
As their graduation date drew near, Kemp and his fellow students received their official orders. To his surprise, he learned he would be staying at Fort Eustis.
Excited to Stay
“I was excited to stay, because I’ve met some really cool people that live in the area,” Kemp said. “Plus, it’s close to my hometown in Kentucky, so my family doesn’t have to travel very far to visit me.”
Kemp said he discovered that although he stayed at the same installation, things were not the same for permanent-party personnel as they were for students. One adjustment, he explained, was that while he had to live up to high expectations within his work center, he could spend his off-duty time as he saw fit.
“Once you get to your first unit, they know you’re a soldier and they want you to be responsible enough to do what is expected of you,” he said. “Once you’re done with your work, your free time is your own to do what you want.”
As he adjusts to the new freedom within his unit and personal life, Kemp said, he plans to explore the installation and the local area to find new things to try during his free time.
“It felt weird at first,” he said. “I got a chance to explore the local area a little on the weekends in AIT, but never [to] explore the base. Now, I’ve gotten to take a look around and there’s a lot of really cool stuff here.”
Now that he works on the installation, Kemp said, he spends time with friends off-base and working on his car while balancing his career and learning more about his job and what it means to be a soldier.
“I’m always going to be learning throughout my career in the Army,” he said. “I’m finding a balance now between learning my job and learning the Army. I’m really excited for what the future may hold for me in the Army and at Fort Eustis.”