By Army 1st Lt. Janeene Yarber
Special to American Forces Press Service
July 10, 2009 - Army Spc. Russell Madden crunches numbers, but not just any numbers. He makes sure the important figures on his computer screen translate into mission-essential equipment, and sees that it gets to the proper places in a safe and hasty manner, and he keeps track of sensitive items. The 31-year-old Hastings, Mich. native -- a unit supply specialist and unit armorer with the 46th Engineer Combat Battalion, 225th Engineer Brigade -- said he keeps on his toes by always asking questions of his noncommissioned officers.
"It's a thankless job," the father of three said, half-joking. "People don't realize that everything has to come from somewhere, and that somewhere is supply. They take us for granted until they need something."
At the beginning of this tour, Madden served in the battalion's supply section, tracking requisitions from the companies, scheduling transportation and handling the bill of materials for the construction projects throughout Multinational Division Baghdad.
"When Specialist Madden arrived to the unit, you could tell that he wasn't just another private," said Army Capt. Kelly Boone, battalion supply officer in charge. "He is mature, and that was a big factor in the missions he was assigned."
Boone said Madden's maturity, exceptional organizational skills, and ability to keep track of vital information led to then-Private First Class Madden's nomination for the battalion's first battlefield promotion, which he earned in November. Now a specialist, Madden has begun his additional job as the unit armorer, and he said tracking dozens of sensitive items he doesn't really have in his possession can be tricky.
"The equipment is signed out to the soldiers, but I need to have accountability at all times," he said. "So, I do monthly inventories to make sure things are where they're supposed to be."
The newly assigned armorer and unit supply specialist said he looks forward to going home to his three children -- Nathan, Trevor and Grace -- and seeing his wife, whom he's known since kindergarten.
"I've known my wife for 26 years, and we lived only two miles apart in Michigan," Madden said. "My wife and I talk to the kids to try to explain to them what their daddy does out here. They are a big part of our family decisions. I think my 8-year-old, Nathan, has an idea of what the Army does. The others are too young to grasp the whole concept right now."
Each morning before physical training, Madden makes time to speak to his family.
"This deployment is nothing like I'd thought it would be," he said. "I'm lucky enough to live in a containerized housing unit, not a tent. I have Internet access, and can keep in touch with my family pretty well."
In his spare time, Madden said, he loves to run, a habit one of his NCOs got him into. He is an avid runner now, and has enjoyed participating in the many organized runs held on the Victory Base Complex during his 15-month deployment to Iraq.
"As this deployment winds down, I have mixed feelings about leaving, because we have worked so hard to improve this country and want to continue making great strides," he said. "On the other hand, it is time to let another unit come in and leave their mark on the country."
In 10 years, Madden said, he expects to be finished with his degree in criminal justice and paying for his son's college tuition. For now, he added, he continues to enjoy his job taking care of his fellow soldiers while doing an important, yet sometimes overlooked, job.
"There really isn't a down side to this job," he said. "I'm an important part of the overall picture, and I never have to ask anyone for a pen."
(Army 1st Lt. Janeene Yarber serves with 46th Engineer Combat Battalion, 225th Engineer Brigade.)