Col. Mark Lowe
FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska - Col. Mark Lowe, United States Army Alaska deputy commander, recalls his early days as a lieutenant at Fort Wainwright.

FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska - Col. Mark Lowe, U.S. Army Alaska deputy commander, returns 28 years later after serving his first assignment at Fort Wainwright, Alaska. Very pleased to be back where his career started, he plans to make Alaska his home from now on, even after he retires.

Back in 1983, he was a lieutenant, new to the Army, fresh out of Ranger School and working as a rifle platoon leader in the 6th Battalion, 327th Infantry, 172nd Light Infantry Brigade. Today he returns to Alaska a colonel and second in command of USARAK personnel, equipment and assets - major units including the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division and 16th Combat Aviation Brigade at Fort Wainwright and the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry at Fort Richardson.

You could say a few things have changed for him. He remembers living in a small two-room officer's quarters and if he wasn't marching to the range he would have been driving in an M151 Jeep with canvas doors during the winter months. Now, Lowe drives a bit more comfortably in command vehicles and has larger quarters to call home. Jokingly he did note that the new truck that he had always wanted (and drove up in) was too large to fit in his present garage. So, like many of Alaskans, he parks outside and plugs in when needed.

Growing up on a dairy farm in the little town Remington, Va., and meager beginnings, he was encouraged by his father to work on his education.

His father drove home the idea by taking a photo of him as a young boy standing in about six inches of cow manure and later giving him the photo along with the words "Always get your education or this is what you have to look forward to."

His father had been a sergeant with the National Guard of Virginia, his grandfather a lieutenant colonel during World War II. So following in this tradition, his brother and he attended the Virginia Military Institute and after receiving Army scholarships his education and the Army seemed to fall in line.

Years later, while digging into a firing position at Fort Greely during a spring thaw he found himself once again standing in six inches; but this time, it was mud. He turned to his platoon sergeant and said, "Take this picture." Lowe later sent the picture to his father with the words, "You lied." So, some things have changed and some things haven't, he said.

Lowe had a chance to visit with Soldiers of the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, while out on the firing range preparing for the National Training Center and their eventual deployment later this year. He said going out to the range was "kind of like stepping back in time." There have been improvements with heated buildings and extended ranges. But after watching them train and speaking to the Soldiers, he said, "It really hasn't changed. Some of the challenges that we meet on a day-to-day basis up here are some of the same problems we had 28 years ago."

Lowe sticks to four principles he believes in: teach, coach, train and mentor. "Out there, that's what I saw the NCOs doing." He said, after being with the Soldiers as they trained, "I'd go to combat with any of these guys in a heartbeat."

Page last updated Thu January 6th, 2011 at 15:15