FORT MCPHERSON, Ga. -- Nineteen years might not be enough to qualify for a retirement from the Army, but it is enough time to see a lot of change.

Since enlisting, 1st Sgt. Anthony Daniel, first sergeant for Company A, U.S. Army Garrison, has viewed much of that change, served through several conflicts and two wars and has changed his military occupation specialty, but he said the one constant he has seen through it all is the professionalism of the Soldiers serving.

"Heroes to me are the men and women who put on the uniform and are willing to lay down their life for fellow man," he said. "Soldiers help those who can't help themselves. They are there to help and serve the people."

Daniel became one of those heroes in 1990, enlisted as an engineer. His first duty station was Fort Bragg, N.C. He remained an engineer through a deployment to Operation Desert Storm, all while gaining an interest in the logistical and movement side of the Army.

In 1995, he reclassified into this field as a motor transport operator, which he maintains to this day.

Although eligible for retirement next year, Daniel said it isn't something he is considering, adding he hopes to make it to sergeant major.

For now, Daniel is enjoying his position as the "father of the company."

"This is the final stage of dealing hands-on with the Soldiers. I love it." he said, noting he took the reins of the company Aug. 15, 2008.

Having this year designated as the Year of the Noncommissioned Officer only highlights the importance of his role as a leader and mentor, he said.

"It's a good year to mentor Soldiers. We're living in some crazy times where everyone is hurting," Daniel said. "You need to take care of Soldiers. They are still (the Army's) most precious commodity."

Taking care of Soldiers means taking care of all facets of their lives, from soldiering tasks to personal aspects, he believes. With economic troubles, Daniel has brought in financial experts to help struggling Soldiers. On the war-front side, he holds warrior leadership training every Wednesday to help Soldiers develop their leadership and military skills.

"He definitely leads by example, but he's not a micro manager," said Staff Sgt. Patrick Cannon, a training NCO for Headquarters and Headquarters Company, USAG. "He allows NCOs to think on their own and make their own decisions, especially if it is in the best interest of the Soldier."

Sgt. Celia Reid, an administrations NCO for HHCAca,!E+USAG, works next to Daniel and said helping implement his ideas is sometimes stressful and demanding, but is very meaningful and important because, in the end, it is for the benefit of the Soldiers.

As part of the year of the NCO, Daniel's company participates in monthly team-building exercises to promote the Army values and those of the NCO Corps. Such interactions afford him the opportunity to learn about his Soldiers on a basis other than the work environment, he said.

Daniel said learning about his Soldiers is important because many of them are here on compassion tours, or tours assigned to the Soldier based on some difficulty within his or her Family.

"The Garrison is the place where get a lot of compassion tours. Though the garrison accepts them, it is up to us to be able to take care of them," Daniel said.

In this sense, Daniel fulfills the nickname of the role of the first sergeant as father of the company. In doing so, Daniel said he often looks to his own experience as a father of three: daughters Brandi, 18, a college student at Middle Georgia College, Cochran, and Brianna, 15, a student at Douglasville High School, and son Anthony Jr., 2 1/2.

"Being a father definitely teaches you patience," he said, adding that because his children range from toddler through college age, he has experiences that can help him advise his Soldiers through their own parenting challenges.
That patience is something Cannon notices in Daniel.

"He always gives the Soldier the benefit of the doubt," he said. "He isn't quick to judge people or Soldiers."

Still, Daniel realizes the need for his own mentors and guides.

"Being here is a unique place, with a plethora of knowledge and experience from so many senior NCOs and officer. If you don't get mentored here, it's because you don't want to be," Daniel said.

Among his mentors here, Daniel mentioned retired Command Sgt. Maj. Winston Canady, a human resource specialist with G1, U.S. Army Forces Command. The two served in the 84th Chemical Battalion, Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., when Daniel was a sergeant first class.

"He had strong personal and Army values," Canady said, noting that those inspire Soldiers and were what helped the two gravitate toward each other. Canady also said Daniel's willingness to seek out his counsel made the two strike up a friendship, one which fate would allow them to continue here. The two crossed paths by chance when Canady spotted him in a first sergeants meeting.

Although sometimes, even with the advice of his mentors, things can be a challenge, Daniel said one of the changes he's seen in the Army that does alleviate stress is the maturation of the Army.

"It's almost night and day," he said, comparing the way the Army took care of Soldier families during Desert Strom and the War on Terror. "We've got more programs, family readiness groups. My wife (Kisha, a legal assistant with State Farms) had no problem getting support."

These support agencies help support Soldiers because when a Soldier knows his family is taken care of, he or she can better focus on their missions. And that benefit extends beyond the Soldier, but for the world as a whole.

"In my personal opinion, during my tenure in the military, each time this nation sends military aid to a country we go in to establish peace, establish democracy," said Daniel, a veteran of Desert Storm, relief and peacekeeping operations in Bosnia, and Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom.

"We liberated Iraq, stopped mass killings and made it a safer place in my opinion. We're doing a battle hand off (to the Iraqis) and giving them advice on how to rebuild their infrastructure. Justice was served."

Daniel plans to continue to be part of the organization serving this justice as long as he is able.

"I still enjoy doing what I do. I still got zest for it," Daniel said. "To be able to counsel and mentor Soldiers, to see them blossom, it's a joy."