He's in the Army now: 42-year-old man leaves job selling cars to drive Army trucks
April 28, 2009
BAGHDAD - Pfc. Paul Henry, 42 years old, was once a car salesman in Marion, Ill., and was looking for something different in his life. The divorced father of two children decided to enlist in the U.S. Army.
"It's (enlisting) always something I've wanted to do," said Henry. "When I quit selling cars, I wanted to give back to society."
In his adult life, Henry worked as a district manager for a restaurant chain, and then switched careers and became a car salesman.
Henry's military career began in January 2008 when he visited the local recruiter in his hometown of Marion, Ill., and enlisted for three years with a military occupational specialty as a motor transport operator.
Henry was determined to be in the Army from the first day he arrived at the Military Entrance Processing Station. He was one of the oldest recruits at the station, and had to prove himself through tests that were 30 percent more physical than those designated for the younger Soldiers. Henry was the only one of 12 men to pass all the tests administered. "Everyone was giving me high fives and congratulating me. That's when I knew I could make it," Henry said.
After basic training, in June 2008, Henry was assigned to Fort Riley, Kan., with the general supply section of the Distribution Platoon, Company E, 299th Brigade Support Battalion, 1st Combined Arms Battalion, 63rd Armored Regiment, 1st Infantry Division.
The unit has a mission that, at times, can be monotonous. However, work doesn't get boring for many with Henry around, according to Pfc. Heinrich Felgar, who hails from Moline, Ill. Henry's contagious smile, sense of humor, and a shout of "Hey, great to see you!" always keep people laughing, said Felgar.
"He's more motivated than a lot of people, although he's sometimes twice their age. No matter what you ask of him, he's always positive," added Felgar, who at age 23, is one of the youngest Soldiers in the platoon.
However, what strikes his fellow Soldiers about Henry is his positive attitude and his excitement about the Army, though he had some initial nervousness to shake out at first.
"I'm 42 years old, and will be 43 in August. I had no idea what the Army was about. I went to the recruiter's office and had no idea what to expect," Henry said. "Yeah, I was absolutely nervous, but it is great to know we have great people who are more than willing to help."
Henry joined the Army to be a motor transport operator, but he assists in running the ammunition yard at Forward Operating Base Mahmudiyah, south of Baghdad, where he has been deployed since October 2008.
Driving a truck is never out of the question though, as he has supported Echo Company during Combat Logistic Patrols by driving a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected or MRAP and other Army vehicles.
"I help transport food, supplies, and ammo," Henry said. "We make things go from point A to point B. We make things happen."
Henry may not be the youngest Soldier on the battlefield, but that doesn't mean that he decided to join the Army as a transitional job before looking for another profession. Henry has taken so well to the Army he plans on reenlisting and would like to remain in the Army for 20 years.
"The best part of my job is meeting everyone from different backgrounds. That's what makes it fun, just getting to know them and learn from them," Henry said. "It's a privilege to be here."
The hard work of Henry and the distribution platoon ensure thousands of Soldiers are able to continue their daily missions. His hard work sometimes is unseen, but the results are vital to the success of Co. E, 299th BSB, 1-63 CAB, which is currently attached to the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division.
"Pfc. Henry is the uplift of the company. His enthusiasm, motivation, and positive attitude are unparalleled," said Capt. Hector Vazquez, who hails from Bronx, N.Y., commander, Co. E.
Henry's unit remains deployed in Iraq partnered with the 17th Iraqi Army Division. The unit's mission is to train the Iraqi Army for self-reliance and to protect the Iraqi people.
"Every day I feel honored to be here. It's great," said Henry.