Teacher, Convoy Commander
November 12, 2013
CAMP MARMAL, Afghanistan - Army National Guardsmen bring unique skill sets from their civilian lives to the frontline of operations in Afghanistan; for 1st Lt. Monicia Porter her ability to lead students in the classroom gives her an advantage as she leads her troops throughout northern Afghanistan.
Porter is a high school teacher from Thomasville, Ga., who serves in the Georgia National Guard as a platoon leader and convoy commander for the 1230th Transportation Company in support of the 524th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, Task Force Lifeliner, 1st Sustainment Command (Theater), at Camp Marmal, Afghanistan.
Her company is the tip of the spear when it comes to the sustainment of troops at remote operating bases via convoys in Northern Afghanistan. With efficiency as one of Task Force Lifeliner's top priorities, the 1230th returns from almost every sustainment mission with a load of equipment to be retrograded.
Although being a convoy commander for an Army truck company may not be exactly the same as teaching back home in Georgia at Central Gwinnett High School, Porter does relate some similarities in her two professions.
"To teach in high school everyday is kind of like combat," she said with a giggle. "There's a big difference, but there's some commonalities ... the discipline that you need in the classroom is the same type of discipline you need on a convoy."
What she has learned in the Army has become useful as she leads her classroom and positively shapes her students.
"The discipline and being organized helps. I deal with a high risk demographic, so I have to be organized, I have to be disciplined, I have to be fair and the Army values really play a huge part in how I teach in my classroom."
Porter talked about the elements that come together in both the classroom and within her Army team, who are known proudly as the Pitbulls.
"You bring different types of personalities, experience and background to a convoy just like you do to a classroom, there's just a lot that transfers over," she said. "As a teacher you deal with so many different personalities. You have to communicate. I am not the only Soldier here who has those skills, but being a teacher helps. I can apply those skills over to the other side."
As the Pitbulls prep their vehicles in the darkness of the night to push commodities to a remote area, she talked about what it feels like to ensure her troops were ready for the mission.
"Personally, it is like getting your family ready to go on a big trip that's dangerous at the same time. We have to go outside the wire on some dangerous roads, but it's all to keep the mission going and to keep RC (Regional Command) North running and my team does it well... I trust my life to these guys."
Porter explained what she feels a successful mission is for her team. She stated how her team lines up their trucks and rolls down the road with no incidents. They drop off their sustainment load to the customer, those troops at austere locations, then roll back without any incidents. "That's a successful mission," she smiled.
As these Pitbulls travel the roads throughout Northern Afghanistan they ensure they stay alert, but they are also reminded of one of the perks of being a soldier.
Spc. Michael Donaldson, a gunner for Porter's platoon and a native of Thomasville, Ga., talked about his job as a gunner and why he does what he does. "There are dangers out there... it's my duty to stay alert and keep the convoy safe. I have embraced the role of being a gunner... It's pretty cool, you can see everything this place has to offer. It can be a beautiful sight to see a foreign land."
The Pitbulls are stationed in a valley with high snow capped mountains surrounding them. The terrain of Afghanistan isn't what most of the soldiers are accustomed to in their home state of Georgia. "The mountains are huge," Porter added.
Even though the team of Pitbulls remain busy and have embraced the mountainous terrain, family keeps them going and is a part of who they are and why they travel the roads in a nation across the world.
"I have the best family ever. When I say troops, it's troops, but they're my family," Porter said with emotion. "They are a great team and they are the best team and I couldn't ask for more... we argue, we fuss, we fight and we still love each other."
Patriotism drives both Porter and her team. Porter said she has always supported the military in one way or the other and that she has always had extreme support from her husband, two boys, parents and the children she teaches in Georgia.
"I have always been a patriot. Being a soldier... I love it."
Porter's gunner Donaldson reiterated her sentiment with his personal feelings toward why he is in Afghanistan. "I do it to protect my family, to protect my friends and to serve the nation I love dearly and I hold close to my heart."