JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. – When the pandemic hit in March, Capt. Jacob Henry and his unit were at the National Training Center in the Mojave Desert. Upon their return to Seattle, the world was a different place.
Seattle was a hot spot for COVID-19 in late March when Henry’s unit, Headquarters and Headquarters Troop of 1st Squadron, 14th Cavalry, returned from NTC.
“I think there were 15 or so cases when we left,” Henry said about the Seattle area. At NTC, Soldiers trained without their cellphones, so “we had no idea what was going on,” he added.
Despite the uneasiness of not knowing what was happening with family members back home, Henry said his Soldiers were able to stay focused, finish the mission and get all 600 Soldiers in the squadron home safe.
“The way they handled themselves coming back to an uncertain world” was commendable, he said of his troops.
Henry is one of 28 company-grade officers and warrant officers from across the Army’s three components selected for the Gen. Douglas MacArthur Leadership Award this year.
Henry is currently completing his second tour as a company commander. He first served as the squadron assistant S3 operations officer, then commanded A Troop of 1-14 Cavalry, and now he is the headquarters and headquarters troop commander for the squadron.
“It’s a dance,” he said about being an HHT commander and asking field-grade officers to clean their weapons or do other required tasks. “I’m a very good dancer after a year of this.”
Henry was at NTC with the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team of the 2nd Infantry Division as many of the battalions were preparing for possible Pacific Pathway missions later this year. The 1-14 Cav is the reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition, or RSTA squadron of the brigade.
After graduating from the U.S. Military Academy in 2012, Henry spent three years with the 1st Battalion of the 66th Armor Regiment at Fort Carson, Colorado. He deployed twice with the battalion to the Middle East, first as a platoon leader, then as an executive officer.
The deployments were a “very formative experience,” he said, because he was often dealing with different militaries and different customs. “It was one of the more impactful moments of my career,” he added.
On his first deployment, his platoon was tasked with guarding an abandoned base in the Kuwaiti desert.
“We were in the middle of nowhere,” Henry said. He was 22 years old and in charge of a base. The 30 members of his platoon were at least half an hour away from the closest friendly forces, he said.
“That really hits you at a very young age, what it means to be in charge,” he said about being responsible for the lives of his Soldiers.
On his second deployment, his unit supported Operation Spartan Shield and sent teams to Jordan, Kuwait, Iraq and even Egypt.
He remembers one time being with a group of Soldiers trying to load an M88 armored recovery vehicle onto a C-5 Galaxy aircraft. They had no way of figuring where the center of balance was for the vehicle and the Air Force crew chief wasn’t going to allow the 80-ton vehicle to be loaded onto the aircraft.
After waiting a couple of hours, the Soldiers came up with a creative solution, Henry said.
“We just built this giant 50-foot ramp and drove it up until the front half of the vehicle was teetering,” he said. Then they marked the center of gravity.
“You’d be surprised how smart Soldiers can be,” Henry said. “You give them enough leash and Soldiers will figure out a simple solution that can be done in any environment.”
The U.S. Army Forces Command MacArthur award finalists met at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, for three days in December.
“Those are some of the best leaders the Army has to offer, and I got to hang out with them for three days,” Henry said of the award recipients.
“It opened my eyes to different types of units in the Army,” he said, explaining that officers were there from every branch from infantry to CBRNE -- chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive materials.
The Department of the Army MacArthur awards ceremony usually takes place at the Pentagon in late May or early June, but has been postponed this year until October due to COVID-19.
Henry said he hopes a second wave of the pandemic doesn’t further delay the ceremony and other activities in the nation’s capital. He hopes to attend George Washington University in the District of Columbia this fall to get a master’s degree in history and then teach at West Point.
(Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of four leadership profiles of MacArthur award recipients.)