Soldier in Focus: Busy year precedes infantryman's trip to Iraq
May 29, 2009
CAMP LIBERTY, Iraq - A Pennsylvania Army National Guard Soldier who began his basic training the day the 56th Stryker Brigade Combat Team mobilized has caught up to his unit in Iraq, after a busy year of military instruction.
Pvt. Jason Berry, of Carlisle, Pa., with Company B, 2nd Battalion, 112th Infantry Regiment, said he joined to serve and can best do that by being with his deployed unit at Camp Liberty where the 2-112th is attached to 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division.
"This is the Guard's biggest [combat] deployment since World War II. I wanted to be a part of it and do my part," Berry said.
Berry, 20, enlisted in the Guard in February 2008. He began basic training Sept. 19, 2008, the day the 56th SBCT began its move to Camp Shelby, Miss. for train-up. Berry enlisted with the Guard's now-defunct 104th Long Range Surveillance Detachment, which was based at Fort Indiantown Gap.
"I got to go to Airborne school for joining that unit," Berry said. "Then they put me with the Stryker unit, which I knew was over here."
Berry completed jump school in February. When he went to drill weekend in March he started asking to be sent to Iraq.
"I just kept pushing at it and I got to come," Berry said. "For the Stryker brigade, I thought it might be a few years before they deployed again."
"In one year I've learned a ton of information. It'll definitely pay off; the discipline you get in the military," Berry said.
After arriving in Kuwait, where he completed several days of training, Berry linked up with a 28th Infantry Division, Pa. Guard liaison who coordinated his movement to Camp Liberty, where he joined his platoon in late April.
"You have to wait a day or two before you can go out," Berry said, adding that his unit then began including him in missions outside the wire, in Abu Ghraib.
"There's no better way to learn than to be over here," Berry said.
Berry's brother, Dave Berry, 22, also of Carlisle, is also serving in Iraq, with the Guard's 28th Combat Aviation Brigade. Berry said his brother's service was one motivator for his enlisting. Being able to join the 56th's deployment also puts Berry and his brother on a more closely-matched schedule so the two can enjoy time at home together. The 28th CAB arrived in Iraq in April.
Berry plans to drill at the Hershey, Pa. armory upon redeployment. He is considering college, possibly at Messiah College or Shippensburg University, and may pursue youth ministry or education.
"I'd love to be a gym teacher working with kids," Berry said. "We'll see where God takes it. The Guard has a great [financial aid] package."
Berry said that like everyone else in his unit, he misses home. But he said he is living out one of his goals.
"I know everyone misses their family. It's really hard but it's been my plan. I've been training to go," Berry said. "I feel I'm always growing and maturing."
Berry, a 2005 graduate of Carlisle High School, is the son of Dirk and Karen Berry of Carlisle. His brother Dave is a 2007 graduate of the same high school.