By Capt. Jason Beck, Combined Joint Task Force 1 - AfghanistanJuly 5, 2011
LAGHMAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan, July 5, 2011 -- Fifty years. That’s how long Sgt. 1st Class Tim Fiedler Jr., and his younger brother Staff Sgt. Rich Fiedler, combined have served not just in the Iowa National Guard, but in the same unit, Company A, 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry Regiment.
So what drove Tim to serve in the National Guard for 29 years, and Rich to serve for 22 years? One might guess carrying on a family tradition or a lifelong desire to be a Soldier.
“Nope,” Tim, 47, said, honestly. “I got in for the college money.”
The college money may have gotten them in the Guard, but both brothers said it is a sense of family that kept them in Company A all these years later.
“A Company is a pretty tight knit group,” Tim explained. “Some of the people have been here a long time. Working with the younger guys for me has been enjoyable. I could have retired before I came over, I didn’t have to come but this is something I wanted to do. I enjoy it.”
“I met the Fiedlers through the Guard,” Sgt. David Tielbar, the company’s senior radio telephone operator, who also served in Company A for 22 years, said. “I’ve had them both as team and squad leaders, but we’re family -- this company is a family. We’ve watched the company grow and shrink, but we always stuck together. They’ll tell me like it is, and I respect their honesty. But above it all, they care about the company’s Soldiers.”
Tim said he sold cars for a brief period of time following college, but Rich said, aside from a few part time jobs, he has never worked outside Company A and the Iowa National Guard.
Neither brother said they thought when they joined they would be still in the Guard two and three decades later.
“I hated Camp Ripley,” Tim said. “We went to our annual training there every year and it rains and it’s horrible. In fact, when I re-enlisted they offered a nice little bonus of $5,000 for six years.”
“I wasn’t going to re-enlist and the recruiter asked why. I told him I don’t want to go to Camp Ripley. So they made me a deal -- for two years I didn’t have to go to Camp Ripley. One year I went to the primary leadership course, and one year I did recruiting duty instead.”
Tim, now Company A’s acting first sergeant said, still he wound up going back to Camp Ripley about 25 more times anyway.
A third Fiedler brother, Kenny, also served in Company A, but got out after nine years with the National Guard.
Younger brother Rich said he followed Tim’s lead in the Iowa National Guard in many ways.
“I joined because Tim and Kenny joined, and they went to college and I wanted to do the same things,” Rich, 39, said.
Both brothers enlisted as infantrymen and held some of the same positions within the unit.
“The Fiedler brothers have been the company’s supply sergeants for the past 16 years,” Rich said.
Since 1988, Tim served as a full-time Active Guard Reserve Soldier, and Rich served full-time since 2002. Tim served six year as the administrative clerk, then as the company’s supply sergeant for the following 12 years. After Tim went on to become the readiness noncommissioned officer platoon sergeant, Rich stepped in to fill his brother’s vacated position as supply sergeant, a role he has filled since 2007.
Before then, Rich served as an intelligence analyst for the state’s counter drug task force, an assignment he said he looks upon as the highlight of his military career thus far.
“It’s a federally funded project. Every state has one,” Rich explained. “That was probably the most fun I’ve had in the Guard. I didn’t have to wear a uniform or shave and got to do a lot of neat operations, working with different agencies like the Drug Enforcement Agency and Federal Bureau of Investigation.”
Tim said he is living the highlight of his career right now, serving as the company’s first sergeant while on a combat deployment to Afghanistan. It is also the first time he has deployed with his brother Rich.
“It’s always been a dream to be the first sergeant, but my full-time AGR job prevented me from doing that,” Tim said. “But being the acting first sergeant of an infantry company at Combat Outpost Najil is a pretty big accomplishment for me. With all the things we accomplished here, it was really rewarding.”
“The guys all kid me a lot, and call me ‘dad’, but in the two and a half years we spent training up to being here, I’ve seen a lot of them change and become more mature,” he said. “It’s been challenging and also rewarding.”
A big factor in their decision to spend a combined 50 years in the same company is the brother’s love of their hometown, Dubuque, Iowa, Tim said.
“We were born and raised there, went to high school there,” he said. “In fact my oldest son, Tim Fielder III goes there now and my youngest son Tyler will be a freshman.”
Tim still lives in Dubuque, and Rich lives in nearby Epworth, Iowa.
“You’re limited in the jobs you can do once you get in the full-time system,” Rich explained. “I could have gotten promoted and moved, but I don’t want to move. I don’t want to live anywhere else.”
Tim said he could have also gotten promoted 15 years ago, and been at least a master sergeant by now, but said you can’t put a price on living where you want to live and working with the people you want to work with.
“Staying and living in Dubuque is the trade off,” Tim said. “But it’s where I’ve always wanted to live and raise my family. That’s where our family lives -- my two brothers and sisters and in-laws.”
Through more than 50 years and five combined deployments, the Fielders have been a staple of Company A, and they’re still going strong.
“I’ve got a little over three more years I can still do to get 26 years full-time,” Tim said.
With Rich still having some full-time left, the Fiedlers could be up near six decades before both finish their careers.