I met Mark during my second deployment to Iraq. We both were Army brats whose fathers left active service during the Clinton-era cuts, watching them complete their military careers in the Army Reserves while starting civilian jobs. Mark, however, was not a traditional active duty Army officer like me.
Mark joined the Army Reserves as an Automated Logistics Specialist, attending both Basic Training and AIT. He then attended college and completed Army ROTC, earning a commission in the National Guard. A shortage of active duty officers allowed him to be placed on active duty orders, bringing him to join my unit in time to deploy to Iraq.
During his time as a logistics planner for our Brigade Combat Team, Mark remained on the fence about whether he wanted to remain on Active Duty or to leave upon completion of his contract. He had close friends and mentors in the unit, and learned a lot about contracts, vendors, and business.
“More importantly,” he emphasizes, “[it] allowed me to support soldiers within our Brigade and see a direct, positive effect on them.”
Mark remembers eating at the DFAC during the deployment with a friend, discussing plans for mid-tour leave, or R&R. They happened to be sitting beside some of the other Brigade Staff , including our notoriously emotionless Brigade Executive Officer.
“The Brigade XO turned to us and asked us where we were going for leave,” Mark said, “We told him, ‘Australia, Sir. We’re going to see a lot of the cities, and we’re going to go cage diving with great white sharks.'”
The Brigade XO’s eyes lit up and he actually smiled.
“That’s great!” he said, “You know I always wanted to be a marine biologist and travel the world.”
Mark recalls the man’s eyes quickly dimming, his smile disappearing, as he ended, “And then I got wrapped up in the Army.”
“I knew from that moment,” Mark said, “I was getting out.”