By PFC Brian GlassApril 7, 2010
FORT POLK, La - They say you can't teach an old dog new tricks, and in many respects that is true. However, that clichAfA does not fit for one 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division infantryman proudly serving at age 44.
Spc. John Fink, assigned to Company B, 2nd Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, returned to the Army after a 17-year break in service. His first enlistment, as a generator mechanic, began in 1983 and ended in 1992. With promotions in his career field coming few and far between, Fink decided to become a civilian again.
"I went to work installing heat and air conditioning for 16 years," said Fink. "Then the (economy) bubble burst, leaving very little work."
After deciding he needed to get his life on track, Fink prepared for a return to active duty. He chose to enlist to be an infantryman, so Fink put a year's worth of work into the gym to get his body ready for the grind of Infantry school at Fort Benning, Ga.
Fink received motivation from a drill sergeant during basic training that pushes him still do this day.
"He said, 'You're going to die here,'" quoted Fink. "I was determined not to let that happen."
Many men evaluate where they are in life when they reach age 40. Some of them buy new, sporty cars or travel the country. For Fink though, his 40s brought him back into the Army. Like anyone else might do, he chose the job he wanted; he chose the Infantry.
"I have that feeling that I have to prove myself," said Fink. "I can also get promoted faster if I stay in the Infantry. I plan to finish my 20 (years of military service) in the Infantry."
Realizing that he has to do everything people half is age do, Fink still manages to keep up. He performs all of the physical training (PT) that every other infantryman does, including eight-mile ruck marches. Training like that is tough on his body, but Fink doesn't let it affect him.
"I strive for 270 to 280 PT test scores (on a 300-point scale)," said Fink. "I don't want people here getting the impression that I'm old and can't handle it."
Enlisting in the Army at his age and given his life experience, people might get the idea that Fink does not have to listen to anyone. However, almost everyone Fink works with quickly realized he is on board with the Blackhawk company mission.
"No matter where you are in life, someone is in charge of you," said Fink. "Soldiers get rank for a reason. There is no reason for me to be prideful. I may be older, but ... (other Soldiers) know more about the Infantry."
Fink's attitude and perspective are highly regarded assets in Co. B. His willingness to learn has landed him in the position of being in charge of the training room. After being with the company just four months, Fink has already appeared before a promotion board - showing other Soldiers hard work does pay off.
"He (Fink) didn't know a lot about the job when he first got here," said Staff Sgt. Greg Medley, a squad leader assigned to Co. B. "He took time after work to learn his job, (and) he motivates the younger guys to do what they do."
The ability to push the younger Soldiers who might not think they can finish a run or have trouble at work is another asset Fink brings to the table. This skill is not lost on Fink's chain of command.
"He (Fink) doesn't give young guys a chance to make any excuses," said Cpt. Brian Burns, commander, Co. B commander. "He brings wisdom, is in great shape and leads from the front."
Being an elder statesman in his company, Fink plays the role of advisor for a lot of Soldiers who are going through the same things he did after entering adulthood.
"I've done (most) anything (that) these kids go through," said Fink. "I know how life works in general, plus I know how the Army works as well."
With a deployment on the horizon, Fink stands ready to go downrange and defend his country, just like everyone else who fights alongside him. So while this "old dog" learned a new trick, he is still set in his ways; his way of defending the country, just like he did when he first joined in 1983.