Reserve Officer Finds His Field of Dreams
September 18, 2009
- "It's about doing better, trying something new, and finding ways to help people. Being able to help people is an incredible feeling."
- "I realized I really like Soldiers and helping Soldiers. It's a blessing to me to help people in general."
- "I knew this would be a good place for me to be because helping Soldiers gives me a good feeling of doing something positive."
- "The Army offered me a lot of growth, a lot of achievement and a lot of personal satisfaction. I fell in love with it."
There's a yellow post-it note above Capt. Rob Dewberry's door that reads "What if' ..."
It's been there since he first took over as the commander of the Garrison's Headquarters & Headquarters Company in 2004, becoming the first Reserve officer in the Army to command an active duty unit on an active duty post.
Now, as Dewberry retires his position, the post-it note will come down and the new commander - Capt. Ryan Godbee - will set his own agenda and objectives for his command.
But for Dewberry, that "What if' ..." post-it was a constant reminder to question all aspects of a situation, to look "outside the box" for solutions, and to find new and more effective ways to support Soldiers.
"That's my own personal motto," Dewberry said. "It's about doing better, trying something new, and finding ways to help people. Being able to help people is an incredible feeling."
For nearly six years, Dewberry has led a team of six who have been the "helpers" for 679 Soldiers on Redstone Arsenal. In their role, the team - now consisting of 1st Sgt. Albert Rocker, Sgt. 1st Class James Nicholson, Sgt. 1st Class Steven Walker, Spc. Stacy Baker, retired Sgt. 1st Class James Tyler and former Sgt. 1st Class Derrick Gibson - has managed the administrative duties for those Soldiers as well as providing a community liaison and assisting with Garrison initiatives. HHC serves as the "face of Redstone to the community."
Dewberry, who grew up in Cherokee, Ala., had just completed his second tour in the Middle East and had returned to Huntsville when he was recruited for the HHC command.
"I had some aspirations of owning my own business, being a published author and being an entrepreneur," he said. "I was looking at what was more important to me - going forward with my own ideas or this opportunity at headquarters. I realized I really like Soldiers and helping Soldiers. It's a blessing to me to help people in general.
"I knew this would be a good place for me to be because helping Soldiers gives me a good feeling of doing something positive."
Though he has enjoyed his years as a regular Army Soldier and a reservist, Dewberry actually started his military career in 1985 with the Navy.
"I wanted to be a Navy SEAL, but I couldn't swim well enough," he recalled. "Up until then, I'd overcome so many challenges in my life. But being a Navy SEAL wasn't what I was meant to do. I realized I really liked the military stuff. It was a great field of dreams for me.
"So, in 1988 I came to the Army. Coming to the Army was like so many things started working for me. The Army offered me a lot of growth, a lot of achievement and a lot of personal satisfaction. I fell in love with it."
Dewberry attended the University of North Alabama as an ROTC cadet and spent three years in the active Army, serving as the squadron chemical officer for the 5th Squadron, 9th Cavalry (Buffalo Soldiers) in Hawaii.
He then served as a reservist individual mobilization augmentee, assigned to Redstone Arsenal with the Smart Weapons Management Office. He then served with the Corps of Engineers in disaster relief and transportation, working as a transportation liaison officer between the Corps of Engineers and the Federal Emergency Management Agency in Washington, D.C., and working in Europe and Saudi Arabia with the Military Traffic Management Command. From 1998-2000, he worked humanitarian missions for the Corps of Engineers in the Latin America basin.
"We worked on things like roads, schools and churches in places like Puerto Rico, Honduras, Salvador, Nicaragua, Panama and Costa Rica," Dewberry said. "I helped with transporting equipment to fill humanitarian and disaster relief efforts."
The work was not for the faint of heart.
"At times, it was terrifying. I've never seen a mud slide. But I have seen the effects of one when 10, 12, 20 feet of top soil moves and destroys everything in its path - trees, houses - and even moves a river. It's very eye opening," Dewberry said.
"There were some terrifying moments. But it was very rewarding to be able to bring aid to people who were so impoverished. It's an incredible feeling."
In 2000, Dewberry returned to Redstone Arsenal, working with Logistics Support Activity, and then moving to Rock Island, Ill., where he was the first reservist to be an aide to an active duty general. He then returned to Redstone to serve with the Field Support Command South.
"Then, 9/11 happened and I was working logistics and planning," he said. "I went to Camp Doha, Kuwait, and helped establish camps for Soldiers and civilians. I helped open Arifjan in Kuwait as a member of the Combat Equipment Battalion, and then I worked with the transportation office. It was all about moving Soldiers and equipment to open camps in Kuwait and Iraq. I worked with the Army Materiel Command, which was responsible for all the logistics for the war."
The work was non-stop seven days a week. It was challenging, exciting and dangerous. Dewberry earned a combat action badge during an attack that occurred while he was leading a mixed supply convoy from Arifjan to Doha.
"Setting up those camps was an incredible undertaking and AMC does really well at it. It's the best in the business at what it does," Dewberry said.
Dewberry brought his skills in logistics to his position at HHC commander. His job was made easier by the HHC team.
"These are really good people. Nobody works for me. They work with me," he said. "I've worked under three great installation commanders. I've been able to help Soldiers and civilian employees. Who ever thought a simple country boy from Cherokee would get to do this'"
Although he is leaving the Arsenal's command, Dewberry will remain in the Reserves. He also hopes to assume a civilian job with the Garrison.
"This change comes at a good time for me. I have a daughter in the ninth-grade, and I want to be here and watch her grow up," he said.
He has fully enjoyed his time as a full-time reservist working for the Army.
"Service to community, state and country is a privilege. It's an honor," he said. "When you can dedicate yourself to something bigger than you, it's a growth experience. I tell young people to give it a shot. They may find that it's the best thing that can happen to them. It affords you so much growth. You can see the world. Even if you only spend two years in the Army, you can talk about it for the rest of your life because you've had an impact. The Army is a great place to start."
It's also a great place to end a career.
"I came to a job, gained a home and I leave with a family," Dewberry said at the HHC change of command ceremony. "I never knew why folks would cry when they would leave a job, now I know why. I am so thankful to have been part of this great organization, for whatever good you think I did, just know you did more good than will ever truly be known. And it's because of you that I leave a better man."