Soldier Walks Journey Of Self-Worth
October 19, 2011
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala.--Sgt. 1st Class Lance Green has walked far in his Soldier's boots.
From the poverty-stricken, inner city streets of Gary, Ind., those boots have taken Green through a 20-year Army career that has included service with the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, N.C., tours in Germany and Korea, and a 15-month deployment to Afghanistan.
Those boots are also symbolic of the journey Green has taken in his transformation from a troubled teen to a man dedicated to God, his family and service.
"I never understood the change I was going through," Green said. "Even after 14 or 15 years in the Army, I still didn't know where my value was as a person. Now I do know that I actually have something to say, something to give back. Even in the leadership positions I've held, I didn't really see how I influenced others until just the past few years."
Green serves as the equal opportunity adviser for Redstone Arsenal. As such, he has led Team Redstone efforts in the monthly ethnic observances, and has worked with many Arsenal organizations on issues pertaining to equal opportunity. He will retire at Redstone during an official ceremony Nov. 3 at 10 a.m. in Bob Jones Auditorium with Maj. Gen. Jim Rogers, the commander of the Aviation and Missile Command and Redstone's senior commander, presiding. His position will be reassigned to Sgt. 1st Class Jason Cundiff.
Even while Green's journey as an influential leader within the Army has taken a course not always evident to this charismatic Soldier, he has recognized the leaders who have had their own influence on his life and his Army career.
"The non-commissioned officers in my organization, the first-line supervisors, the platoon sergeant and drill sergeant -- all have certainly influenced my life," he said. "I entered the Army as admin and then went on to jump school and the 82nd Airborne Division. Ever since I answered the call to serve during Hurricane Andrew, the Army has set the tone for a life full of experience and leadership opportunities."
The journey Green took in his Army boots carried him far from Gary, where his father, a steel mill worker, and his mother worked hard to raise six children amid the drugs and gangs that the inner city was known for and that came dangerously close to claiming Green's life.
"Somehow, I was destined to do something different. All of the right influences came together at the right time for me," he said.
One of those first influences was his older sister, who went off to Army boot camp when Green was 7 years old. When she was home on leave, the two of them would march through the house singing cadences.
"Those words -- 'Momma, momma, can you see what the Army's done for me?' really influenced me," Green recalled.
And so did his parents. His father served in the Army in the 1960s. Both of his parents were patient and committed to raising their children to be successful despite the neighborhood's odds.
"My parents stood by my side. I was in a gang and it certainly took some level of intervention to get me out of that gang. My parents were worried about me, but they always had high expectations," Green said.
"There were a lot of things that were not so right. However, I always had a want to change. I had a very supportive family that always knew I could change. But I needed to know I could change myself to make that happen. There was a strong family concept. Excessive patience was shown to me as I began to set my path for a successful military career."
Before he marched down that military path, intervention came in the form of an attack and robbery that left Green with a jaw shattered by a car jack.
"That was kind of my awakening moment. I needed to do something differently in my life," Green said. "I woke up from that attack with my mouth wired shut. I went to talk to an Army recruiter with my mouth still wired shut.
"At that time, the Army was all about numbers. They had no issues with me enlisting as long as I could pass the standards of physical fitness."
With his parents' blessing and a hope for a better life, Green flew by airplane to basic training at Fort Knox, Ky.
"It was the first time I had ever flown and it was one of the most frightening experiences. Who would have thought that soon I would be jumping out of airplanes?" he said.
But the Army life didn't come easy for Green, even at age 18.
"I was always a hot head. I had a background of bad experiences," he said. "I didn't accept authority or discipline very well. I wasn't respectful. I really had a difficult time.
"If you could take a look at me before and after, you could see the difference in my manners, my walk and talk, and mostly in my outlook on life. Before, I didn't care. Now, I get in trouble because I care too much."
Visiting home in those early years of service was a challenge for Green.
"It was still difficult to maintain my Army values because you see the same people you left when you went in the Army and they are still on the same block," he said. "But living the Army values really changed me as a person. I credit those Soldiers who led me and my family support for all of that."
Besides giving him values, the Army also led Green to his wife, Carie, who now works for Army Community Service and who is the mother of his three children -- 9-year-old Savaughn, 6-year-old Shaun and 4-year-old Sydney. The two were both serving in the Army in Germany when they met.
"We were just flat-out friends hanging out together," Green said. "We started teasing each other by saying we were boyfriend/girlfriend. Then we started living it. When she broke up with me, I had to go back and get her."
His Army career also included assignments at Fort Bragg, Fort Campbell, Ky., and in Korea. Along the way, his military occupational specialty changed from administration to air traffic control. He deployed in 2008 to Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan for 15 months serving with the Combined Joint Task Force.
"That was another enlightening moment," Green said. "We had just found out Carie was pregnant with our youngest. She was also in school taking classes to get her bachelor's degree. It was really tough on her."
In Afghanistan, Green worked to manage the airspace coordination and control system at the Bagram airfield, ensuring that rotary wing aircraft stayed at or below a certain altitude, fixed winged aircraft stayed above a certain altitude, and parts of airspace were allocated for operational missions and unmanned aircraft.
As the aviation operations sergeant for the Regional Command East, Green worked to coordinate 857 Medevac missions, and numerous aviation personnel movements and requests for combat aviation support. At forward operating bases, Green helped to streamline aviation processes and identify areas for improvement. He also drafted fixed wing standard operating procedures for the task force.
"It really took a team effort," he said.
In October 2008, Green learned his next assignment would be as a student in the Army's Equal Opportunity Advisory Course at the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute, Fort Patrick Air Force Base, Fla.
"That schooling has made me what I am now," Green said. "It took all my experiences and background, and was the true beginning of who I am now."
Green has become well-known for his work for Team Redstone in providing equal opportunity and fair treatment instruction and counseling, and ethnic observance programs; working toward ensuring a work environment free of unlawful discrimination and offensive behavior; processing employee complaints; and monitoring the execution of equal opportunity programs throughout the installation.
"Like any program, everything has its challenges," he said. "But knowing the power of people and using the power of people you can accomplish anything. There are so many here at Redstone who have really helped me make the program what it is today."
He has enjoyed working in teams with Redstone employees, providing them with awareness training and counseling.
"There are ah-ha moments popping up all over the place at Redstone," he said. "There are a lot of challenges in this job, a lot of sticky subjects that you have to confront. We all come from so many different walks of life and so many different perspectives, that the work is very interesting. Most of the time, my work involves correcting inaccurate perceptions."
Green and his family have enjoyed the Redstone community so much, that it became a major factor in his decision to retire.
"This is a good time for me to retire. Redstone has been a change of pace for me that I really needed," he said. "Team Redstone and the surrounding community have really helped me and my family make up our mind to make this our home.
"It's the whole community, the people, the schools. It's been an overwhelming sense of community for us. We've found our comfort zone here. We want to stay here and be part of this community."
Green hopes to continue working on the Arsenal, only in a civilian capacity.
"First and foremost, I want to continue to serve, even though I'm not in uniform. I don't want to lose any of the relationships that I have on Redstone Arsenal," he said.
He also hopes to continue to be an example to young people who are struggling to find their place in society. He has often spoken about his own journey at local schools, the Boys and Girls Club, and at community events.
"I stay involved in the community because I, too, have walked in those kids' paths. They can do it. They can make something of themselves. But they have to have the want and the drive," Green said.
"I give them the real deal. I tell them who I am and where I came from. They've done nothing in comparison with my past. I tell them it can be different for them. They don't have to be a self-fulfilling prophesy. They can be anything they want to be. However, it starts with self."