By Pfc. Sharla Perrin, 3rd BCT, 1st Cav. Div., MND-NFebruary 23, 2009
MOSUL, Iraq - Imagine a school room, filled with young children eager to present their parents' accomplishments for show and tell. As each child stands in front of their classmates, a variety of careers is represented. Some have parents that work in education, others that work in the medical profession, and a few who have specialty jobs such as carpentry or beauty. The last little boy who stands up proudly struts to the front of the classroom and boldly exclaims, "My dad blows stuff up! I'm gonna be just like him when I grow up."
2nd Lt. Jim Cabrera Jr., a platoon leader with A Battery, 2nd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, attached to 25th Infantry Division, Multi National Division - North remembers fashioning many of his childhood playtimes around his father's career as a canon crewmember in the United States Army. When it came time for him to choose his own path in life, the decision was clear: just as when he was a child, Cabrera Jr. wanted to follow in his father's footsteps.
Now a battery first sergeant with C Battery, 4th Battalion, 27th Field Artillery Regiment, Task Force 1st Battalion, 35th Armor "Thunder" Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, Multi National Division - Baghdad, 1st Sgt. Jim Cabrera Sr. paid a visit to his son in Mosul, Iraq in February.
When Cabrera Sr. enlisted 22 years ago, the field artillery branch was exactly that; maneuvering, maintaining and operating the M109A6 Paladin, the most powerful cannon that the Army had to offer. But maneuvering a 63,615 lb. piece of equipment around the urban environment that today's Soldiers have found themselves in is as difficult as it sounds. Thus, today's field artillery troops fill in where they're needed, on foot patrols and inside highly mobile vehicles like the humvee. In fact, Cabrera Sr. said that he hadn't worked with the guns at all in any of his other deployments to the Middle East.
Why then, knowing that he wouldn't have the opportunity to work "on the line" with the cannons, wouldn't Cabrera Jr. choose an occupation that he'd be able to practice' Without question, to start a tradition that his father had unknowingly started, he said. As a child, Cabrera Jr. remembers being with his father while he worked around the guns and the orderly room of the battery. Even without his father's guidance, Cabrera Jr. knew where he'd end up.
Cabrera Sr. required his children to go to college after high school, and watched his son participate in the Reserve Officer Training Corps. at Texas A&M University, but didn't influence his son's decision to become a field artillery officer after he graduated.
"I never pushed him to join the Army, but I told him that he had to do four years of college and then after that he could whatever he wanted. It just so happened that he got the ROTC scholarship," Cabrera Sr. said.
Unlike many officers, Cabrera Jr. has had an inside look at the life of an enlisted Soldier and has used that knowledge to his advantage with his own platoon. He knows how to appreciate enlisted troops and recognizes the respect that his platoon sergeant and first sergeant deserve.
"They are the backbone of the Army," he said. "Some officers don't see that side of the house, but luckily I got to experience that. I have a good bunch of guys in 1st Platoon. I have a good platoon sergeant and good (non-commissioned officers). As an officer, that's either going to make you or break you. I got lucky, I got really lucky," said Cabrera Jr.
His father seemed to agree. After working with as many lieutenants as someone with 22 years in the Army has, Cabrera Sr. is proud to say that his son set the bar. "When I see pictures of him out on the streets it touches me. I think, 'Wow,' you know, 'that's my son!'" he said. "When I see him doing briefings and stuff, it really makes me proud."