By Army Sgt. Jeremy Todd
Special to American Forces Press Service
Dec. 4, 2008 - A Multinational Division Baghdad soldier serving in southern Baghdad with the 10th Mountain Division's 94th Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, uses his off-duty time to hone his boxing skills. Army Spc. Chad Reed has become somewhat of a superstar here, especially since he recently defeated a Golden Gloves boxer on nearby Forward Operating Base Loyalty.
"When I'm not on mission, I'm in the gym or in the ring practicing," Reed said. His time in the ring just about equals the length of his deployment, a little more than a year.
He said he wants to prove that he is a boxer now, and no longer a street fighter.
"A boxer is patient," he explained. "He's not just going for the knockout hit, and that's where the difference lies between the two."
The New Orleans native grew up in a rough part of town, and said he made the life-changing decision to join the Army not only to improve himself but also to provide a better life for his wife at Fort Polk, La.
The 24-year-old fighter weighs in at 148 pounds and stands 5 feet, 7 inches tall. Reed said all his punching power comes from his heart, and that his love for his mother, wife and stepson keep him on the straight and narrow path of always doing what is right -- no matter what the circumstance.
Sempa Wilson, a security guard from Kampala, Uganda, works with Reed on his footwork and speed.
"He doesn't like to be hit in the face, but who does?" Wilson said. "My job is to make sure he is not hit unnecessarily. We often spar to keep him aware of the unpredictability of this sport. This is not a nice sport, but it is a team sport, [and] many others helped Reed win this fight."
The task of ensuring Reed is in the best fighting shape possible goes to Army Staff Sgt. Anthony Nelson, a medical supply soldier with 94th BSB. Nelson's responsibility is building Reed's stamina and muscle strength. Nelson works with Reed for three hours a day, six days a week.
Nelson said Reed is one of the most dedicated soldiers he has worked with during his deployment, both on the clock and off.
"Boxing has motivated him to be a better soldier, just as being a better soldier has motivated his command to ensure he becomes a better boxer," he said.
Reed said he has received tremendous support from his peers and his leaders. When he fought the Golden Gloves boxer, his command arranged a convoy for 34 of his company's soldiers to root for him.
"It is gestures like those that really make me want to be a better soldier," Reed said. "My command has faith in me both on the battlefield and in the ring, and that means a lot to me."
Army 1st Sgt. Dan Donald III, senior enlisted leader for Company A, said he wanted Reed to know his fellow soldiers supported him.
"Specialist Reed is one of my hard-charging soldiers," he said. "He totally out-classed his opponent at FOB Loyalty. It was the least I could do for him. He does a lot for his platoon, the battalion and the brigade. In the end, it provided positive motivation for the soldiers who attended as well as Reed."
Noting that "Mike Tyson's Greatest Hits" and "Ali" are his favorite movies, Reed said he models his fighting style after the two great heavyweights. He compared stepping into the ring to driving out of the gate onto the streets of Baghdad.
"When it's time to maneuver, it's time to maneuver, no matter what the case may be," he said. "When it's time to go, it's time to go; and that's what I do as a soldier and a fighter."
Reed added that he hopes someone will notice his drive to succeed and his dedication to be a better fighter so he might get the chance fight professionally someday. For now, he said, he just wants to make it safely home to his family. This holiday season, the promising pugilist said, he is thankful for all those who have supported him, fighting both in the ring and on the streets of Baghdad.
(Army Sgt. Jeremy Todd serves in Multinational Division Baghdad with the 10th Mountain Division's 4th Brigade Combat Team.)