By Lt. Col. Christopher S. VanekJanuary 11, 2008
RIYADH, Iraq (Army News Service, Jan. 11, 2008) -- Now in its seventh year, the Global War on Terrorism is producing a new generation of American Soldier.
These Soldiers are the first in two generations to know nothing but continuous conflict. They face alternating tours of combat operations against vicious, elusive foes, and hectic periods of refit and training to prepare for the next deployment.
Events in the rural farming district surrounding the city of Hawijah in northern Iraq are typical of the environment these Soldiers are molded by. The norm here has been characterized by daily attacks against Coalition Forces, Iraqi Security Forces, Government of Iraq employees, and any citizen that stands in the way of an Islamic State of Iraq. In a district riddled with violence, another generation of American Soldier is proving their ability to adapt and succeed.
Capt. Jon Anderson is among the vanguard of this new generation of American Soldier. He began his training in the Army's Reserve Officer Training Corps. Upon commissioning in the spring of 2003, Anderson completed a series of infantry training courses, culminating with the rigorous U.S. Army Ranger School.
Now entering his fifth year of active service, Anderson finds himself on a second combat deployment of over a year. On this tour, he commands 100 young men of Delta Company, 1st Battalion, 87th Infantry, and has responsibility for security across 300 square miles of towns, farms, open desert, and mountains.
It is in this obscure place that Anderson has epitomized the best attributes of his peers. His psyche impressed by the loss of his own first commander, Capt. Joel Cahill, in an IED attack in 2005, one could understand if Anderson focused his efforts completely on lethal destruction of the insurgency in his area of responsibility. Instead, he has balanced his efforts between combating insurgents, and restoring hope to the civilian population. Recently, he devoted his personal efforts to help the mayor of Riyahd - the largest town in his area of operations -to get prosthesis for a leg lost years ago to an improvised explosive device. This humanitarian act was a clear contrast with those of the insurgents who had attempted to assassinate the mayor. It is this ever-changing blend of charity toward the innocent, and toughness in the face of the enemies that hide among them, that Anderson has mastered.
While the formative professional experiences of Anderson and his peers differ from the previous generation of serving officers, there remains a strong thread of continuity with the Army's oldest traditions. Foremost among those is a determination to never accept defeat on the battlefield. This coupled with a magnanimity that has allowed this nation to turn bitter conflict into a sustainable and just peace before. These qualities are what will continue to make American Soldiers the ultimate instrument of their nation's power to sustain its own cherished values, and extend its benefits to others.
(Lt. Col. Christopher S. Vanek commands the 1st Battalion, 87th Regiment of the 1st Brigade, 10th Mountain Division.)