OTF Soldier Story for January 31, 2011 - Sgt. Laramie D. Long Sr.
Current Unit: 287th Combat Heavy Equipment Transporter Company
Current Position: Team Leader
Component: Army Reserve
Current Location: Northport, Ala.
Hometown: Greensboro, Ala.
Years of Service: 9
After working for several years as a corrections officer for the state of Alabama, Sgt. Laramie D. Long Sr. was looking for a new challenge and decided to join the Army. He started basic training at Fort Benning, Ga., on Sept. 8, 2001—just days before the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C. As America transitioned into a nation at war, Long shifted from a civilian to a Citizen Soldier, ready to answer the call of duty when asked.
Over the past decade, Long has deployed twice, most recently returning from Afghanistan, and although his deployments were markedly distinct, his commitment to leadership and the mission have never wavered.
During his first deployment to Iraq in 2003, Long was overseas just as American forces were beginning to establish a foothold in the region. As part of a Heavy Equipment Transporter (HET) unit, Long and his team were responsible for moving tanks throughout the country, especially for retrieving large vehicles that had been destroyed, such as Strykers and Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles. The arduous work was made even more difficult by an initial lack of equipment and technology.
“My unit was one of the first ‘boots-on-ground’ units. We didn’t have metal plates for our vests, and there were frequent water shortages. Although we went without a lot of things, we learned that we had to depend on each other,” he said.
The camaraderie that Long experienced overseas was a driving force for his re-enlistment—although he briefly considered not staying in the Army, he knew he would miss his brothers in arms. The bond with his fellow Soldiers led Long to volunteer for another deployment.
In November 2009, Long deployed for a second time, but this time he had orders to travel to Afghanistan with the 287th Combat HET Company. Although the mission was similar to his prior deployment, Long was assigned as a team leader and was responsible for leading 15 other Soldiers on the missions. Throughout the deployment, their missions took him to some of the most dangerous areas in Afghanistan to retrieve damaged and destroyed vehicles and equipment.
Navigating through regions where improvised explosive device blasts were frequent, the unit was fortunate not to have a single fatality throughout the year-long deployment, although they experienced several injuries, including Long.
The team was out on a drill truck retrieval mission last July, when the vehicle Long was operating lost traction, and as a result, Long’s leg and hand were severely injured. During his recovery process, he focused on his role as a leader and wanted to return to duty quickly to serve along his fellow Soldiers.
Apart from the bonds formed with the Soldiers in his unit, Long was also able to have the support of his family. In the course of both of his deployments, Long’s brother was concurrently deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan with a military police unit, and they were able to support one another during the most stressful periods.
“The thought of him being there, just to know that we were there together, we could encourage each other. It helps to have someone who can understand what you’ve been through. We look up to each other,” Long said.
Now back at home in Alabama, the father of four sons is as committed to his role as a father as he was as a leader on the battlefield.
“Everything I do, I do for my children. Being in the military gave me a different outlook on life, and I know how important freedom is. We are fortunate to live where we live, so whatever I can do to make a difference in my community – as a father or a veteran – I’m committed to doing it,” he said.
Long is currently pursuing degrees in criminal justice and religious studies through a distance education program at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va. When not in the classroom or on the battlefield, he works as a pastor in his local church, and also performs as a gospel singer, having written and recorded many songs that were inspired by his deployment experiences. In the future, he hopes to combine his faith with his desire for military service and become a chaplain in the Army.