By Army Staff Sgt. John Zumer
Task Force Duke
But Army Sgt. Cecil L. Montgomery still serves not simply because of an attachment to the past, but largely for two special reasons left behind in
, one of whom still gets around on all fours. Kentucky
Montgomery, a native of the small town of
, Many , is a 1st Infantry Division infantryman and squad leader attached to 2nd Platoon, Company D, 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, Task Force Duke. His platoon, popularly known as “The Dragoons,” is based at Combat Outpost Narizah when they’re not out on patrol. La.
Unfortunately for anyone desiring a laid-back deployment, however, the Dragoons aren’t in the habit of idly sitting at their outpost and watching the days go by.
Such an action-packed infantry life is fine with
, though. He picked his military occupational specialty because the challenge and the physical aspects of the job intrigued him. He also had an up-close-and-personal view of Army life through his father’s military service, he said. Montgomery
“I just wanted to do something,” he added. “College wasn’t working.”
After almost five years of Army service,
said he’s leaning toward making the military a career, though ultimately, any decision will be made with his wife, Briana, a supply soldier at Montgomery The dual-military couple must balance responsibilities with caring for their 7-month-old daughter, Aubrey. Fort Knox, Ky.
Civilian life will have to wait,
said, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t already looking ahead to the next stage of his life. He’s considering a career with either the Drug Enforcement Agency or the FBI after his Army service. Montgomery
For now though, that potential future is on hold. His daily responsibilities of providing a safer, more secure
take precedence. Some of his fellow soldiers are glad Afghanistan ’s future civilian exploits are on the back burner and lay far ahead, because for them, the present is where he’s most valuable. Montgomery
“[He’s] one of the best soldiers I’ve ever worked with,” said Army Spc. Abram Sandoval, an infantryman from
who is a member of Phoenix ’s squad. He added that Montgomery ’s invaluable experience “helps you think to be two steps ahead of the enemy.” Montgomery
The Dragoons spend most days on an aggressive rotation of combat patrols. Regular visits to nearby villages are designed to not only improve security but foster greater understanding and friendships with local residents. Even on days when not patrolling, however, they’re busy performing security and other necessary tasks.
So far, this tour has been a far cry from
’s last 12-month deployment to Montgomery with Task Force Duke, which he spent in the notoriously volatile Korengal Valley of Kunar province. That isolated, mountainous region on the eastern border with Afghanistan , filled with caves and canyons, was the scene of near-daily exchanges of fire between NATO forces and insurgents, who used the valley to filter weapons and fighters into Pakistan . Coalition forces since have realigned, focusing on protecting Afghan population centers. Afghanistan
This newer emphasis of helping Afghans learn to help themselves in the Task Force Duke area of operations, rather than the constant violence he had been accustomed to in the Korengal Valley, is a welcome change of pace for Montgomery.
“We got in fire fights every day,” he said, recounting the daily perils of his last deployment.
And just as competition for athletes often is secondary to the months of preparation and training, Montgomery noted, training and building unit cohesion are essential long before soldiers reach the battlefield. That’s why teamwork holds a special place of importance for him.
“It’s the most important thing you do,” he said. “You can’t do everything by yourself.”
But his infantry-specific skills are most important on this deployment, he said, and his job would be a lot harder if not for the people he works with and the training beforehand.
The center at
, is a large-scale training facility designed to get units ready to go into combat. Fort Irwin, Calif.
“You learn what’s new in
since you had been in garrison, [and it’s] good for the new guys,” he said. Afghanistan
“Don’t think about home, as hard as that may be,” he said. “Stay focused on your job and do the right thing.”
Still, as a combat veteran with two deployments to his credit,
knows daily life isn’t always about missions. Equally important is dealing with the inevitable stress associated with the job, and how to cope with it through leisure activities. Montgomery
“We’re always playing X-Box or listening to music,” he said. “Once we get done with patrols, I try to relax, watch movies, and get plenty of sleep.”
To stay in shape, he does push-ups, pull-ups and sit-ups. Other than that, he said, his normal duties and patrolling keep him active and burning calories.
As far as what goes into his stomach and where he hangs his hat are concerned, Lady Luck smiled on him and the Dragoons this time around,
“Living conditions are a whole lot better. The food here is 100 percent better than [Combat Outpost] Restrepo,” he said, referring to his last deployment.
“I’ll remember how unique the [Afghans] are,” he said. “These people have a very strong desire and drive to succeed.”
“He’s a squared-away squad leader, tactically sound and efficient, and that’s why he’s my dismounted squad leader,” said Army 2nd Lt. Andrew Short, a
, Charleston , native. “When I need something done, he gets it done.” W.Va.
Daily life likely will continue to be challenging and tiring for Montgomery and the Dragoons over the next 10 months. And despite what he may have told his young soldiers about staying focused on the mission and not to think about home, he’ll be the first to tell you he thinks a lot about those left behind.
“I want to see my daughter walk,”
said with a smile, allowing himself to think about Aubrey’s June 25 birthday, when he hopes to join her on his mid-tour leave. Montgomery