BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan - The wind from powerful air-conditioning units whips between the stacks of servers, switchboards and cables. Each aisle of servers is a one-way passage for either cold air blowing in, or oven-like air blowing out. Soldiers of the 580th Signal Company pass through these passages as they maintain each piece of the puzzle that creates the U.S. military's communication networks in Bagram Air Field and much of Afghanistan.
The commander of the busy Soldiers, Capt. Dallas Gilmore, ensures his subordinate leaders understand the mission they perform and catch the vision of the overall assignment.
Gilmore leads the 580th, which falls under the 25th Signal Battalion, 160th Signal Brigade. No stranger to the dust of the desert, Gilmore was born in Kayenta, Arizona, on the Navajo reservation, and returned to the reservation for high school after growing up in Utah. Gilmore received his commission after graduating Brigham Young University with a bachelor's in mathematics while serving as a cannon crew member in the Utah National Guard.
As a Native American in the Army, Gilmore hopes to be an example to the kids growing up on the reservation. By being a leader and an example, he said he hopes to encourage the next generation of his tribe to become inspired to learn their traditions, become educated, and find opportunities to excel.
"He's expressed to us, growing up on the reservation, there wasn't a lot of money," said Sgt. 1st Class Patrick Daniels, a native of Cottageville, South Carolina, who serves as acting first sergeant of the 580th. "As an adult he's wanted to give back to the community. He was a teacher before he joined. Now he's giving back by being an example, and giving the kids something to aspire to."
Gilmore said he would encourage students not to limit themselves to the reservation and live above the idea that "this is all I can do because this is where I live." He expressed earning a degree and becoming an officer in the Army isn't something you see every day on the reservation.
"That isn't very common on the reservation," said Gilmore. "I would say to them, 'Don't let anyone tell you what you're able to do, because you have opportunities that aren't open to most high school kids. You can't limit yourself by what you're surrounded by because there are so many different opportunities out there."
As the commander of the 580th, his Soldiers have described him as an open leader who avoids interfering with his subordinate leaders. He gathers the information he requires from his officers and noncommissioned officers and sends them back to their Soldiers with a clear vision of the task that needs to be done.
"I do my best to have clear, concise orders and intent," Gilmore said, "so my subordinates, whether it be an officer or a senior NCO, can solve the problem themselves. I feel like it's important for them to have success but also allow them to make mistakes, as long as those mistakes don't impact the lives of others or make the mission to fail."
Gilmore will go out of his way to talk to the Soldiers of his unit just to see how they are doing, and will offer advice wherever he can, both about the Army, and life in general, said Sgt. Mark Musseau, a native of Jacksonville, Florida, who also serves with the 580th. "He is a commander who genuinely cares about all his Soldiers."
Gilmore encourages his Soldiers to develop themselves and find ways to overcome challenges. He said he appreciates it when Soldiers come to him with an idea on how something could be done better.
"I don't know who first said it, but it's always been said to me: 'In order to be a leader you need to first learn how to be a follower,'" said Gilmore. "Going through One Station Unit Training at Fort Sill, allowed me to see what enlisted Soldiers and NCOs go through in basic training... it allows you to understand not every officer or NCO makes the best decisions. No matter what your rank is, there are some things you can contribute to the decisions being made."
Cultural history is an important aspect of Gilmore's life. He said having been brought up in two cultures has made him stronger and more aware of his own values.
"I grew up a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and that's where my values, ideas and beliefs come from," said Gilmore. "Moving [back] to the reservation and being exposed to the Navajo side of my family helped me become appreciative of culture, tradition and I began to learn about the teachings and values of the Navajo tribe. I saw that a lot of the values and beliefs I thought were important weren't very different from what a traditional Navajo person is taught. I think that living on the reservation showed me the importance for hanging onto that and not forgetting."
Gilmore also feels it's important for him to keep his family close to his heart. The Soldiers of his company said that he often talks of his family and asks them about their loved ones. Having seen family struggles on the reservation, Gilmore said he tries to be a role model for families living there.
"I'm being an example to the kids of the reservation, not just with my job, but also with my way of life," Gilmore said. "I have a wonderful wife that I love dearly. I have five beautiful children who I treat with dignity and respect and they're a huge part of my life. I'm devoted to them, and I take care of them. I provide for them and I teach them... being a father and a husband is very important because a lot of kids really don't have that there (on the reservation). Just showing them that it is possible to have this kind of life."
The U.S. has been called a melting pot of cultures, and the Navajo contribution to the melting pot can never be erased or forgotten. Capt. Gilmore serves as an example to his tribe by living his traditional values and leading his Soldiers.