I remember it distinctly....
The day I walked into the office of the newly formed 211th MPAD. I was on my way out of the Army, and it was a last-ditch effort of a certain Major that I knew to keep me in. I'd been with the 7-6 Cav for the past six years and my time was up. "Just go talk to the command and get a feel for the MOS choices there," he said. I'd driven the 120 miles from Houston thinking, "I'm done, why is he sending me here?"
As I said, I walked in early that morning and introduced myself to a 1st Lt. Tony Lopez who asked a lot of questions and joked around quite a bit. I also ran into Staff Sgt. Tim Williams, Staff Sgt. Robert Ramon, and Spc. Alex Delgado. Williams and Ramon introduced me to the 46-series specialties (print and broadcast journalism) and I fell hard. I realized that I can stay in the Army and do what I enjoy (photojournalism, which I taught at school) and 'retire' from aviation (the Cav).
As we were leaving that afternoon, Lopez asked me if I was still interested in transferring to the 211th. I said yes. Ever since that day back in early 2001, I've worked in the building where we've been completing a lot of our pre-mobilization training for the unit's second deployment. The next day, back at work, Maj. Beesley had a grin on his face as he asked me how I liked what I saw over the weekend. He knew.
Now, he's Col. Beesley, Chief of Staff of the 90th RRC. Sgt. 1st Class Ramon is still serving in Public Affairs. Williams is now a captain serving with the National Guard and Staff Sgt. Delgado will soon become an officer (no, I won't go direct!). Maj. Lopez is now with the Public Affairs Operations Center that we'll be working with in Iraq. We've all moved on and grown professionally. I've been working for the 211th in that same building since its early days. I had a short hiatus from the 211th when Col. Beesley tapped me to be his PAO with the 321st Sustainment Brigade from 2005-2007. Now, I'm back as a team NCOIC.
So, it felt kind of strange when we began cleaning our offices and moving our unit stuff into storage in preparation for our year-long deployment. Everyone was moving about quickly amid the clamor of office furniture being moved around. Bulletin boards were being taken down and boards were being erased. Funny, I didn't feel like this last time when we went to Afghanistan. I felt like a lot of time has passed since that fateful day when I decided to venture into Public Affairs. Older....I guess you can say. I know that if I wasn't working in PA, I would've already left the Army.
We have one more day at the Moore Memorial Reserve Center, current home of the 211th MPAD before we go home for the holiday break to be with our families. Once we leave, the 420th Engineer Brigade assumes most of our office space. When we come back from our deployment, all but a few of the Soldiers in our unit will either go back to the unit they cross-leveled from or transfer somewhere else if they are AGR. I'm going to be in the same situation I found myself in 7 years ago: re-enlist and stay with the 211th or get out of the Army when I return home. I'm sure Col. Beesley will have something to say about that. The more things change, the more they stay the same.