By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
Jan. 18, 2007 – Troops serving in Afghanistan understand the importance of their mission and say they would rather fight terrorists overseas than at home, the senior enlisted servicemember in DoD reported today. Army Command Sgt. Maj. William J. Gainey arrived back in Washington early this morning from a whirlwind trip to Afghanistan, only to take off seven hours later with his boss, Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on a flight to Colombia. He said morale among the troops he visited in Afghanistan is sky-high.
As Pace met with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and U.S. and coalition leaders in Afghanistan, Gainey slipped away for "sensing sessions" with deployed troops at Camp Eggers and Forward Operating Base Tillman.
"That's what I always try to do wherever I go, get out there and get a sense of how the troops are doing," he told American Forces Press Service during the flight here. He reports his findings back to Pace and shares service-specific issues that arise with the appropriate service senior enlisted leader.
Gainey said the troops he met with, some on their fifth deployment, told him they know the importance of fighting terrorism overseas. "They told me, 'We don't like being away from home, but we know we have to do it, because we'd rather be fighting the enemy here than at home,'" he said.
Some of the troops he met with had engaged insurgents in the area just days before and proudly showed Gainey where it happened and recounted the details.
While praising their efforts, Gainey said he reminded them that no matter how many times they've deployed and how successful those deployments have been, they need to think of every deployment as their first.
"I tell them to think about it like a football game," he said. "If you play on a Friday night and win, and then you play again the next Friday night and you play the very same, will you win or lose?" he asked them.
"'You'll lose,'" Gainey said the troops told him, recognizing that the other team has scouts watching how they play.
"That's exactly how it is in combat," Gainey said he told them. "They have scouts out there who are watching what you do and adjusting their tactics.
"So they have to think of deployment as a Super Bowl," he said. "No matter how many times you've done it, each one is a new one. And you have only one time to win."
Recognizing that many of the troops he met with are about to rotate home in about three weeks, Gainey reminded them not to let their excitement cause them to let their guard down. "They're energetic and excited about going home, but they're still focused," he said.
Gainey said he was impressed to see the troops wrapping up their deployments here going out of their way to ensure the new rotation that will replace them is prepared to fill their boots. "There's a lot of emphasis on 'left-seat-right-seat' training and a real sense of obligation," he said.
"It's really gratifying to hear them say, 'I want to make sure I have my buddy squared away,' when that buddy is in a whole different unit," he said.
Gainey's appreciation for seeing troops taking care of each other goes beyond professional pride. His son-in-law, Army Spc. Jeff Roberts, will deploy to Afghanistan tomorrow with the 82nd Airborne Division.
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