CAMP RED CLOUD, Republic of Korea -- A rush of memories through 21 years of service led to that one moment where it all made sense as his family and mentor promoted him.
Master Sgt. (P) Hassan T. Carter, Queens, New York native and operations sergeant, 6th Battalion, 37th Field Artillery Regiment, was promoted to sergeant major during a frocking ceremony at the CG's Mess June 29.
During his opening remarks, Command Sgt. Maj. Freddie Thompson IV, a native of Panama City, Florida and command sergeant major, 6-37th FA Bn., recalled working with then-Spc. Carter at Fort Bragg, North Carolina after the young Soldier's mentor died saving the lives of drowning children.
"I took over as platoon sergeant for Staff Sgt. Randall L. Lewis who had always spoken very highly of Spc. Carter," said Thompson. "I relied heavily on Spc. Carter to keep the platoon together and I'm sure that he (Staff Sgt. Lewis) is smiling down on us today."
Carter's wife of more than 17 years, Katasha Carter, and two of their three children: 17-year-old Jazmyne, and seven-year-old Gabriel, flew in from North Carolina for the momentous occasion. Carter's oldest daughter, Glenesha, a 21-year-old university student, watched the frocking ceremony via social media livestream.
Carter joined the Army at age 21 on a whim. He woke up one day, quit his retail job and enlisted at a recruiting office in Queens.
Carter described his first assignment as a rocket system operator with 3-27th Field Artillery Regiment, 18th Field Artillery Brigade, Fort Bragg, North Carolina, as a guiding moment in his life.
"Like most first-termers, I didn't plan on making the Army a career, but I had great mentors who I aspired to emulate, like Staff Sgt. Lewis and then-Staff Sgt. Thompson, who believed in me and invested in me," said Carter.
Carter was devastated when he learned his role model, the first leader to notice his potential and encourage his progression, had passed.
"It was very upsetting, but I was not shocked by his selfless actions," said Carter. "His legacy will live on through all the lives he touched."
Carter decided to remain in the service after his time in North Carolina. He now balances work, taking college courses, and family life. He attributes the majority of his stability to his wife.
"Katasha does a great deal holding the family together" said Carter. "I wouldn't be able to do it without her."
Now Carter applies the same Soldier-care techniques of his predecessors to his daily operations.
He plans to continue his mentor's legacy of excellence and giving back.
"It's important to invest time in our Soldiers," said Carter. "The best way to honor Staff Sgt. Lewis is to invest the same time and energy in my Soldiers as he did for me."