By Pfc. Andrya Hill (4th BCT, 25th ID)September 22, 2009
FORWARD OPERATING BASE CURRY, Afghanistan - Staff Sgt. Matthew Beach, an infantryman from Reno, Nev., has shown exemplary leadership skills, as well as tremendous progress during his combat tour in Afghanistan, according to his squad and superiors.
Beach entered the Army as a private and has worked his way up to his current position as a squad leader for 1st Platoon, Company C.
He has served the duration of his 6-year military career with 3rd Battalion, 509th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division based out of Fort Richardson, Alaska.
He completed a combat tour in Iraq prior to the train-up and deployment to Afghanistan, where he leads a squad of paratroopers on missions from Forward Operating Base Curry in the country's eastern province of Paktika.
"Staff Sgt. Beach has become our go-to squad. He is motivated, and can be trusted to get the job done," said the 1st Platoon Sergeant, Sgt. 1st Class Mario Santaella. "When I got this platoon in November, he wasn't one of the go-to squads. He has evolved quite a bit from that point, and he is my lead squad now."
Beach was promoted as a 24-year-old, an unusually young age for Soldiers to acquire the level of responsibility and accountability mandated for an infantry squad leader. He said his values as a non-commisioned officer were learned from a previous platoon sergeant, Sgt. 1st Class Jerry Rogers.
"I learned the most from [him] and he taught me what an NCO should be. He was extremely squared away, really smart," he said. "He taught me self-reliance and how to be a leader."
Thanks to Rogers, Beach said he has a very firm idea of what it means to be a leader, and said he tries to emulate that standard to the best of his ability.
"An NCO is someone who is trustworthy. Who can accomplish a task with little or no guidance, motivate Soldiers, lead them under stressful conditions and be a role model for his Soldiers," he explained.
His squad members said these qualities play out in Beach's day-to-day operations.
"He leads by example. He keeps a straight head no matter what is going on and he's really tactical. He doesn't slack off, and he has common sense," said Spc. Dustin Price, the squad's grenadier. "I can trust him."
Beach said the main thing he hopes his Soldiers will take away from him is honesty and trustworthiness, but his main goal is their safety and education.
"Every time we go out [on mission] it's a new learning experience. I let them go out on their own, and I watch them. I try to teach them something each time, and just keep them safe," he said.
Maintaining safety and being held responsible for a group of young Soldiers can be a challenge for anyone, but Beach has had to mature quickly and take extra measures to gain the respect of a leader, as his squad members are close in age to him.
"I think I've grown up a lot. I kind of got thrown into this position, about a year and a half ago, and was still wet behind the ears," he said. "I've had to develop and mature a lot, and I'm still pretty young so I have to maintain that level of maturity."
Beach talks to his Soldiers to keep them engaged, and said he focuses on showing them respect by treating them like men.
"I try to talk to them like adults," he explained. "If you tell people what needs to be done and why it needs to be done, most of the time they are very cooperative."
On and off the battlefield, Beach is concerned not only with his squad's military progress, but their personal lives as well.
"I sit down and talk to them to make sure everything back home is going good, make sure their families are safe and they are keeping in contact with them. I make sure their finances are going all right, and they aren't in trouble," he said. "If you treat somebody like a man, they are going to talk to you. So I just try to be an adult with them, and help them if I can."
Beach's Soldiers agreed.
"I go to him with my problems," said Price. "He is a very trustworthy man, so I go to him for lots of things. He's a good leader."
Beach's dedication and concern for his Soldiers is evident, and he humbly gave the credit for their progress as a squad to the Paratroopers themselves, only hoping to impact them by living up to his personal standards of an NCO.
"They are all good Soldiers. I wouldn't be so vain to say that I made them that way, because they learn from their team leaders and their peers. They see what is required of them and what they need to do, and they strive for it," he said. "But I would like to think that I influence them. I just try to do the right thing and be a role model."