Face of Defense: Former NCO Patrols as Cavalry Officer
By Army Staff Sgt. Ashlee Lolkus
Task Force Red Bulls
PARWAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan, Jan. 26, 2011 The graveyard shift requires waking while others are leaving work, working while others sleep and sleeping while the world moves through the normal hustle and bustle of its day.
As seen through a night-vision device, Army 1st Lt. Gerry Holloway of the Iowa National Guard gives a final briefing to his soldiers before heading out on a night patrol in Afghanistan’s Parwan province, Jan. 19, 2011. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Ashlee Lolkus
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Army 1st Lt. Gerry Holloway of the Iowa National Guard and his soldiers of 2nd Platoon, Troop C, 1st Squadron, 113th Cavalry Regiment, Task Force Redhorse, are all too familiar with the graveyard shift.
The moon filled the sky with a bright, smoky haze dotted by a few stars as Holloway stepped out into the brisk night air Jan. 19 at Combat Outpost Red Hill, also known as Pushtaysark. With no street lights or store lights to compete with them, bright stars are a common skyscape at most combat outposts in Afghanistan.
“It’s a beautiful sight to wake up, step outside and see the stars every morning,” said Holloway, a father of five from Melbourn, Iowa. “Of course, our morning is everyone’s night time on our shift.”
Holloway and his crew consisting of infantrymen, a medic, and a cook who doubles as one of the company’s two female engagement team members rove and patrol the streets of the surrounding areas looking for insurgent activities and ensuring that the local people are safe throughout the night.
This mission is similar to those Holloway performed as a team leader when he deployed to Iraq in 2005 and 2006. He and his team of three soldiers conducted convoy security operations north of Baghdad when he was assigned as a noncommissioned officer in Task Force Redhorse, which is part of the 34th Infantry Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team, Task Force Red Bulls.
“Sometimes I miss being an NCO,” he said. “I miss the responsibilities of taking care of soldiers and making sure missions get accomplished. I still ensure that missions get accomplished as an officer, but it’s different.”
Holloway’s deep-rooted ties to the NCO corps are evident while he’s on patrol and throughout operations, as he ensures soldiers have their sensitive items, take proper safety precautions and conduct other tasks for which NCOs normally are responsible.
“As a lieutenant, now I am responsible for developing the plan, and the NCOs in my platoon are in charge of carrying the plan out,” he said. “Sometimes it’s hard to shut that NCO side of me off. I really do try to not micromanage, but it’s hard.”
Holloway’s 2007 application for a direct commission was accepted in October 2008. He said he loves being an officer and considers it one of the best decisions he’s ever made.
“The detailed levels of planning are what I enjoy about being an officer,” he explained. “I like to get into the nuts and bolts on how to accomplish a mission. As an NCO, I would get my orders and execute. I get to help build those orders now, and I make sure that my NCOs are following through with them.”
Army Capt. Richard Rush, Troop C commander and Altoona, Iowa, resident, deployed with Holloway when he was an NCO as now as an officer. The transition is a huge step, he said, noting that it’s common for officers with enlisted service to operate as NCOs.
“I think he’s adapted well to the officer environment,” he said.
The soldiers enjoy Holloway’s leadership style.
“Lieutenant Holloway is not like a lot of officers who joined then became officers,” said Army Sgt. Stephanie Bliss, a Sioux City, Iowa, resident. “He knows how to talk to soldiers, and he’s very low-key. I like it.”