By Minnie JonesOctober 23, 2008
FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas - Dedicated, motivated, committed and selfless devotion, described Pfc. Andrew Shields, a recent graduate of A Company, 232nd Medical Battalion, who attended Advanced Individual Training at Fort Sam Houston in 2007 to become a combat medic.
Although the medical battalion graduates thousands of Soldiers each year, there only a few Soldiers, because of their attitude and positive influence on others, who stand above the rest. Shields was one of those individuals, who left a lasting impression on everyone he met.
Wearing Shield's black-engraved memorial arm bracelet, Capt. Sean Riley, company commander, A Co., 232nd Med. Bn., 32nd Medical Brigade said, "Andrew was just a great kid, he did everything right, he had a strong charisma about him that just made everyone around him be in a good mood. We have a motto here, "Gators lead the way." He was always doing the right thing. I wish I had 480 Soldiers just like him, if I did, everything would have been great."
After graduating AIT, Shields headed off to his first duty station to begin serving his country and getting on with his life. His personal life also looked very promising.
He had fulfilled his dream of following in his dad's footsteps of becoming an Army combat medic, he had even ended up attending the same Basic Airborne School and living in the same barracks that his father did. He had met Pvt. Loren Combs, another combat medic here and they planned to marry.
Even though they were miles apart, Combs at Fort Bragg, N.C., and Shields in Europe, they were determined to make it work. Shields arrived in Germany April 15, and was assigned to the 173rd Special Troops Battalion (Airborne) out of Bamberg, Germany. Shortly after his arrival, he deployed to Afghanistan.
But on May 31, 2008, just 30 days after arriving in Afghanistan all of Shields' dreams came to an abrupt end. Shields was killed in action when his vehicle encountered an improvised explosive device in Jalalabad City.
Word got back to the school at Fort Sam Houston.
"I remembered him," said Riley. "He had one of those smiles that you don't forget; we wanted to do something in his honor."
A Co. established an award in honor of Shields. The Pfc. Andrew Shields' Soldier of the Cycle Award is given at the end of each training cycle to an outstanding Initial Entry Training Soldier who is a continuous role model, consistently displays outstanding levels of commitment and competence congruent to being a combat medic.
Shields set himself apart from the average Soldier, especially toward the end of his time here. He began to realize his goal of becoming a Soldier and combat medic. Even though the smile remained, he had become more serious and focused.
"I remember expressing my thoughts to him of his change in personality and his potential in the Army," said Sgt. 1st Class Jata Jordan, senior drill sergeant, A Co., 232nd Med. Bn., 32nd Med. Bde.
"It was a very nice gesture from Capt. Riley to name the award in Andrew's honor, it was an honor to our family; it reminded us of the impact that our son had made in his short time he was there," said Jon Shields, Andrew's father.
Pvt. Eric Dennison was the first recipient of the Shields Award at a graduation dinner Sept. 18 for Class 11-08. Jon Shields and his wife, Carol presented the award to Dennison.
During the ceremony, Jon Shields addressed the graduation class.
Despite graduating today and moving forward in your career this should be the beginning of your education, he said.
Medicine is ever changing and the skills are perishable. But, you owe it to your patients to provide the best care, Jon Shields said. Take every opportunity to learn and train in your trade.
Pfc. Shields was always dedicated to the health, safety and welfare of others, back in his hometown of Battle Creek, Washington. He was a former member of the Clark County Fire and Rescue cadet program, where he was appointed battalion chief shortly after joining the program during his senior year in high school.
"His leadership qualities were immediately identified and that's why he rapidly rose to be a leader in his class," said Mike Ciraulo, a division chief with Clark County Fire and Rescue and Battle Ground's mayor. "He was morally and ethically superior in his standards and beliefs. He was well respected by his classmates and the instructional staff."
"Pfc. Shields always chose to be positive and took the 'Gator' motto of alpha company to heart, by always leading the way," Riley said.
Dedication and devotion are the words used to describe Shields, but they are also the words that epitomizes the carreer that he chose in the Army, that of the Combat medic.
(Minnie Jones works in the Fort Sam Houston Public Affairs Office)