U.S. Army Garrison Brussels MP named Benelux Soldier of the Quarter
November 9, 2010
- USAG Brussels MP earns Soldier of the Quarter honors
- Massachusetts native also a distance runner
- Served as a combat MP in Baquba, Iraq, survived countless IED and EFP attacks
- Soldier works to be improve personally and professionally each day
BRUSSELS, Belgium - U.S. Army Garrison Brussels Military Police Soldier Spc. Kevin S. Belanger has been named Benelux Soldier of the Quarter following a three-day competition.
For Belanger the win was the latest achievement in a life spent trying to be a better person and Soldier each day.
Belanger was born in Haverhill, Mass. but grew up in Plaistow, N.H. Following high school he tried to make it as a musician playing drums in a band called "The Morning Sky." His music career didn't work out but there was something else he'd always wanted to do--become a police officer.
"I wanted to be a cop when I was a little kid...and I wanted to join the military because all the war movies made it look so cool," Belanger said. "I used to be a musician and after that fell apart I went for my second choice which was to join the Army. And I was only going to come in as an MP."
Belanger joined the Army on Sept. 15, 2005 at age 23. After he completed basic and advanced individual training he moved to Fort Lewis, Wash. where he served with the 571st Military Police Company.
About eight months after he arrived, Belanger deployed with his unit to Baqubah, Iraq and spent the next 15 months as a HMMWV driver and trainer of the local Iraqi police.
"We would go out to Iraqi police stations and teach them how to fire their weapons, how to patrol their streets," Belanger said.
Belanger said that initially the Iraqi police were scared to patrol their streets by themselves and weren't well-respected by their own people.
"You could tell why they weren't respected because we'd go and do our cordon and search and they would steal from their own people; they would steal from vendors," Belanger said. "We had to teach them how to respect people."
During his Iraq tour his unit went through several months of attacks by improvised explosive devices and explosively-formed penetrators, a device which, when it explodes, shoots a metal slug that penetrates armor.
"From February to June 2007 you couldn't even leave the wire without getting blown up or attacked," he said. "We were getting hit so bad...our trucks kept going down."
During one patrol Belanger hit an anti-tank mine with his HMMWV, miraculously nobody in the vehicle was injured.
"It went up through the engine block, no one in the vehicle got hurt, we were surprised that it still drove," he said. "The whole engine was destroyed, it took the whole blast. We made it back to the FOB (Forward Operating Base); the mechanics didn't know how the vehicle drove because all of the fluids and liquids were gone, the engine sort of seized. A higher power was there that day."
After he returned from Iraq Belanger reenlisted for U.S. Army Garrison Brussels because he wanted to serve in a unit that didn't deploy and learn about the law enforcement side of the MPs.
He arrived in Brussels in July 2008 and has used his time well, learning his job and working toward an associate's degree.
Belanger also started to run long distances as a way to relax. He's gotten so good that in his first race, the 20 kilometer de Brussels race (about 12.4 miles) on May 30, he finished 470th out of 30,000 runners. His time was 1 hour, 20 minutes, 20 seconds and he was the first American to finish out of more than 200 who ran.
"I trained for that race for two and a half months and did really well...now long distance is easy-- I work a 12-hour shift and then run 16 miles and go home and just chill," he said. "I usually run between eight and 12 miles, it's just an hour and a half out of my day and is a good workout."
The same drive to excel compelled him to enter for the recent Benelux Soldier of the Quarter competition. The three-day event featured a physical training test, M-16 rifle qualification, a land navigation course, 12-mile rucksack march, battle drills and a written test.
The final event was a board where he faced three command sergeants major and a first sergeant. So calm and comfortable was he that the 25-minute board seemed like five minutes to him, he said.
When the competition ended, even though he felt he'd won, Belanger learned that another Soldier had been named the winner. His disappointment was short-lived because he learned the winner had been disqualified because he quit during the rucksack march. With that Belanger was named the Benelux Soldier of the Quarter.
"I'm wicked excited about it, I couldn't stop smiling when I found out," he said. I knew in my heart that I won but you can't question a command sergeant major."
Belanger said that if he hadn't won he would have gone back to the next Soldier of the Quarter competition because he thrives on the challenge it presents.
Now that he's been named Soldier of the Quarter Belanger has set his sights on becoming a sergeant. His board was on Nov. 8 and he should know if he made sergeant by Dec. 1.
As for the future Belanger wants to have a successful Army career and earn a bachelor's degree in calisthenics.
So how does he define success in the Army'
"Successful means keep getting better and keep pushing for higher rank, to lead more Soldiers, get schools, go do great things in different units."
If his life to date has shown anything, it's that Kevin Belanger can accomplish whatever he sets his mind to whether it's to become an MP, a successful distance runner or Soldier of the Quarter.