By Sgt. Walter CarrollSeptember 4, 2019
KANDAHAR AIR FIELD, Afghanistan - Deployments are a normal part of the military experience and military life. Regardless of the component, be it Active, National Guard, or Army Reserve, at some point in a Soldier's life, they will likely answer the nation's call and deploy.
This is the case for Sgt. 1st Class Phillip E. Bell, who is the support operations maintenance noncommissioned officer in charge for the 927th Support Battalion from the Florida Army National Guard. The 927th is serving a combat sustainment support battalion mission in Kandahar, Afghanistan.
As Bell reflected on the deployment and his time in the service, he first shared how his career began.
"I was a junior in high school [when he enlisted]," Bell said. "I went to basic training between my junior an senior year then I went to AIT [advanced individual training] after my senior year.
At such a young age, Bell's reasoning behind joining the Army revolved around wanting financial stability in order get to school.
"I didn't have a way to really get to and back from school, so to get a vehicle, I had to beg, borrow, and do what I had to do to make things work," Bell said. "So I finally got a vehicle, but it stayed broken most of the time. My recruiter told me I could make X-amount of money during basic training. So, I figured every summer I could make enough money to repair my truck."
While discussing the course of his career, which includes multiple deployments, Bell also explained how his family maintains with him being overseas as well.
"I'm pretty fortunate," Bell said. "My wife and I have been together since high school and we've been married 22 years. We have three daughters and a very good solid bond and relationship, that we're not worried about things. She's taking care of the homefront. She does an outstanding job of that and I couldn't be any more proud of her."
This isn't Bell's first time to deploy.
"I've deployed two times overseas and once stayed home station for three months," he said.
Bell describes what a typical Afghanistan day looks like him.
"I would say for the most part you have a battle rhythm that takes you through your daily reports and making sure you can address any issues that may arise," Bell said. "Also, fixing issues for other sites as quickly as possible."
Bell also discussed how he uses his down time to focus on his plan for his retirement next year - but this will not be his first.
"I just retired last year from federal civil service," Bell said. "I did 17 and a half years as a dual-status soldier wearing the uniform every day. While I'm here, I've been concentrating on laying out floor design, material costs, and expenses for building up my house when I get home and paying off my farm. Another thing is I'm planning some family vacations so I can pick up where I left off with my girls as well as getting a little more fit and healthier while I'm here."
He also reflected on is his bond with his fellow Soldiers and how long he's known them.
"Sgt. 1st Class [Michael J.] Malone and I have worked together in the military for the last 17 and a half years," Bell said. "I've known him for 20 [years]. We have a strong bond, we understand each other, we know each other, and we know each other's families. Same way with Master Sgt. Hicks. I know his wife and kids. We've been on two deployments together. Sergeant Crawford, he's our [operations] NCO. I've known him for six to seven years. He was my neighbor.
Among the many people who work with Bell, one person in particular shared his relationship with the soon-to-be retiree.
Master Sgt. Brandon R. Hicks, operations sergeant for the 927th CSSB, has known Bell for over a decade.
"I've known him now, going on 15 years," Hicks said. "We deployed together back in 2010 to Iraq, became very good friends during our time together with the 927th CSSB."
Hicks continues to describe a regular workday with his friend.
"It's always going to be interesting and you know when you come to work, he's going to give you 100%," Hicks said. "Probably, more importantly, the way that he leads a team, he's going to get 100% out of the Soldiers that he has. He's one of very few people who everybody's going to look at and value his opinion and look to him for his expertise. Whether it be tactical or technical expertise, he's got it."
Hicks expresses a lot of faith in Bell's retirement plans.
"One of the things he's very good at, he's going to map out his own plan," Hicks said. "He's been looking at this venture for many years. He went out and inquired about what the retirement looks like in the Guard and how he can augment his civilian job with that retirement. He knows where he wants to be with his family and with his property. I'm absolutely 100% confident that his plan is going to come into fruition in April and that he's going to be exactly where he wants to be."
Although Bell is looking forward to his retirement next spring, he still maintains a constant state of readiness.
"My picture on readiness is to make sure the commander has assets available to him to meet mission requirements," Bell said. "Be it equipment, be it personnel, making sure those people are ready to meet mission. Making sure your equipment is ready that you have enough of it to sustain operations as well as be able to backfill for losses. That to me is readiness in a nutshell."
As he continues to maintain his readiness, as he has done throughout the many years of his Army career, he expresses happiness for the experience, but excitement for his next chapter in life.
"I will say that with the National Guard I learned a lot," Bell said. "I'm very thankful for the experiences I had in the military."