By Capt. Grady Adkins, Army Sustainment CommandNovember 12, 2010
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - The cool evening air from the Afghani mountainside whispered as it chilled the Soldiers living within the walls that protected them from harm's way. It is within these walls of protection that young men and women make decisions that transform the rest of their lives. It is here that they face a test that most never wish to face; the test of character, determination and pure spirit. Some recoil as they look into the cold, dark eyes of danger, but as for the American Soldier, they stand, staring back with the will to fight and win!
On the evening of Nov. 5, 2010, the time came for Staff Sgt. Eric L. Pennington to make a decision, an important decision that would impact his coming years and that affected not only him, but his wife and two children. Pennington stood strong and trim in his Fort Bragg-built body in front of Old Glory, the colors that always prevail. He stood ready, confirming his decision as he recited the Oath of Enlistment yet again.
This reenlistment was not an ordinary act for many reasons. First, and foremost, Pennington was surrounded by his brothers in arms within the battle-hardened walls of Forward Operating Base (FOB) Kandahar. The cool, evening breeze that whispered the echoes of battle constantly reminded him of the reality of this decision. His brothers-standing around him in their dusty, worn uniforms with weapons at their side-announced to all that this was no time to hide, but remain strong as a part of the team.
After thirteen years serving as a Signal Support Systems Specialist, Pennington found himself in Afghanistan working with 1st Squadron, 38th Cavalry Regiment, 525th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade in a Long Range Surveillance Team. These teams are composed of specially trained, elite Soldiers employed by military intelligence to serve mostly behind enemy lines and provide continuous surveillance of an intelligence target of interest. It was during this job that Pennington decided to devote his life to the Army and its values as he reenlisted one last time on indefinite status.
This day of reenlistment also struck the core of Maj. Gen. Yves J. Fontaine, commanding general of the Army Sustainment Command, Rock Island Arsenal. During his visit to Afghanistan, specifically FOB Kandahar, Fontaine had the unique opportunity not only to reenlist a fine war-fighting Soldier, but also reenlist his son-in-law.
As Fontaine took his place, standing in front of the Colors he knew so well, a sense of pride swelled throughout his body. Fontaine-a battle-hardened Soldier himself-had devoted his life to the Army, and now it was time for him to watch as his son-in-law did the same. As the two men stood facing each other, Fontaine led the Oath of Enlistment while Pennington recited after, until the final words were said... "so help me God."
After a hearty hand shake and a time of discussion the two men parted ways. It was time for the young to carry the torch and lead a life of dedication just as the general modeled the Army Values for others to emulate. It is in these times that the men and women of the Army prove their strength.
It is their strength that carries this nation to the victories where the U.S. flag forever flies.