FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. — Chief Warrant Officer 5 S. Neville Poole, 101st Division Artillery, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), has given the last 17 years of his life to the United States Army.
Poole carries on a legacy of military service that began with his grandfather, Neville Leroy Carpenter, who served in WWII. Including Poole's time in uniform, the combined service of his Family is about 101 years.
Passing the torch
Poole joined the Army Aug. 11, 2004, after graduating from college. He became a fire support specialist, a decision made in part because both his parents had served in the Army, he said.
His parents supported his decision despite having faced significant challenges during their Army careers because of their race, Poole said.
His parents met while stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, a duty station that throughout the 1970s and 1980s brought lessons about being Black in the Army, he said.
Knowing they had overcome those difficulties showed Poole how resilient his Family is, and so their stories didn’t discourage him from joining despite some of their struggles.
“I admired that during their time, much like today, they had to endure certain negative aspects of the Army,” he said. “However, they still found a way to be resilient and stay positive. Knowing that helps push me to know nothing I will experience would be nearly as hard as what they had to deal with. Finishing things that you start as well as hard work was something that they ingrained into me and my brothers.”
Fighting overseas and at home
Poole’s grandfather enlisted in the Army in 1938, according to archival records. During WWII, Black Soldiers served in segregated units and were not allowed to mix with white Soldiers. Historical documents state that in most cases they were used mainly as support because they were considered unfit for combat.
This kind of racism in the face of fighting to preserve freedom created internal conflict for many Soldiers who questioned a cause that didn’t support the same freedoms at home, Poole said.
If this bothered his grandfather, Poole said, he never showed it, and his resilience during a time of both internal and external conflict is inspiring.
“My grandfather, Neville Carpenter served in WWII, more specifically in the European theater. His military occupation specialty was a supply clerk,” Poole said. “Though in a segregated unit he never really let that bother him, and he was happy to serve. What stands out to me was his ability to stay motivated and positive even though knowing back on the home front he still faced obstacles as it pertained to equal treatment. He chose to serve honorably and never give up no matter what the circumstances.”
His grandfather finished his service as a staff sergeant in the Army.
101 years of service
In his Family, Poole’s grandfather, both his parents, an aunt, two uncles, his brother, sister, and two cousins, all served in various branches of the armed forces, something they are all proud of, Poole said. The wordplay of being a 101st Soldier with 101 years of combined Family service is just icing on the cake.
Considering how hard his grandfather’s and parents’ experiences must have been in comparison to his own has put the Army into perspective for him, Poole said. It has also shown him how far the Army has come since his grandfather’s enlistment.
“My thoughts on the Army’s evolution from my grandfather’s time to now gives me hope,” Poole said. “It shows and tells me that the Army has the capability to change, better itself and do what’s right meaning fair treatment for all no matter what your demographic, sex or religion. Even in my 17 years I’ve seen a lot more common sense take place and prevail. I see more good people taking care of each other.”
Being a Soldier has given him more opportunities in life than he could have dreamed of, Poole said, including bringing him to the person he attributes his success to — his wife, Eva.
“The Army has given me the opportunity to travel, meet and experience different cultures whether it be abroad or domestic and it has made me a well-rounded person,” he said. “It allows me the opportunity to raise my children and take them all over the nation. It also allowed me to meet my wife who is my anchor and is one of the reasons I’m so successful.”
As he continues to learn more about the man that started the line of military service in his Family, Poole hopes to continue to share that history with his children.
“I think it’s important that we remember those who came before us and made it possible for us to be here,” he said.