By Army Sgt. 1st Class Brent Hunt
American Forces Press Service
Dec. 2, 2008 - For one senior enlisted soldier serving in Multinational Division Baghdad, the American soldier often represents the only goodness a lot of people around the world will ever know. Army 1st Sgt. Albert Rodriguez, first sergeant for the 4th Infantry Division's Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 4th Battalion, 4th Aviation Regiment, Combat Aviation Brigade, said he is proud of what he and his soldiers personify around the world.
"For a lot of people in the world, American soldiers are the only goodness a lot of people will ever know; the only bible a lot of people will never read; and the only example of America and freedom a lot of people will ever see," said the Oxnard, Calif., native who is on his second deployment to Iraq.
"I am proud to serve, because as a member of the U.S. Army, I am part of a long line of soldiers who have fought and died for our freedom," he said. "In particular, I have had two uncles who gave their lives during World War II and the Vietnam conflict.
"When I reflect on what their experiences must have been like," he continued, "I immediately appreciate all that is good in my life. I believe all soldiers should be proud of who they are and what they are doing, regardless of their job. They have all sacrificed so much for our country and our freedom."
Many of the soldiers in the first sergeant's company are directly involved in the planning, operation and execution of the Apache helicopter battalion's mission around the greater Baghdad region. His job is to coach, mentor and take care of soldiers as they conduct their daily tasks in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. His company, deployed here just north of the Iraqi capital, uses the attack helicopters to directly affect the fight by protecting soldiers on the ground with aerial support.
Although the job could seem overwhelming, many of Rodriguez's young soldiers are performing like seasoned veterans, he said. Army Cpl. Jack Condon, 24, an aviation operations specialist from Catoosa, Okla., who works in the battalion's tactical operations center, said he relies on the advice he receives from senior noncommissioned officers to shape how he moves forward.
"Every 15 minutes, I get a [situation report] so I can inform the commander on the mission," he said. "I am at the center of the information flow. I ask for guidance from senior NCOs about what to do with a soldier or a situation, because every soldier and situation is different. That's how my NCOs are here, and I want to be the same."
As Condon and other soldiers in the company try to emulate their first sergeant, Rodriguez instills in them that taking care of soldiers is an NCO's top priority. How soldiers live while deployed reflects directly on their morale, the mission and esprit de corps, he said.
"Clearly, one of the most positive changes I have seen since my last deployment is the quality of life for our soldiers, who definitely deserve it," Rodriguez said, comparing today's conditions to those that were in place when he served during the initial invasion in March 2003. "The standard of living has been raised so high that we can never go back to the way it used to be. ... Trying to describe to a young soldier what it is like to live on a cot for six months is like trying to describe the days without the Internet: unimaginable."
(Army Sgt. 1st Class Brent Hunt serves in the 4th Infantry Division's Combat Aviation Brigade Public Affairs Office.)