By Army Sgt. Jessica Dahlberg
Special to American Forces Press Service
Oct. 1, 2008 - Martin Parker from Brenham, Texas, just might be the oldest corporal in the Army -- or so his friends like to tell him. Parker, 41, retired from the Dallas Police Department in July 2006 and was looking for something else meaningful to do with his life. Since he has brothers in the Marine Corps and a father who was in the Navy, the military seemed like a good fit.
The forward observer is assigned to the 1st Infantry Division's 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, in Afghanistan's Kandahar province.
"It's always been something I've wanted to do," Parker said. "I retired from law enforcement and still wanted to contribute something. I wanted to do something worthwhile."
Two months later, Parker arrived at Fort Knox, Ky., for basic combat training to begin his Army career. The transition from police officer to soldier was an easy one for him, he said, because it fit his experience and personality.
"I already had the discipline and team mindset down from being a police officer," Parker said, "but the thing I like most about the Army is the camaraderie and seeing the young soldiers' bright and shiny motivation."
Parker's motivation helped him advance quickly. He went from private first class to specialist and then to corporal in a span of seven weeks.
During his tour in Afghanistan, Parker assists his leadership in the use of artillery.
"I'm getting used to closing the gap between being confident in what I do and waiting my turn," he said. "I like to take charge when I see what could be the best possible outcome, but I need to stay in my lane. The problem is I like my lane and both lanes on either side of me."
He chose to become a forward observer because it seemed to be the best application of his skills, he said.
"As a forward observer, we are the eyes of the Army," Parker said. "We set up concealed outposts and watch for the enemy and use artillery fire to screen our own movement, disrupt, illuminate or neutralize the enemy."
Early each morning, Parker rolls out of bed to start his 18-hour day at Forward Operating Base Ramrod. He processes fire missions and plans targets of opportunity based on intelligence or in support of upcoming missions. If troops come into contact, he is their "go-to guy."
Parker admitted the physical demands of the Army may be a challenge for him in the future, but he said he plans to stay with the Army as long as he can.
"I would do this job forever, or as long as I can meet the physical requirements, [which] might get slightly harder as I get older," Parker said jokingly. "It's my first deployment, but I will be re-enlisting."
(Army Sgt. Jessica Dahlberg serves in the 1st Infantry Division's 3rd Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs Office.)