By Sgt. 1st Class Michael BrockApril 30, 2009
KHOWST PROVINCE, Afghanistan - For one Nashville, Tenn., native, being stationed at Fort Campbell was an easy choice, but staying at Fort Campbell was an even easier one.
Sergeant Willie Ross, Company Echo, 3rd Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, 159th Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, has been with the same unit since coming to Fort Campbell from Advanced Individual Training in December 2001.
As a petroleum supply specialist, he is in charge of handling the day to day fueling and armament of aviation assets, including coalition and civilian aircraft at the forward arming and refueling point at Forward Operating Base Salerno.
"Sergeant Ross is one of those guys that could take several Soldiers who have never worked with aviation and take two or three days training them and send them out to set up a FARP with no problems," said Command Sgt. Maj. Sean Ward, Task Force Attack, 3rd Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment command sergeant major. "He really knows what he is talking about."
This is not the first time Ross has deployed into combat. He has been deployed four times in his tenure with 3rd Bn., twice to Iraq and twice to Afghanistan.
"My first deployment was here in Afghanistan for about six months," Ross said. "We got back to Fort Campbell and within five months, we were deployed again to Iraq. We got the call and within three days, we had our aircraft broken down and loaded on a plane and were ready to start setting up the aircraft on the other side."
The operational tempo may seem high to some people, but that is what has kept Ross' attention and made him want to stay at Fort Campbell.
"I joined the Army for station of choice and picked Fort Campbell," he said. "Fort Campbell has a long history and added with the high [operational tempo], you never have the chance to become complacent. Fort Campbell is always changing, and then throw in that it's close to home was just icing on the cake."
Ross credits his wife, Jennifer, with keeping the family together and helping him through the deployments.
"I've been married for 11 years and at first, being deployed was really hard on the family," Ross said. "Now, it's a lifestyle for us. We look forward to deployments because it makes reintegration and seeing your family that much better. You appreciate what you have more after being away. One of the things that I do is write letters to my wife and family," he added. "I think it is more touching to open a letter than an e-mail, it comes more from the heart."
Along with writing letters to his wife and family, Ross also finds time to reply to Boy Scout troops and churches that send care packages to his Soldiers.
"I work a 12-hour shift and throw in at least one hour of physical training every day, which adds up," he said. "When I'm not at work, I am either talking or writing to my wife, replying to other letters, sleeping or watching a movie."
It's this type of constant activity that has kept Ross in the 101st Airborne Division and in the 3rd Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment.
"I like working with my hands and being outside which is why I love this job," he said. "It's also the reason why I've reenlisted twice to stay here in 3rd Battalion. If I could, I would stay here as long as I could. This battalion has a lot of history and I think we have earned the right to be called the best aviation battalion."