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U.S. Army 1st Lt. Kenneth Fowler
U.S. Army Maj. Sally Petty
Paratrooper Reunites with Ninth-grade Teacher in Iraq
By Sgt. Mike Pryor
2nd Brigade Combat Team
82nd Airborne Division Public Affairs
CAMP TAJI, Iraq, Feb. 1, 2007 — Do you ever wish you had a chance to say "thank you" to that one special teacher who helped you make it through school, the one who believed in you and pushed you to succeed?

"Of all the FOBs in Iraq, I never expected to end up on the one where my high school history teacher works,"
1st Lt. Kenneth Fowler

1st Lt. Kenneth Fowler got that chance recently, but it happened in a very unexpected place, here in a combat zone.

Fowler, executive officer for Company G, 407th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, was reunited with his ninth-grade history teacher, Maj. Sally Petty, operations officer for the Virgin Islands Army National Guard's 786th Quarter Master Battalion, when his unit arrived at Camp Taji in January.
     
"Of all the FOBs in Iraq, I never expected to end up on the one where my high school history teacher works," Fowler said.
     
The reunion was sweet for both.
     
"He's like my third son. It's a joy to see him," Petty said.
When Fowler first met Petty, it was 1996 and he was a new student at Ivanna Eudora Kean High School in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. "Miss Petty" was his history teacher and one of the toughest disciplinarians at the school.
     
"If you were 15 seconds late for class, she'd make you do push-ups," Fowler said.
     
Once class started, Petty had tough expectations for her students. She insisted they learn the capitals of every U.S. state and most countries in the world. Fowler, who had come from a relatively relaxed school in the states, was in shock at first.
     
"I looked at my friend and said, 'Is this lady crazy?' People were having nervous breakdowns," he said.
     
But Petty was hard on her students for a reason, she said - she wanted them to succeed.
     
"The world is very competitive, and if you're not competitive you're just going to end up as a statistic," Petty said.

"I used to tell them, 'When you go out into the world, it's going to be twice as hard as what I'm doing to you,'" she said.
     
But as tough as Petty was, she also showed her students that she cared about them, Fowler said. She came to all his football games to cheer him on, and she would even give him a ride to school sometimes when he missed the bus.
     
"She was the only teacher who ever stopped and picked me up," he said.

Petty was also something of a one-woman Army recruiting station. She was a captain in the National Guard at the time, and often encouraged her students to join the military.
     
"I always told my students, 'Go Army! Go Army! Stay in for 20 years and make a career out of it,'" she said.
     
Many of her students followed her advice. Petty said she has more than 100 former students who are now on active duty in the military, including four in her battalion alone.
     
When Fowler decided to join the Army, he found that "Miss Petty" had prepared him well for the discipline and structure of military life.

And thanks to all the push-ups she had made him do, he never had to worry about Army physical training.

"To this day, I've never had a PT test where I didn't max my push-ups," he said.

Fowler always knew he would run into Petty again at some point because of how small St. Thomas is - the island has a population of 45,000, about the same number as Fowler's home station of Fort Bragg, N.C.
     
"Most people tend to cross paths," he said.
     
But finding themselves working side by side in Iraq was a happy surprise for both. Fowler's job requires him to spend a lot of time coordinating logistics at the Camp Taji Mayor's Cell, where Petty works.

As a result, her office has become somewhat of a home away from home for him, he said.
     
Soon his unit will be pushing out to conduct operations in other areas of Iraq, Fowler said. He expects to return only periodically to Camp Taji. But when he does make it back, Petty can count on a visit, he said.
     
"When I come back here, this is the first place I'm coming to,"he said.

Last Updated:
02/01/2007, Eastern Daylight Time
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