By Capt. Travis S. Drayton, Commander, Co. D, 3rd BN, 60th Inf. Reg.January 26, 2012
FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- Anyone who has ever conducted a Victory Block Leave training cycle understands its benefits and challenges.
The benefit that every participating member receives is the ability to spend quality time with their loved ones during the holiday season. The challenge centers around providing an invaluable training experience, while attempting to instill our Army Values into this group of new trainees prior to their departure.
Our battalion's priorities were very clear as we knew what challenges this VBL cycle entailed. We were charged with:
-- Physical readiness training: Conducted to standard, fully resourced and supported by leaders;
-- Army Values: Explained, displayed and emulated by all;
-- Customs and courtesies: Wear of the uniform, appearance, and military bearing;
-- Discipline: Army and River Raider standards, firm, fair and respectful demeanor.
Our cadre had 2 1/2 weeks with which to build a solid foundation for these warriors, while simultaneously completing training objectives laid out in the basic training program of instruction.
Seeing this short time period as an opportunity and not a challenge, we hit high adventure training, which included Victory Tower, the gas chamber, Fit to Win and the Team Development Course. These all proved to be exciting events that provided Soldiers with a taste of what their unique BCT experience would be like prior to departing on leave.
We received our current cycle Nov. 26 and moved out with the priorities.
Sadly, while on leave, our cadre received news that one of our very own lost his brother in Afghanistan. Pvt. Keith Kern, from McAllen, Texas, received the news Dec. 27 after only being home for nine days during VBL. His younger brother, Spc. Kurt W. Kern, was killed in action Dec. 27 in Paktiya Province, Afghanistan along with two other Soldiers when they were attacked with an Improvised Explosive Device.
As Pvt. Kern and his family mourned the loss of their loved one, they also celebrated his life. Despite having to deal with this tragedy, Kern has turned this event into his newfound motivation and inspiration to continue basic training along with his peers.
At the conclusion of block leave, we were able to provide this news to the rest of the company as the Soldiers would not be seeing Kern at training for a period of time.
His battle buddies shared mixed emotions about the event and in an effort to help them cope, we had our battalion chaplain speak with Kern's company and platoon in order to provide them some form of support and understanding of what they were feeling.
Acting on their own accord, his battle buddies within the company and platoon were determined to help Kern in some way.
As a result, these new Soldiers with only three weeks of training under their belt from Delta Company, 3rd Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment pulled together and provided Kern with $650 to offset his expenses as a result of his multiple changes to his return from block leave transportation plans.
This simple act of love and devotion is surely proof that the new warriors fully understood and demonstrated our core values of loyalty, respect, honor and, most importantly, selfless service.
Words cannot express the emotions the cadre members felt when it was brought to their attention what had been done.
No award or reward should be expected for the drill sergeants who trained these Soldiers or the Soldiers who initiated and or gave to this selfless cause, because this act shows that what they were taught, what they received and eventually how they reacted are the expected standard within our profession of arms.
When I mention the term, battle buddy, some may say that it's a simple cliche, but our warriors are proving that they live, think and fight by this and are truly ready to enter our ranks.