OTF Soldier Story for August 10, 2009 - Staff Sgt. David McWhite
Current Unit: Raleigh Recruiting Battalion
Current Position: Recruiter
Component: Active Army
Current Location: Chapel Hill, N.C.
Hometown: Philadelphia, Pa.
Years of Service: 8
Staff Sgt. David McWhite knows firsthand the value of strong leadership and the power of mentorship. Growing up, he had little direction in his life and was headed down a wrong path in his late teens. However, acting on the advice of a longtime friend, McWhite decided to enlist in the Army—a decision that has inspired him be a leader to younger enlisted Soldiers and prospective recruits.
Growing up in a low-income neighborhood in Philadelphia, Pa., McWhite says he didn't have many positive influences in his life. When he turned 19, a long-time friend encouraged him to change his life for the better.
"He told me, 'You're too smart to be doing the dumb things you're doing. Your potential will not be reached until you do something else,'" McWhite recalled.
Following his friend's advice, McWhite decided to enlist in the Army, a decision that has changed his life and given him a new perspective on what it means to be a citizen. McWhite credits the Army with changing him from a typical "bad-boy" into the person he is today.
Since enlisting eight years ago, McWhite has deployed twice in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, most recently to Iraq in 2006-2007. Spending time in Mosul and Baghdad, he served as a team leader with the 23rd Infantry Division's Stryker Unit. In that role, this NCO was responsible for ensuring the security and safety of the people of Baghdad, often working side-by-side with Iraqi Soldiers.
The deployment also provided McWhite the opportunity to mentor the younger enlisted Soldiers in his unit, many of whom were deploying for the first time. As a leader, McWhite took responsibility for his Soldiers, honing their Army skills and growing them into more responsible and successful adults.
"As an NCO, you're often the first person outside the immediate family that will impact that young person's life and shape them. You shape your Soldiers to be the same way you are, which is why it's crucial to be a good NCO," McWhite said. "Many of the younger Soldiers look up to me, like a brother."
Coming home from Iraq was significant for McWhite, who left behind his wife, Tasha, and two children. The couple met during basic training. She left the Army in 2004 to pursue a civilian career in accounting. The family now lives in Chapel Hill, N.C., where McWhite serves with the Chapel Hill Recruiting Station. As a recruiter, he has the chance to encourage other young adults to consider where their life is going and how the Army can help them achieve their goals.