By Ken Hall IMCOMApril 17, 2009
HUMPHREYS GARRISON - For many new enlistees in the Army, the road to the non-commissioned officer ranks begins before enlistment day. It starts with inspirations that range from a basic sense of patriotic duty to role models in the community or an immediate Family member who also served their country in the armed forces.
Sgt. Raymond Lancer, 52nd Ordnance Company has served as an ammunition specialist throughout his 10 years of active duty Army service. When he was 18, he noted his older brothers pride serving in the Army as an NCO and decided it was time for a change of pace from the Navaho Indian Reservation were he was born and raised on in Arizona.
"I enlisted in the Army because my brother showed our Family how proud he was to wear the Army uniform, and how successful he was as a combat medic during his 12 years of service," he said. "He got to see different areas of the world outside of the reservation."
Lancer completed basic training at Fort Sill, Okla., but his first tour of duty was not exactly what he had hoped for.
"I didn't like first duty station that much because it was the same place I did my basic training," he said. In spite of being stationed at the same installation he completed basic training, Lancer achieved training from NCO's he still remembers by name nearly a decade later. "I had really good NCO's there that stood out to me because they taught me a lot about my job."
Lancer is now on his second tour in Republic of Korea and has also served two tours in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
"While I was stationed at Fort Stewart, Georgia, I was deployed twice to OIF 1 and OIF 3," he said. "During one of my tours, we had a storage point where one of the captured enemy rounds 'cooked off' in the hot sun and exploded, causing a lot of follow-on explosions that I'll never forget." Lancer said he's worked with ammunition from 9mm rounds up to Patriot missiles.
"I like my job and it's definitely an enjoyable job," he said. "I teach my Soldiers what was taught to me by my NCO's and warrant officers and there have been times when my former Soldiers e-mail me to say 'thanks' for the mentorship and training and I'm really glad about that because other than working in my job, working side-by-side with Soldiers and molding them to be the next leaders to come up in the ranks is the biggest reward I get serving in the Army.
"When I achieved promotion to sergeant, I was in Iraq in OIF 1 and being pinned there by my platoon sergeant was one of the most rewarding experiences I've had in the Army. The Soldiers 'tried' to knock me over during the congratulation gauntlet but I remained standing."
Lancer notes that a key to achieving professional success in the Army for junior enlisted Soldiers is adaptability. "The Army mission tempo is sometimes fast, sometimes slow, and if you're new to the Army, you should just keep fluid and patient - and be able to adjust to the different tempos. Last-minute changes are opportunities to 'get it done now' versus getting it done later."
Lancer still calls the Navaho Indian Reservation in Arizona he grew up on home, and during visits there, shares a common bond with fellow military Veterans.
"I get a lot of respect at home on the Reservation, but most Navahos I grew up with who entered military service joined the U.S. Marines," he said. "When we come home we are all looked at differently than normal citizens because we served in the military and in a sense because we are protecting our Families and our people. My entire family is proud that I have served.
"During August, we observe Navaho Code Talker Day and when I'm home I take the time to visit the Code Talker Monument ... and remember one of the choices that I made to enlist was inspired by the same choices they made to serve and protect our way of life and our land."
Another aspect Lancer takes to heart when he's home visiting Family and friends involves the first inspiration that motivated him to serve in the Army, as his father and grandfather did before him.
"I always thank my brother for inspiring me to serve in the Army and I don't get to see my Family as much as I like to but I always tell them 'I'll be back.'"