FORT RILEY, Kan., April 15, 2011 -- The Soldiers of 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, stood tall April 15, as the 1st Infantry Division's newest command sergeant major strolled into Barlow Theater on Fort Riley.
All eyes were locked forward as Command Sgt. Maj. Ian Field ascended the stairs to the theater's stage and turned to face his unit. With a small smile playing around the corners of his mouth, Ian quietly told the Soldiers standing before him to take their seats and, in a wave, every one sat down.
It may have been the first time in history that a group of tough, battle-tested infantrymen took orders from a 7-year-old child.
The journey that brought Ian to the 1st Infantry Division began about two years ago when his parents, Jason and Angelia Field, noticed their youngest son didn't run like his siblings. A visit to Ian's pediatrician kicked off a series of doctor visits that eventually led to a diagnosis of Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a disorder that involves rapidly worsening muscle weakness.
"He is in a wheel chair part time now but eventually it will get to a point where he is in a wheel chair full time," Jason said.
Following the diagnosis, the Field family was contacted by representatives from the Make-A-Wish Foundation inquiring about what they could do to help make a wish come true for Ian. Jason said his son's immediate response was that he wanted to be a Soldier.
Eventually, word of Ian's desire to be a Soldier reached the 1st Infantry Division and Col. Joseph Wawro, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team commander.
"Ian could have wished to see Mickey Mouse, he could have wished to see an astronaut, he could have wished to see or be anything and his wish was to be a Soldier," Wawro said.
Soon, Wawro's Soldiers in 1st Bn., 28th Inf. Regt., were busy trying to figure out how to turn a 7-year-old boy into an American Soldier in just two days.
"We wanted to capture the total Army experience in two days so we scheduled events where Ian would get the badges and awards Soldiers earn during a 20 year career," 1st Sgt. Brandon McGuire said.
Ian's two day Soldier experience kicked off April 14, with an early morning enlistment and promotion ceremony in front of 1st Infantry Division headquarters. Surrounded by his parents, his brothers, Austin, 15, Carson, 12, and his sister, Savanna, 9, Ian raised his right hand and committed himself to the United States Army. Now an official Soldier, Ian was promoted to private 1st class and introduced to his squad, the men he would be training, eating and living with for the next two days.
"Ian's day is now, his time is now and we are proud to help make his wish come true," Wawro said as he sent the newest 4th IBCT Soldier out to train with his Black Lion squad.
During his two days with the Black Lions, Ian participated in the many activities that help prepare America's fighting men and women for battle. On the first day, Ian tossed grenades, shot a variety of weapons, fired a Howitzer, saved a wounded comrade on the battlefield, rappelled down a wall, rode in a Humvee through a simulated battle, arrested a bad guy and earned a lot of bragging rights as he beat his fellow Soldiers in a game of Call of Duty - Black Ops during a night at the barracks.
"It was amazing to see Ian light up on things that we do every day," Ian's squad leader, McGuire, said.
Although bad weather threatened to derail plans on the second day, Ian proved he was as tough as his comrades as he Soldiered on through rain and sleet and heavy winds to fly a UH-60 Black Hawk simulator and drive a tank before attending his farewell award ceremony.
"I would like to thank Jason and Angelia for entrusting us with their treasure for the past 48 hours," Wawro said as he wrapped up Ian's farewell. "It has been our honor and privilege to have this young man, Command Sgt. Maj. Ian Field, in our ranks and our formation."
Throughout his visit, Ian had the opportunity to see just how many "Army things" his fellow Soldiers excel at - shooting, driving, flying, navigating and taking care of their buddies; but that's not all that the 1st Infantry Division troops do well.
While they may not look much like leprechauns or genies, Big Red One Soldiers are also pretty good at granting wishes, according to Ian's parents.
"They treated us like royalty," Jason said. "We are so grateful."
The Soldiers who had the opportunity to spend time with Ian during his rapid accession through the ranks seem equally grateful for the experience.
"When I first learned that Ian's one wish above all else was to be a Soldier I was truly humbled," said Lt. Col. Peter Shull, 1st Bn., 28th Inf. Regt. "I hope that the last two days made his wish come true."
Pfc. Devin Thacker, a member of Ian's squad, said he considers April 14-15 two of his best days in the Army.
"Ian is a great kid and we got to do a lot of fun stuff with him," Thacker said. "I'm proud to have been part of making his wish come true."
McGuire, Ian's constant companion during the two day visit, said the time he spent with his little charge reminded him just how lucky he is to be able to serve his country as a Soldier.
"Never again will I complain about having to go to the field or train in bad weather because there are people like Ian who would give anything to be able to do what I do every day," he said. "Ian reminded a lot of us of something we tend to forget when we get stuck in the daily grind of things. He reminded us that Soldiers have the greatest job in the world."