By Sgt. 1st Class Andrew Kosterman, B Co., 1st Battalion, 145th Aviation RegimentMay 31, 2013
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (May 31, 2013) -- It's an early Thursday morning like so many other Thursdays on Fort Rucker. Apache helicopters can be seen flying in the distance; runners make their way on a traffic-blocked road during physical training. Clouds keep the sun from view.
Not far from the runners is a congregation of students. They laugh and joke with each other as they prepare their equipment for training, but an uncertainty can be sensed from behind their smiles. Today, the students of the Army Aviation Basic Officer Leadership Course will test their leadership capabilities.
Behind the wheel of a nearby Humvee, Staff Sgt. Mark Leon-Guerrero, one of the graders for the exercise, inputs channels on his radio and watches silently out view. His years of experience as an instructor help him to remain calm even though he sees mistakes being made by the students.
"LG," as he is known by other cadre, wants students to mess up so they can learn from the experience.
"I've buried two good friends and my cousin, (Sgt.) Brian Leon Guerrero," says LG of his motivation to teach the next generation of Army Aviation leaders to the best of his ability. He lists the names of those affected by combat, particularly improvised explosive devices, that he knew personally, as his voice trails off.
As he pauses to allow memories of closed-casket funerals to cycle through his consciousness, he says his "eye-opening" experiences with IEDs in two tours of duty in Iraq are what drive him and his fellow instructors.
LG is an unassuming man. At just 5' 6", he is not imposing and his easy-going demeanor allows students and fellow cadre to approach him with questions. This has been the role the combat engineer has played for more than 3 ½ years.
"It is personal," says LG. "I don't want to send (the students) down to my brother unprepared. I want them to be competent and comfortable in their role." LG's brother currently serves as a UH-60 Black Hawk crew chief in the Army.
LG says his experiences are a vital part of being a military instructor.
"It gives us credibility with our students," says the Dededo, Guam, native.
It takes time and experience to develop the skills necessary to be successful on a deployment, says LG. Even though the officers in training are preparing for a career in Aviation, LG says these officers may participate in logistical resupply missions, many of which have been executed as ground convoys.
His efforts don't go unnoticed by those with whom he serves.
"He's awesome," said Staff Sgt. Matthew Pitsenbarger, LG's platoon sergeant. "He's one of the workhorses of the platoon. He does more than is expected of him every time."
Pitsenbarger said LG's prior combat experience and drive to produce the best training that assists officers throughout their careers is what makes LG successful.
As students conduct a review of the training they've just completed, LG says it's all in a day's work for him and his fellow NCOs.
"The NCOs out here won't leave them hanging," said LG, "We offer other ways of seeing things. We offer suggestions, not orders."
Seeing the confidence grow in the officer's lives is the part of his current job that he enjoys so much.
"What other environment in the Army can you impact future officers so much?" LG rhetorically asks. "If these guys leave here knowing the basics, then I've done my job."