Segment Synopsis: Andre C. Ballard (Chris) was born in 1983 in Hampton, VA. His parents relocated to Columbus when he was young and he grew up in Marion, OH. He joined the National Guard in high school. In this section he discusses his childhood, family and their military heritage, and why he chose the Guard.
Keywords: Columbus (Ohio); Hampton (Va.); Howard (Ohio); Marion (Ohio)
Subjects: Family; Military Heritage; School
Map Coordinates: 40.0853056,-83.1788497
Segment Synopsis: Ballard went to boat camp after finishing high school and describes how it can be a hard transition from civilian life. He also shares his experiences learning to be a Combat Engineer. Ballard talks about his first deployment to Wright-Patterson Air Fore Base after the attacks on 9/11. He describes balancing his duties with the demands of college. He discussed his adjustment to being married, achieving the rank of Sergeant, college at Mt. Vernon Nazarene, and his decision to become an officer. Ballard detailed his experience in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina where he was part of a relief effort from the Ohio National Guard. He also explained his desire to deploy overseas, being stationed in Egypt in 2008-2009, working with soldiers from different countries, and his duties while there.
Keywords: Fort Leonard Wood (Mo.); Fort Sill (Okla.); Israel; Military training; Ohio. National Guard. Engineer Battalion, 112th; Ravenna (Ohio); Sinai (Egypt); United States. Army. Engineer Brigade, 35th; Wright-Patterson Air Force Base (Ohio)
Subjects: Boot Camp; Deployment - Egypt; Deployment - Louisiana; Deployment - Wright Patterson; MOS; ROTC
Map Coordinates: 28.859156,32.8432111
Segment Synopsis: Ballard returns from his deployment in Egypt expecting to start grad school at the University of Akron, but gets a surprise job offer from Morehead State University. He continues to detail his return home, his movements at this time, serving with the 37th infantry, and a job that lead to his decision to have a military career. Ballard speaks of acting as Rear Guard Commander for his unit that was going to Afghanistan in 2011, working with the wounded, training, and organizing projects stateside. He explains returning to the civilian workforce before becoming full-time National Guard and his roles there. In 2016 Ballard worked logistics with the 371st Sustainment Brigade and is expected to deploy to Kuwait in the near future. He reflects on some difficult times when he has lost soldiers and friends, his family's adaptations to his career, and how he feels about his service.
Keywords: Camp Grayling (Mich.); Hebron (Ky.); Human resources; Morehead State College; Newark (Ohio); Ohio. National Guard. Brigade Combat Team, 37th; Ohio. National Guard. Sustainment Brigade, 371st.; Saint Marys (Ohio); Springfield (Ky.); University of Akron
Subjects: Full-time Guard; Rear command or Officer in Command; Recruiting; Reflecting
Map Coordinates: 39.0598479,-84.7399801
TP: Today is December 8th 2015. My name is Ty Pierce and I'm here with JessHoller to interview Chris Ballard about his service in the United States Armed Forces. This interview is being conducted at the Ohio History Center in Columbus, Ohio as part of Standing Together: Ohio veterans and the War on Terror. Mr. Ballard for the record would you say and spell your full name.
CB: Yes, Chris Ballard so C-H-R-I-S B-A-L-L-A-R-D, first name Andre A-N-D-R-E.
JH: So Chris to begin can you tell us a little about when and where you were born?
CB: I was born July 29th 1983 in Hampton, Virginia. My parents met at HamptonInstitute which is now Hampton University and were both students there, graduated from there, and got married there. So that's where I was born and we moved to Columbus, Ohio nine months after I was born.
JH: Where did you primarily grow up?
CB: I primarily grew up in Columbus but I spent my high school years in Marionand then Howard, Ohio a small area near Mount Vernon in Knox County. So I do call Knox County home.
JH: Can you tell us a little bit about your childhood and school experiences.
CB: I've got an interesting experience in the respect that I moved around a fairamount school-wise. I attended Berwick Elementary, Liberty Christian Academy, I homeschooled for a while, and one semester at Sherwood Middle School. So that 00:02:00was-- It was interesting to bounce around but I didn't really know any different, I suppose. And high school was Marion Harding High School and then East Knox High School to graduate 11th to 12th and the Knox County Career Center was my everyday school.
JH: Growing up what sort of things interested you?
CB: Sports, basketball, football, baseball for a long time probably through mymiddle school years. And as my dad says was probably my best sport at that point. My varsity sport was basketball. I was always interested in the media and became more interested in theater and did that in my junior and senior year. Freshman, sophomore year I did a choir, a lot of choir. [I] Was always attending church functions and hanging out with friends from church and that's where life revolved. I'm a son of a pastor so--
JH: I was going to ask what your parents did so--
CB: Yeah, yep, son of a pastor and my father is also an architect by trade andmother is a school teacher. So that was who we are.
JH: Do you have siblings?
CB: I have a brother, Aaron, and a sister, Amber, they're both younger and thenkind of in our late teenage early college years my parents also adopted another young man who's actually a year older than me. His name is Justin. So I've got two brothers now.
JH: Was there a tradition of military service in your family?
CB: In my immediate family, no. My grandfather on-- My mother's father is a an00:04:00Air Force retired lieutenant colonel so it's definitely there. I don't really say yes because I didn't really connect with it until after I joined and it wasn't something that was there. I was not alive while he was in the Air Force and mom moved around, you know, with them and so I always recognized that she was as she like say, "an Air Force brat," but it wasn't wasn't a major factor. I later-- After I joined also I found out that my father's dad was a United States Marine and so both grandfathers joined in the 50s. And so, he--my dad's dad--was a Marine for four years and then got out.
JH: Do you remember when you look back what impression you had of the U.S.military and military service in your early years? Towards middle school, high school.
CB: I can't really think of of much of any. I remember Desert Storm on tv justbarely. It was not something I had paid attention to. It wasn't a part of my realm of life. You know, I don't remember, you know, like I have friends whose-- My brother's friends I'm that older brother in the, you know, community who went off to the military. I don't have any of those memories or recollections of other friends doing that or brothers or sisters of friends doing that.
JH: Were there any particular events in high school that influenced you to thinkmore about the military and look in that direction as you were considering your career path?
CB: It was really very simple it was a job fair my senior year and it was--Iwant to say September or October--and-- But before that--and this is probably a 00:06:00theme that'll come up a couple times--I think the first thing that opened me to military service was was being selected to attend the American Legion Buckeye Boy state program. So I'm sure, yeah, I'm sure I'll mention that again--and other people may as well--that opened me up to what is a veteran. What does this look like. What-- Not only what is a veteran but what do veterans do for us. Why should I care about anybody being a veteran. Once I was done with that week I believe that God set that up for me to put me here. I've been in the Guard since high school so that's June of 2000. I move on probably September/October 2000. I'd meet this recruiter--Sergeant Lux--and I end up joining that next February of 2001.
JH: Was that your senior year of high school?
CB: It was ma'am, yes.
JH: Were you 18 at the time?
CB: I was 17. I turned 18 during basic training.
JH: Did you have to get your family's permission?
CB: I did. I remember sitting in mom and dad's bedroom and saying, "dad said Ican't pay for college, we don't have the money." I said, "well maybe we should look at the Guard." Yeah and then I remember Sergeant lux coming over talking to my parents. Mom was probably a little fidgety about it in terms of hey what am I sending my baby to do, but it was pre-9/11. So we weren't too concerned. There were other guys in my my high school class who had turned 17 earlier so they went to basic training over the summer before senior year and so and then they were in the unit that I was joining in Wooster, Ohio. So it was I guess low 00:08:00threat is probably the more word.
JH: i have to ask can you tell me some more about your expectations or I guessimpressions of the Ohio National Guard in particular what led you to select a Guard as a branch of service?
CB: I don't remember even looking at any other branch. They weren't there. Itwasn't-- Nobody had talked to me. I think the Air Guard was at this career fair but I don't really remember paying them much of any attention and I think more so it was the things about the Army that I love. I don't think I could find very much in the Air and those would be kind of the spirit decor, the the ground unit type of thing. I don't know that I really truly knew all that then but the ability to go and be a part of a ground unit I think appealed to me more than the Air Force, which focuses and has its mission that focuses around planes and what they can deliver.
JH: You've mentioned at the boys' state program meeting veterans and about itsexperiences and feeling a sense of purpose or calling. Was there ever any question or was that fairly immediate on taking your oath of service? You know that this was a path for you.
CB: I questioned a lot right before and during the first few weeks of basictraining that's for sure. I don't know that too many humans don't. I don't know that there really was one. I don't know that I had-- I think boys state laid the groundwork for me to be impressionable by the military, but I don't know that I left there anymore ready in my current state of mind to join.
JH: After you did decide to enlist like you described that conversation in your00:10:00parents' bedroom about college. What was your family's reaction overall saying, "wow Chris is now enlisted he's there?"
CB: Can you go do this? My dad was really proud of me. He'll say now he wasconvinced when Sergeant Lux said he'll be getting up at 4:30 every morning and you know the old saying, we'll get more done before breakfast than most people get done during the day. And that caught his ear and he'll still tell that today. He's one to do that now as a pastor, as an architect, he gets plenty done before the sun rises. And my brother and I even now during holidays will look at him with crazy eyes. Why are you waking me up right now, but he's awake he's wide-eyed bushy-tailed and ready to talk, drive, go get breakfast, or whatever it is. And he just wants his sons and daughter to be a part of it. I don't know that we ever said too much about it. It was yep this is-- I think they prayed about it and said this is what we're supposed to go do and just supported me.
JH: You mentioned college money being part of the decision. What were youthinking in terms of your longer term career goals at the moment you enlisted? Was college on the horizon for you?
CB: 200%, absolutely, so I was going to college. If anything the Guard the theidea that I would gain some professionalism and leadership skill were quite appealing. I was going to go to college and that was that. Excuse me. So I made 00:12:00sure that the Guard fit with that and by giving me money to go to school and then I didn't have to miss a fall or spring semester. It was, it really lined up. And then the college and my unit were in the same town just 10 minutes away.
JH: So you had already selected a college at that point.
CB: That's correct, yes ma'am.
JH: So say a little bit more about-- I want to get to boot camp in a minute.You're a senior in high school. You know what you're doing. You got your service career lined up, selected college. So where did you decide to go to college and what does that look like? You know you've kind of got these things in the bag your senior year.
CB: You know I got-- I remember getting my acceptance letter to college. TheOhio state Agricultural Technical Institute in Wooster AT In November and being real excited. And I think just like that was my path. At that point I knew I wanted to do two years there and then go on to a four-year school and major in construction management. And I took carpentry at the career center so that was almost an extension of that. Joining the guard I think just kind of solidified all of that and took it from hey I don't know how I'm going to pay for this. Am I going to have to work? Is it going to be too much to yep I'm good. I'll do most of my work on the weekends and I'll have enough money for school, pay my bills, you know, and I won't have debt.
JH: So the question you've probably been waiting for. Where was your boot campand can you tell us a little bit about the experience both from maybe expectations you had and then to kind of like stepping out of the vehicle and getting there? What was that initiation like?
CB: It was really tough for me. It was a toughening phase. I cried, you know, in00:14:00my bed or in the the shower room, you know, and you'd see it every once in a while for the first couple weeks. You know, guys would just hit a low. I wrote my parents that I was going to be home by the end of July, by my birthday.
JH: Was boot camp over then?
CB: No, I was not doing this. This was not worth the college money. These guyswere crazy and I didn't I literally I just didn't know what I had gotten myself into. A drill sergeant came up to me and said I spent some time researching your contract and you signed it you blankety blank blank blank blank blank. This is a decision that you made and you're gonna, and we're gonna see too that you fulfill your contract or else you're gonna have to pay back. And that was probably the lowest day and point. And also the the switch started to flip like wait, nobody else signed this. Yes, my father signed because I asked him to and I didn't even think about that that wasn't-- There was no fault with him at all. There wasn't even a second thought there. But it wasn't until about week three or four where I realized that this I was going to come out better. I realized it. I heard it. It was that thought and then at some point somebody--one of the drill sergeants--said the quickest way to get out of basic training is to complete basic training. And once that caught mentally and I probably had some success once we got to the some of the physical fitness stuff. When it came to running I was fairly fast and that was about the only time where I was doing 00:16:00something right. I was beating most of the people in my class and nobody was yelling at me and that was great. Everything else it took a little bit to acclimatize. It took a little bit to get used to the measured violence that I was going to be asked to protract and to be able to need to do for my country. I hadn't grown up with much of that, you know, whether it was westerns or war movies or anything like that just wasn't something that we did. It wasn't like I wasn't allowed to watch them if I was over at a friend's house but that wasn't what was on tv at our house. So that was-- It was just a lot of acculturation, acclimatization, understanding the people I was with, understanding who else joins the guard. Not very many pastor's kids out there that are that are joining right away I think so in their lives, so.
JH: What were your relationships with the other folks at boot camp like?
CB: They were good. They were, yeah, they were good. We all knew that we had tohad to stick through it or else we weren't going to make it. Some people have more foresight. Some people it was they were born to be there whether their friends parents fathers who made it through that they and either they prepared them better or they were just more mentally prepared at that point for those things in their lives than I was, I think. But that-- So I kind of leaned on 00:18:00that a little bit and whether we just talked each other through things or walked and talked about all the other stuff going on back home in our lives. One of the guys in my squad his father passed away during basic training so he literally-- One night they came in--I don't think he even knew--he just packed his stuff and he left some of his stuff there. But he left. He went back home. Drill sergeant told us next day hey private so-and-so's dad passed away. He'll be back in 10 days. And I remember one day he came back. It was within a week and he was he was crying everybody got it. Hey, your dad passed at basic training. A drill sergeant came in and gave him some tough love. He didn't hate on him but he told him you have a job to do. Your dad would not want you to be doing this. You're an active duty soldier and you have to pass, no. He was a reserve soldier you have to pass basic training and nobody's going to sit here and feel sorry for you. The only thing you got to do, the only thing you can do is get up the next morning and work and do what you're here to do and you need to stop your crying. And I remember that vividly. That's probably another one of my oh God where am I. But it wasn't wrong. So it was hard.
JH: Where were you guys for basic training?
CB: Yes, I apologize you asked that, Fort Leonard, Missouri. So that was 35thEngineer Battalion. I want to say alpha company, that may be wrong. It was bravo company, bravo bulldogs.
JH: Do you remember how you got there and of Fort Leonard Wood were like?
CB: Yeah, we got-- we flew to-- I flew Columbus to St. Louis and then we got on00:20:00a bus and I remember some guys smoking and the bus driver saying, "hey, get your last smoke in you're not gonna be able to smoke for a while." And I remember thinking about that like oh that's true. I didn't smoke but just observing something and then got off the bus sat down with another guy from Meigs County, Ohio right there on the river. So we talked about that he's like yeah that's where the boot--if you look at the map--is. He ended up being somewhere in my basic training, on another platoon or something like that. We got off the bus at Fort Leonard Wood and it was dark. Drill sergeant started yelling get off the bus get your blanky blank off the bus, get in there, get your bags, find your bags, get them lined up, let's go. That was a reception. We get in the barracks, get lined up, and then probably four o'clock the next morning we get out there and just started the barrage of administrative and I remember-- But that wasn't difficult it was a little it was a shock but it wasn't difficult. None of the things they were asking us to do were difficult. Probably the most difficult was read your book. If you're in line read your book. If you're not in line read your book. This is the stuff that you're gonna have to do in basic training. The only way we can get you prepared the most prepared we can get you is to read this book. Get all through that. Do our physical fitness test. Pass that, I remember running well that was a good thing. All right time to go to basic training. Show up all right get in the cattle car you got your bags. You got a bag on the front, a bag on the back of you, they close that door, and they start driving away. And this drill sergeant lost his mind just screaming, screaming, screaming. Singing the national anthem. So you're in, you know, here's the edge 00:22:00of the cattle car and I've got a bag--a duffel bag--here and duffel bag on the back and he is walking around on the backs of all of our duffel bags yelling and screaming at us. And no matter how loud we say the star-spangled banner it's not close to as loud as he's ever heard it, so. And I think-- As we think back we know that trip wasn't that long and we think they made them drive around a couple more times, but we're not sure. So get out of that. Get out of the cattle car. Go over to the gym and then now we have to do inventory of all of our of gear. So privates hold up your-- You got this guy on a platform on a table. Hold up your canteen. You don't know where your canteen is you just have a pile of this equipment that you've never seen before laying down on the ground. Get your canteen. If you don't do in 30 seconds everybody's got to do push-ups for what seems like an eternity and when you get back you still don't know where all the canteens are so you gotta find the canteens again and go through this whole process of listen to me. That's really all it is but you know as a 17 year old I didn't know that. I was just shocked to my system.
JH: At what point in time did system receive your military occupationalspecialty and did you have advanced training at camp?
CB: So I went through the Army's combat arms. They trained basic training andAIT--advanced individual training--together meaning that you stay with the same people and you just it's like a continuation of basic where you stop the basic and you go to the advanced. Drill sergeants are the same everything is just moving on as an engineer. So I didn't do it with my original group I came back the next summer of 2002 in August and September graduated October 4th. So I was 00:24:00a 12 bravo--combat engineer--and yeah it was awarded that in October.
JH: What did that mean in terms of day-to-day state-side duties with the Guard?What would you be expected to do?
CB: My role was-- I'd say fifty percent just combat arms soldier. Whether it wasattack and defend, clearing buildings, and then as a combat engineer my specialty was using explosives to clear the way. Whether it was clearing mines-- I mean in AIT we we learned how to clear mines by hand, physically put them in and take them out. Spent time doing that using a MICLIC rocket--a rocket charge that goes out with c4--and that clears a way. Driving vehicles, although we didn't do too much of that. Rock marching, road marching, going through patrols, learning how to operate as a small unit. So day-to-day stuff was at drill was taking care of our vehicles, going out into the field, we did a fair amount of land navigation, fair amount with-- Excuse me. Clearing the way of whatever obstacles were there. One drill we had we were set to do some training at Ravenna--Ravenna Arsenal--up in the northeast and I don't know it had been a tornado or a near tornado. They said hey you're engineers, you're all about route clearance there are a ton of trees blown across this entire post we need you to go clear the routes. And it's not explosive but it's there's just as much those vehicles can't go through we need them to. And that was great. We just drove around Ravenna. We cut up trees, we moved them out of the way, and we did that for our drill weekend. It was fun just felt like you really got to do your job. 00:26:00
JH: So what was happening in your life after boot camp? Can you kind of describethe balance between starting college and you have your-- You've got your assignment. You're with the Guard. Where are you drilling out of? What is college like? How does that all fit together because that first period in you life?
CB: So that first period was-- I was at Ohio State AT In Wooster and my unit wasin Wooster. It was alpha company,112th Engineer Battalion right there by the fairground, Wayne County fairgrounds. And so it was in that sense it was easy. Yeah, it was close. I kind of got--
JH: What year did you start?
CB: 2001, yep, and so so 9/11 happened the 11th and I reported for college onthe 19th. So I'll kind of come back to that. So college in and of itself was it's kind of easy. I got on the dean's list the first quarter. It wasn't-- The classes I was taking were not difficult. I think I just had to buckle in. Just figure out study habits and that was kind of it. My roommate was from one of my best friends from high school anyway. So that was cool and yeah that was kind of neat. We'd go to drill on the weekends. Didn't really know what was going on at drill for the first couple months and just kind of ho-hum. I was figuring it out. So 9/11 happened before between coming back from basic training and going to college. And I think I had a drill, yes, I had a drill weekend in there and that was-- It was interesting. I remember the my team leader he called and said, "hey I'm not calling you up. I'm not telling you we're going somewhere, but I'm telling you you need to have your bags packed and I just need to get positive 00:28:00comms with you--confirmation--that you saw what happened today. And that the whole guard is on alert."
JH: Where were you when you first heard that something unusual was going on?
CB: I had a buddy who came and stayed with me and since I had just been recentlyback from basic training and I was going off to college. So he came and stayed and we were just I think playing video games and driving around. And we were in the basement playing video games. My mom said, "hey you need to come upstairs. You need to watch this." So I watched for a little bit and I remember thinking man this is bad. The first plane had hit but I think I even vocalized-- Well didn't a bomb go off in the World Trade Center before? And I know this is bad but it's probably not that it's probably not that bad. Second plane hit, towers come down. Oh, okay, and mom called me back upstairs she's like you need to stop what you're doing. You need to watch this. This is going to have implications for your life and just as much-- Funny that day just as much I remember my my buddy's aunt passed away that same day and he was upset about that. So that day is kind of a funny thing and then the the last piece that's important for my family is that my dad was part of the pastor association for Knox County. They had a pre-planned prayer walk on Knox County square. And if you've ever been to Mount Vernon there's a square there, it's fairly picturesque, and it's well known for it. So that prayer breakfast, prayer walk, or meeting turned into mostly I think praying for the implications that many of the people there knew that were going to come from the events of that morning.
JH: When did you first get the sense that maybe your Guard duty and service00:30:00would be pretty impacted by?
CB: Yeah, I think the first part was to make a little extra money. So we had torun-- We had to have somebody at the unit 24/7. So I said well this is easy I can do night shifts. Pick up a little money. One of us would be on, one of us would be off, and then just you know go back to school the next day. Yeah, I probably didn't do as well in class those next days. I did it all right overall GPA wise but I think that was probably the first warning that there's going to be more than one week in a month, two weeks in the summer to this. So I go to Advanced Individual Training. I come back I'm an engineer soldier trained, ready to deploy worldwide, not wanting to at all. I want to finish college. During the first year I met a girl--Corrine--and that summer before I left for AIT we got engaged and so she's now my wife of 12 years.
JH: You met her through the service?
CB: I did not, I met her at college, yep, and through an economics class, Dr.Mann's economics class. So we were engaged and I didn't want to go anywhere. All I wanted to do was finish school and be with her. Figure out when we were going to get married. So I want to say it was either November or December, I remember or either our commander or our company xo gave us a briefing. He said, "hey we've got an alert order," which we didn't know what that was yet. This was November of 02--November/December--"we might have to mobilize and if we do it 00:32:00will be in the states. It doesn't look like we'd have to go overseas, but I'm telling you guys I don't think this is going to happen." But okay it'd be really bad. I don't really want to do that but, okay. January 3rd, I was moving back in as an RA [resident assistant] back in the dorms. Hey we're deploying and my team leader messed with me. He's like yeah we're going to Iraq. And I was-- I remember stopping like, "what?" He's like "no, we're not going Iraq but we are deploying to Wright Patterson Air Force Base for a year." So I did my fall quarter of my sophomore year and on my parents anniversary--January 29th--got immobilized and then I want to say it was February 1st--whichever day the challenger exploded--was the day that I went down on my mobilization. So we were wondering if that was an omen for things to come. Didn't, you know, not obviously it wasn't connected but it was a solemn day. One of my buddies was AWOL [absent without leave] that morning. He had drank too much the night before and didn't report on time. He was one of my good buddies too. Like oh come on where are you at man? Come on we gotta go. We gotta-- We're going just get on the plane or get on the bus. And I dropped my cell phone. We couldn't find it and then when we did it wasn't working. I couldn't contact my fianc. It was just a bad morning. So we go down to Fort Knox. We're there, we get things figured out, and then we get stationed at Wright Patterson. So that was a kind of a quick 60 day thing where I'm a college student and now I'm deployed. And 00:34:00everybody kept saying well they might send you overseas. They might send you overseas and we knew by the time we got to Wright Patterson the Air Force Security Forces were waiting for us. They said we've sent half--maybe not half--but a lot of our force overseas to open up Air Force bases in advance of operation Iraqi Freedom and I think Operation Enduring Freedom at that time. And we don't have enough people to guard the base. They'd been running 12 hours three days on three days off for I think, since 9/11. They were just smoked. They were happy to have us. Happy that we were from Ohio and it was a good mission. It's a good mission for us.
JH: What was the relationship like between the Army National Guard and the AirForce, and maybe the Air Guard on base?
CB: Yep, it wasn't an Air Guard it was straight activity duty Air Force. It wasgood. So I'll describe it two ways. The people coming through the gate they really liked us. They could tell we were dressed differently, obviously. Actually just in headgear because we were all in the same uniform just Army Air Force couple patch differences. They liked us because we had a different view. We were-- It wasn't our end-all be-all like. Hey I'm just here for a year you know I'm going back home, my family's home. Where the Air Force they because of their more professional mentality and the fact that it was their permanent job would-- I think we found that the the Army Guard guys had a little bit more compassion. And whether that meant we tried harder to make things work for families. Sometimes I think that was or other people in situations. I don't know. That's probably just my 19 year old perception as well, but we did hear 00:36:00that from people. Our view on the ground soldier to soldier enlisted soldier to enlisted soldier was great. There's no difference. Hey, we're on the gate running things. I think I probably had a lack of professionalism and struggled a little bit with some of the Air Force sergeants and had a run in with with one or two of them, but I probably wasn't following the rules like I needed to as well. 19 year old just trying to figure out a lot of things. Trying to plan a wedding and so that was a little bit of a struggle. It was a good relationship though.
JH: What was it like being on active duty now deployed, but kind oftantalizingly maybe close to home yet you're not a civilian in the Guard anymore you're active duty? What was that like for you and for your fianc, your family? I think you kind of said it right. It was almost at times unfairly dangled in being so close to home. If fair isn't a factor per se but you know we would on most cases I would be six on three off that was my schedule. So or I'd work five days a week and then have the weekends off. So we'd go home a lot. We go, you know, back to Mount Vernon. I'd go visit Corinne in Wooster. I'd go hang out with friends, do different things. So it wasn't in that case it wasn't that bad, but you're always kind of oh man, you know, when is this going to end. We found out that they were going to allow us to leave after one year. So I did that with a handful of other guys but I'd say 75 percent of the unit stayed for a second year voluntarily, and it was good money. It was active duty money, you 00:38:00know. Hey you got to spend a while away from your family per week, but still serving your country. Still doing security and some guys lived close enough or sometimes they could go home, maybe not every day. And we had a hotel room but it worked out.
JH: How did your-- I guess how did you present your deployment to college? Howdid they handle that? What kind of plans have you made for you and Corinne at that point? Did Ohio State kind of have a plan for veterans or for service men and women at that point?
CB: Yeah, they did. They knew what to do. It was fairly lockstep. It wasn't abig deal so I kind of had to go through-- I remember going through the thing where I got this bill but it was just the Guard and Ohio State having to work out the money going back. It was fairly seamless. I was-- It was a small school and I was an RA so I knew a lot of people and I had direct access I've found--thank the lord--at all the schools I've gone to they've been small and I just walk up right up to the person in financial aid that deals with the veteran stuff and I'm good. So I just deal with all of my financial aid right there. So that was fairly easy. Now I took two courses while I was down at Wright Patterson so that, you know, I should have taken more in hindsight but that propelled me to be able to not be backed up an entire year.
JH: So you took those online?
CB: No, I took them-- I took one at Wright State and one at Park University onWright Patterson.
JH: What was day-to-day like at Wright Patterson during your mobilization?
CB: We'd have guard mount at 5:30. Come in get our weapons about an hour before00:40:00the current shift was done. So guard mount would be formation. We'd usually get an in-range inspection sergeant look us over make sure we were good to go. Nobody was too sick or anything like that and then we'd have our post. Okay, I'm at this gate go there. So then depending on your assignment you need to go to the gate for the whole day or you go to the gate for the rush hour and then you'd be kind of a roaming patrol at that point. At Wright Patterson we had NAOC, [National AirborneOperationsCenter] which is for lack of better term it's an air operations center. It's just a few bases around the country where it would come and l and refuel, but one-- The bird is basically always up in the air. So if you had that duty and the bird wasn't coming that day you're free to go. That was the best. So that was kind of cool but if it was there you would literally have to sit in a truck on or near the runway for the whole shift. Making sure you didn't fall asleep so that was difficult. Woring the gates in the mornings was rush hour crazy. Coming off of 675 and area B at Wright Patterson was okay I see your sticker go, I see your sticker go, I see your sticker go. Those are the good days. The bad days were you had to check everybody's ID to make sure it was good and that gate I feel like did five digit traffic, that amount of cars come in per day. And it felt like it that's for sure.
JH: What was that culture on base like?
CB: Wright Patterson is, yeah, definitely referred to as a civilian run base.With the four star command there it's-- There's a lot of military but it's not a 00:42:00base that's run by an airframe. That's not the-- At least that was from from our perspective. So a lot of intelligence, a lot of research things going on there at the Air Force Institute of Technology, and everything like that. So it didn't always feel like a military first base. That's not a negative statement at all just most of the people coming through were civilian or higher ranking and so they were just off to their offices or their research lab and conducting duties. We were there and we were the sentries.
JH: What were your relationships with other service men and women in the Guardlike during the deployment.
CB: They're good. I had my group of guys and we would hang during the off hours.And let's see, Mike and Ollie work a lot of nights. So they were-- So I would hang out with them in the afternoons and usually they'd be waking up by the time I was done with working the morning shift and early afternoon. I think joe was on the-- Yeah, joe was on the same shift as me and Chris was nights as well. So I-- And some some nights they didn't have to work and so we'd be hanging out doing stuff. And then other days we'd get back and we're like yep we're plugging into a router and we're playing halo for hours. We all had our own room in the hotel and we just hook up and just hang out.
JH: So you lived in the [indiscernible]?
CB: Yep, we lived in the basic officer quarters the BOQs and it was cool. You00:44:00had maid service came in and took care of you and they really treated us-- Especially from an Army enlisted perspective like officers like kings it was really nice. You just had to make sure you could eat and you're good to go.
JH: Can you describe a little bit your overall mission in support of what ishappening at Wright Patterson in support of the overall U.S. strategy in Iraq at that [indiscernible]?
CB: Yeah, Operation Noble Eagle took Guardsmen from every State, Territory, andDistrict of Columbia and put them on the gates at these air bases. So it was systemic that the Air Force through all three of its components Active, Guard, and Reserve didn't have enough to have bases here and overseas, and have people guard them. So hey let's use Guardsmen from the State. Stand up some headquarters units as well to provide comm and control over these units. And that's the kind of overall strategy-wise DOD that's the intent without reading the mission statement in front of me. And being a private who didn't care too much about it but started to and then eventually paid more attention to it as he became an officer. So that was-- Yeah, that was kind of the the overall there. So when we did our training the Army trained us at first and then when they turned us over to the Air Force Security Forces and they said all right we need to undo what they taught you and we're going to redo it. This is the way we do it at Wright Patterson. That's the way we do in the Air Force. So we said at first we okay but then once we went into it and it was about three days and we went home for I want to say President's Day weekend we came back. Okay, here we 00:46:00go. Here's your Air Force partner and he kind of mentored one, two, three, guys and then, you know, one to two weeks we were-- We didn't need an Air Force guy or off on our own. Two army guys on the gate.
JH: What memories do you have from the end of your deployment at WrightPatterson? How I know we've asked this for folks who are overseas who were maybe like well then we went to Kuwait and then we went home. But what is it like when you're standing down and doing like post-mobilization, and still in Ohio?
CB:Yeah, yep, yeah, so we mobilized and demobilized out of Fort Knox, Kentuckyand so I remember the last Guard shift it was just like it was just kind of it. Was like well it's the last one I guess I'll see you guys either I'll see you guys down Fort Knox or I'll see you in in a year when you get back from Wright Patterson, for the rest of you. I'm not staying here. I'm going back to college. I'm getting on with my life. That's all I really wanted to do.
JH: Was that a choice put before in some way?
CB: Oh yes, yes, so probably October and then in December I think somewherearound December 15th or 17th was my last guard shift and you know a couple-- Thanked some of the Air Force guys from some of the army guys and I want to say we all had to go back to Wooster, park our cars or get dropped off there, and then we took a bus back to Fort Knox to do the demobilization. So I remember Sergeant Haven being with Sergeant Haven and some guys went out we had a weekend in between the demobilization training where--. I'm gonna be a little facetious. Okay, don't beat your wife when you go back. Don't you know all the stuff that 00:48:00the Army had seen. So we were kind of-- We were a little like okay, hey, I saw my wife every week I don't need this, but whatever it takes to go home I'll do it. So do that, you know, alcohol counseling all those things to get out the medical. Make sure we don't let you go off of active duty with major medical bills that the Guard is gonna have to pay. We had a weekend and I stayed back in the barracks as CQ [Charge of Quarters]. I didn't drink alcohol so I said you guys go ahead. Go have a good time. I'll stay back. I'm just going to read. I get woke up by Sergeant Haven. Hey, look at the tv. They caught Saddam at the end of this. Yeah, really interesting and I don't really remember anything else besides that. So that was it. Get back home. My wife and I had our apartment and I started school three weeks later.
JH: Can you say a little bit more about what your transition was like? I'm sureyou're been in active duty life and then suddenly you're a full-time student again. There both in the same state but different roles.
CB: Yeah, yeah, because I was able to see everybody it wasn't too bad, but Iremember probably a couple distinct things. So one now is the first time I'm living with my wife every day. So that was new just kind of figuring out what that looks like and yeah I don't cook very well. Oh you know, how are we going to have things set up and it was almost kind of went from a novelty to real life with all of its goodness and struggles too. So it wasn't bad. It was just hey this is new. The student thing I think probably the biggest thing was my friends had left because it was a two-year school. So I had some buddies there still but 00:50:00that was a little bit more difficult. So I had to make new friends or became better friends with with some other people and had a good group there the second year as well. But missed the, you know, the second year students--the sophomores--from my first year. They were all gone. Things like that. So that was different. And I also decided to change my major too. I knew I was going to not do construction long term and change it to business. So I changed to agricultural commerce with the construction management specialization. So basically I took one more construction class and then focused on business and in business management. And that was a good choice.
JH: What was on the horizon for you at that moment in time?
CB: I was going to get out of the Guard after six years. I was and then I wantedto do one year at OSUATI and finish and then go on to a four-year school a year after. So I wanted to be in a four-year school in January of 05.
JH: Did it work out that way?
CB: It did. So I ended up looking at Bowling Green State University, Mount UnionCollege--I think still at that point--and Mount Vernon Nazarene University and I ended up going to Mount Vernon Nazarene. Got picked up for a minority transfer scholarship there.
JH: [Indiscernible] How did that sync up with what was happening in your Guard career?
CB: Let me think.
JH: This is January of 05 so you started out with you first semester at MountVernon Nazarene.
CB: Late in 03 still at Wright Patterson. My sergeant--Sergeant Eaton--came tome and he said I'm going to recommend you for- to not be promoted in the next 00:52:00year. I think you need another year. And he was right and it had a major impact on me. And I decided that was never going to happen to me again, never. I was not going to be left back behind my peers and I thought I was smarter than some of the guys that were sergeants. Most specialists do. And I said I'm gonna change things when I get home. I'm gonna-- I want to be a sergeant and more so I don't want him to be a sergeant and me not be. I mean that guy--. I'm smarter than him, at least in some ways. Or maybe we're going to do it together was probably the biggest thought. And so I made a change. I decided to do a little bit more extra duties. Volunteered for things. Ended up going on a state active duty to southeastern Ohio in September of 04 to clean up for-- I'm not sure which which hurricane dumped a bunch of water in southeastern Ohio that year. And the evaluation came around the next year I was number five in the state and got promoted. I want to say two months later to sergeant. So at that point I think I had probably decided well yeah I'm probably going to stay in. I'm probably going to at least do a little bit more. We'll see what the sergeant thing shakes out to be. At some point I had two friends Andy and Tom. Tom was the lieutenant governor of Buckeye Boys State the year that we went and Andy was a Boy State counselor. So also during this time I never left Boys State. I became a counselor and then a commissioner on the board of trustees. Commissioner and eventually now on the board of trustees where I am. And that 00:54:00shaped my military career because I started to see other people that were in the military but ahead of me in terms of being sergeants or officers or they were in ROTC, different things like that. I think we had a Naval Academy midshipmen as well. So Tom went to Norwich University and he was an Army ROTC and Andy was two years behind me and he went to Bowling Green Army ROTC. So tom said you need to become an officer. If I can do it you can do it. We both went to this prestigious Boys State and you're going to be a sergeant anyway why don't you just do it. Andy said I'm two years behind you if you don't become an officer now I'm gonna outrank you in two years. That really grated me and so I think I respond, you know, I've got the peer pressure thing which normally leads to like doing something stupid physically. Like going out to run and you know I think it's level-headed enough but continuing these times became things that I couldn't get out of my head. That again I kind of come back to that's probably God's way to tell me that's what I was meant to do in the first place and to theories of motivation. That's kind of the way I do things best. Well if you're doing it I can do that. Yeah, let's go do that and this could be fun. This could be a good time. I could be good at it. So that kind of comes back to fall of 2005. I decided to join the Capitol University Army ROTC program while I was at Mount Vernon Nazareth.
JH: How did that partnership work?
CB: Real funny because no other student from Mount Vernon Nazarene was doing it.I called the recruiting officer. I talked to buddies. I had sat down with the Bowling Green Army ROTC and I just kind of came to, hey, my name is Sergeant 00:56:00Ballard. I'm in the Guard. I can tell you right now that I won't be any type of all-star but I will commission as an officer in the Guard. I'll meet the requirements and you won't have any problems with me disciplinary wise. I can't be at everything because I live an hour away. I have a wife and I'm heavily involved in newspaper and drama in Mount Vernon Nazarene but I can meet your minimum requirements. I could become a lieutenant and I'm trustworthy faith-based man. So.
JH: Is it common that commissioning as an officer works through an ROTC program.
CB: It's common. More... Best described by the majority of officers come fromROTC, Guard, active Guard, and Reserve. The majority come there's-- When I went through ROTC there was 300 something programs between the programs and satellite schools I think. So that's, yeah, that's where the majority. And then the rest will come-- I want to say West Point, OCS, and then direct commission.
JH: So how did that work in to the rest of what you had going on in your life atthat point in time?
CB: It was a little crazy. I still had drill and I was serving in a cadet statusduring this time we went down. I was in college Mount Vernon Nazarene. Was a communications and then drama major. And went down-- see hurricane Katrina hit. I was in student government. I remember telling the student body president hey this is bad and I'm gonna have to go probably and if they ask me if I want to I'm out of here. I'm going in a heartbeat. I want to. There's people who need help. I want to go. This is what I want to do. I do that I can definitely say I joined the Guard to help Ohioans and be part of something bigger in my state. So Louisiana was no different. 00:58:00
JH: What was that time like?
CB: It was great. It was the best. Calling everything in deployment it was thebest experience. I was a cadet and I hadn't contracted yet but I was going to the ROTC program so they treated me like a cadet. The operations officer-- We were on the plane. I remember we all had our rifles. We're on a contracted plane and he walks by I didn't know we had cadets. Tell me about yourself--this is Major Jardina--and I said okay sir da, da, da, da, da. I'm a com major. We might use you in the in the operations shop. I don't think they're going to need you in your unit. So I said, it "roger sir, whatever you say, okay." This might be fun. So I ended up I did one day with my unit. We handed out food, water, and ice. The line was as far as the eye can see at zero eight--eight o'clock in the morning--and when we stopped at 1700--at five o'clock--it was still as far as the eye can see. We just had to stop. They would drive in give a bag of food, water, ice, a box of MREs [meal, ready-to-eat] for food, a case of bottled water, a bag of ice. Next one, go ahead over and over and over. And they said hey cadet Ballard why don't you go to the emergency operations center. We need to be the liaison for the operation that we've got going on. So we have these we call pods of handing out food, water, and ice across the parish. And so I sat in the emergency operations center and then I was the contact for all the other organizations that were operating --there was over 30 of them--were also contacts there. They also sent their contacts there so Red Cross, there's other National Guard battalions, the Coast Guard, the sheriff's office, EMT. They're 01:00:00all there. Somebody would say hey we got a real bad need over in this township. So I'd make a call. Sir, need the authorization, okay, I got the authorization. Called battle captain, hey sir, we need to do this and that and so I just made a report of all the... What all the other organizations were doing. So I just figured that's what I was supposed to do. I come back I gave it to my operations officer he says, "Ballard this is great I want you to bring it to the battalion commander today." I said roger sir and I turned around and had a small panic attack because I never briefed anybody besides maybe telling my commander what I, yeah something, which was nervous enough. And so I did and he told me to keep doing it and by the end of it I remember I was going home the next day. Ohio said anybody who's in college we're pulling you out after two weeks. Gonna send you back home, which is a little bit of a riff because everybody else didn't know when they were going to be able to go home. But I said okay. So I walk in and I give my briefing and then they stand up and they say attention orders and they publish an army achievement medal for me because I had done over and above. It's the first time something like that had ever happened and I was beside myself. And it was that point I kind of knew hey this whole processing information, writing, orders for the military style, I think I can do this, and once I did that ROTC was really not difficult. It was new. There was challenges. I had to toughen up a little bit more and learn the army's leadership style but difficult probably wasn't the word it.
JH: It sounds like the experience down in Louisiana really locked something infor you and also brought together what you were currently doing in college with your military career in a way so. Did that change anything about what you were 01:02:00expecting or aiming for going forward? In terms of the trainings you were seeking or the opportunities or assignments you were thinking of?
CB: Maybe in the sense that the Army became something that I knew I could be aleader in. I think it-- Serving at the battalion headquarters level exposed me properly and positively to the officer side of the Army and I needed to see that and I saw it firsthand in action. And I saw that all these guys up top and guys and girls up top that were making these orders were very human. It was a collection of their experiences that led them to where they were and that they were the best and brightest that we had to offer. My battalion commander was a chemist. The XO and operations officer they were all ranger tabbed and they were all running around together and making decisions. And I just, I saw the decisions being made. Well there's no real good-- I'm gonna pick that one and it was okay. This is how this is done it's not eight ball. It's not wizardry. It's not genius per se. It's the Army operating the way the Army operates, yeah.
JH: Where did your college degree and various service take you after your training?
CB: Yep, I finished both my degree in drama at Mount Vernon Nazarene andfinished ROTC. So drama-- I was a comm major until early senior year. I said hey 01:04:00I think I want to pursue drama later. I never did. I got accepted to grad school for it and also got orders to go to Egypt. So I didn't I didn't end up going to grad school for that. But I served in plays. I acted. I was tech director was my main focus especially senior year. I kind of had-- I was able somehow to both be an artist especially on the acting side and then corral it on the technical side with my carpentry experience. And at times it was a little rough because I was learning the Army way of leadership and it didn't always mesh with the artist's way of of leadership. I think I was blessed enough to be at a Christian university that showed me that there's a difference and that it's not so much that there's a difference that they just had to mesh. That using gruff words or being demanding wasn't always the right way to do things. A lot of my army experience had been male only as well. So that was, it was different. I had to learn and adjust. I look back and I'm like man I could have handled those situations differently at some points. And the flip side there was nobody--or few other people--who had the time to go through and be organized. So it was a good fit. I did the newspaper as well. I was the sports editor, co-managing editor my senior year loved it. Wrote many many different things. Some for pure enjoyment and some probably more provocative. I wrote a few things on race that was-- They challenged the campus. As my old multicultural affairs director would say they challenged the campus. He would get phone calls sometimes. Hey, what is--Why is he writing this. What does this mean. It means he's figured himself 01:06:00out as a person as a not teenager anymore. And I was older than most students by just a couple years in my grade. So I had seen just a little bit more. That maybe know that--what we called the bubble at Mount Vernon Nazarene--which was just we didn't have very much experience yet. Didn't always lend to reality.
JH: How many more years did you have there after you got back from Louisiana?
CB: 18 months, yeah.
JH: So you graduated?
CB: May of 07.
JH: How soon did you get your orders?
CB: I got my Egypt orders in February of 08. So I-- During that time in betweenI'm commissioned as an intelligence officer. Made the decision to not pursue that and go back to the engineers and become an engineer officer. That was a scary phone call. I called my boss and said, "sir, I need to ask you for a release so I can go back and be a combat arms officer. I want to be closer to the ground and not do intelligence. And maybe I'll come back to it later." He said I did that once in my career or I made a similar decision. I'm going to grant it and just so you know you reap what you sow. And so we'll see you somewhere soon I'm sure. He was absolutely right, but I wanted it. And he didn't preface it in a way that meant that I didn't want it. He just knew what I was asking because he had done it. So I went to engineer school basic officer leader course for the corps of engineers. While there my commander said "hey, I need you to be on this phone call we're getting deployed." And I remember telling my 01:08:00intramural basketball team there--you know, we're all lieutenants playing against active duty and anybody else other classes of the same type--I'm like hey guys I'm going to be late I got this phone call. I'm going. I'm deploying. I don't know where. They're like we're going to Egypt? I'm prepared for Iraq. Everybody's going to Iraq out of my class. Literally we-- I graduated Bullock in April of 07. During the surge where general Petraeus putting accelerating everybody's deployment timeline so that we can get more people into Iraq.
JH: Where were you for basic officer training?
CB: Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, yep. So all of all of my professional militarytraining has been there with the exception of about seven weeks at Fort Sill. My first school as a lieutenant Fort Sill, Oklahoma.
JH: So you were fully prepared?
CB: Oh yeah, I was ready. Yup, I was ready to go. I wanted to do it. My wifeknew I was going to volunteer. We kind of had a plan. "Just volunteer to go," she said, "it's on your heart, you want to do it. Just get it out of the way and then just come back so we can start life after that." That was her desire.
JH: When you say you volunteered to go by yourself and be assigned where needed?
CB: Correct, yep, volunteer in a, with an Ohio Guard unit is very common at thatpoint and go wherever needed.
JH: What was kind of in your heart at that moment in terms of the politicalsituation? The U.S. involvement during the surge? What led you to want to go overseas and serve there instead of state side?
CB: I think a little bit is I had done the stateside thing and I understoodthat. I had an idea of what it was like to carry a weapon continually for a 01:10:00while. And though, you know, I got to put my weapon down at the end of the day and go back to my hotel room, you know, I still had a very real real mission of guarding Wright Patterson. That has a lot of intelligence and top secret level stuff there. I say stuff because I have no idea what it is. I think it was just the collective. I think a lot of service members get into my brothers were going. I wasn't staying home. There was no way I was going to stay home. Did I really want to go fight? Look for roadside bombs like most engineers did? No, no, not any more than they did but part of that and part of the other part was probably just our profession. I didn't want to be the guy who didn't go anywhere. There's a sense of adventure as well too in the sense that hey if they found weapons of mass destruction and they're attacking us and people are coming from all over the world. There's this idea that we fight them there instead of here. I don't know that's good or bad but it's true in some sense. We know that people come from over the world, you know, in different parts of the world to fight there and that's one or two less that then are sitting at my doorstep, my wife's doorstep. None of those ideas in and of themselves drove me to want to volunteer but collectively.
JH: So you're on this phone call and Egypt--
JH: What's going on in your head?
CB: I think it took about 10 seconds for me to be sad about Iraq. That came up acouple of other times too. I just figured well I'll go at some other time too. But my unit's going-- Oh first off, my commander said we are not on the chopping 01:12:00block to go. We're not on the list but many of our soldiers may have to go because there's not enough soldiers in the battalion because one of our units--Alpha Company--had just gotten back from Kosovo with the 148th Infantry and then switched over to be a part of the 145 Armored First Battalion--145 Armor out of Stowe. So they couldn't go. So they knew from HHC [Headquarters and Headquarters Company] Bravo, Charlie, Delta, and Echo we had to fill in this 400 plus soldiers that were going to go. So the first Echo Company which I was with wasn't going. He said they made take some volunteers. I said, "I volunteer. I want to go." So I was set. They put me in Charlie Company. I was going to have a platoon there. I communicated with the commander. Hey sir, I'm at Bullock but I'll be home soon and I can't wait to get to drill and lead my platoon. Just be there. Meet the guys. Meet all these tankers that I'm gonna be in charge of. I'm an engineer. I can't wait to catch some flack for that. I communicated with them and then a month later Echo Company's going. Ballard you're back with Echo. You're with your Wooster guys. So that now meant I'm going overseas and leading some of the soldiers I was enlisted with and that was new. That was different. It wasn't a big deal but it was a little bit. One of my buddies that I referred to earlier was now one of my soldiers and he wasn't a sergeant. He was a junior enlisted soldier and you know it wasn't a big deal. I spoke with them frankly. Okay, I'm not gonna act like I don't know you. We just have to know that if I, if we, come to the time where I make a decision and I'm not talking about it anymore. Then that's what we got to do and that way it's just heavily on my heart that I'm gonna ask you to do that as it should. That I'm an officer and 01:14:00you've gotta listen. So you know don't-- Let's not mistake it from either direction. And you know I did have an NCO say hey you know some of us wondered whether you should have been in charge. Come back to a unit that you were enlisted in. But the slot was open and I didn't see anybody else volunteering for it and I think that was just a fad of hey this is kind of difficult in the first place.
JH: So we spoke on the phone a while back and you called Egypt a multinationalforce observers mission. So what was the mission? Why were you all going over there and what were you doing?
CB: So all of the Arab-Israeli wars led to the Camp David Accords and theycreated what is now known as MFO, Multinational Force Observers. So it's best described as a UN-like organization that only has one mission and that's to keep peace between Egypt and Israel. The Sinai Peninsula is set up in four zones. First three zones are in Egypt, Sinai, and the fourth zone is in Israel, just their part of the border. There are certain restrictions for all four zones on what type of military forces can be present in each. And then there's the peacekeepers, the Multinational Force Observers. So we were there with there's two other infantry battalions one from Colombia and one from Fiji and then a lot of enablers. So the Uruguayans were the truck drivers. They would bring us our potable water to a lot of the sites. They would bring the food. Whatever it was that we had to bring they would bring it out. Besides our first sergeant and some of our platoon sergeants bringing some supplies out in pickup trucks. We 01:16:00would be out on outposts--squad outposts--and our job was to observe and report. It's just like the Paul Blart mall cop. Observing report movies. That's exactly what we did. We were on rotations. You get up a normal day was you get up and on for your shift eight to ten maybe 12 hours. You'd be in the tower or you'd be the roving patrol or you'd be, well the sergeant would be in the command post. The company had a sector control center that controlled all of our companies but it was 50, I would say even 80 miles away from the farthest post. And we were stationed strategically to be able to view Egypt and Israel's land, sea, and air movements. To include an island that was a part of Saudi Arabia in the middle of the Red Sea where one of our squads lived for 21 days, 20, 18, 21. Sometimes four weeks.
JH: So what were relationships like between service mean and women between theMultinational Forces who were all together in this moment?
CB: They were really good. It was-- We're all there, especially the groundforces. The Italian Navy, we didn't see very much of them, they had a separate base. So we saw them sometimes but everybody else we had a relationship with. I made friends with the Fijian lieutenant--also an engineer--and we did a trade. He gave me a--I call it a Fijian man skirt--and I gave him a set of Army 01:18:00physical fitness uniforms from the U.S. Army. And that was his custom to do a trade of some sort. And I played touch rugby with them. That I remember that being one of the highlights of the deployment. I wasn't playing regularly with them, rugby. They were big men. All muscular and really knew how to get the most out of their physical fitness programs. But when it came to touch rugby it was a lot like football so I was good to go. And they were-- Some of them played basketball with us, which Americans were generally better at cuz I think they played a lot of rugby and that was cool. We did things. You know the Australians, New Zealanders were there and so obviously had a lot in common with them in terms of culture. But it was almost more fun getting to know cultures that they weren't that you know of which they weren't. I had taken-- We had the Puerto Rico National Guard there as well. So I made some friends there. So they're kind of unique. Where they're U.S. Army but they're not of your culture and so I practiced a little bit of my Spanish that I learned in high school and that was kind of fun. So it was a it was a good time. There was rarely a day that something was frustrating because somebody was from a different culture. It was-- We were all there to achieve the mission.
JH: What was your communication with your wife and your family back home likeduring this deployment?
CB: It was good. Skype was great. So I had the ability from my room to talk tomy wife most any day and we just would use Skype and I'd either see her face or I call her phone. It took me a while to process that she wasn't always 01:20:00available. That she had a life of her own. That sometimes led to her not being able to pick up the phone. That was frustrating for me and I kind of told myself a lie that hey, I only have one or two hours a day where I'm even available, you know. You need to be there. Yeah I left her. I willingly left her to go serve my country which is a noble cause and I'm still not there and I needed to be more understanding. So that was a little difficult to get used to, but we talked, you know. If we went three days without talking it was abnormal unless I had a mission that took me out of the area, but-- Excuse me. But that was very abnormal even from the island. And actually that was perfect internet because nobody was on it. There was only, you know, less than a platoon out there.
JH: Are there any particularly formative experiences you had during yourdeployment in Egypt that you'd like to share about? Are there any stories or friendships, duties that stood out to you you that you still remember?
CB: There's a few things. My relationship with my platoon sergeant started outrocky and got very good and I truly believe we were one of the most effective platoons in our battalion. We had each other's backs. I believe were both had a propensity to spout off at the mouth of something that we believed. But once we learned to trust each other there was really very little that we we weren't able 01:22:00to do and couldn't do, and couldn't do better than the other units. He shared the same competitive fire. He's like I don't just want to do it I want to beat him. So that was always cool. [I had a] Good relationship with another lieutenant. I was in his wedding, James. And we talked I think right around his wedding time a couple years ago that though we are both serving in logistics units now our formation came as officers from serving in an armored battalion with armor and infantry officers that did things by--It's not did things by the book--but did things by a checklist and taught us this is the way that we do things in our profession. And if you don't have a checklist then how do you know that you're doing it the right way. Because you did it that way before because somebody taught it to you and nobody told you that you failed. That's not that's not quite it. If we're gonna do it right, we're gonna know that we did it right. My trips to Israel I love to speak about because they were very formative. I enjoyed-- One was a battlefields tour and the second one was a religious tour, I've got this flopped. And just to I got tired of the desert climate quick and agriculture was difficult to acclimatize to somewhat. I think if I lived in it not on a base enclosed by it and then having the the red sea right outside our back on our back porch--right off of it--then it would have been a little bit more, it would have been a little bit easier. But to go to Israel you know somebody I heard said explain it as a 51st state. That's so very true. I felt like I was back in America. Everybody spoke english--it was accented--and yeah 01:24:00you had a little bit of a sense of hey this is real because there's lots of people with weapons you know the conscription. We would be out getting a bite to eat in the evening, sitting down at a restaurant. You just see other, you know, you see Israelis that are dressed somewhat like you because it's a fairly western culture. You've got an M1 rifle and that's different. Oh, oh, you're currently serving in the military, okay. And so then it was normal and then it was a sense of security and that was kind of nice.
JH: What was your transition back home like? What was in store for you at that point?
CB: I didn't have a job to go home to so Corinne and I decided that we weregoing--we didn't have any kids at the time--we're going to look towards the path of like to find a job and we'll move for it within a certain distance and radius. I don't know we might have moved farther away if it was a good job or something like that. But I liked the Army and I liked it enough to continue to do something with the Army. So I got back in September and I was preparing to go to grad school at the University of Akron. I was going to start at the Medina County Branch and work my way in probably to a public policy degree program. And so she prepared her grandparents house. It was the farmhouse. She got it ready and we just had a little-- We had enough stuff--we had been married six years at 01:26:00that point by the time I got home--and so we had enough of our things there and so that's what we did. In about four weeks after that, middle of October I got a call and said hey we want you to come down and be our Recruiting Operations Officer for Army ROTC at Morehead State University. So we said okay. We bought two cars; one good car and then one car we knew that we would need in the mountainous terrain and high hills terrain of north central Kentucky. I guess northeastern and kind of took a leap and moved. Had never lived more than 45 minutes away from either of our parents and did that--besides Egypt. And did that so it was it was good. It was something we wanted. We wanted to go away but not far away and I was still able to do some Army, some other things. So salary was good. We enjoyed our time at Morehead State. During that time I also on the Guard side volunteered to transfer-- To volunteer to permanently transfer to a unit that was deploying to go to at the time it was Iraq and then turn it into Afghanistan. So while we lived in Kentucky I was driving for four hours up to my unit in Saint Marys. And I was the executive officer of Alpha Company 37th-- Special Troops Battalion, 37th Infantry Brigade, Combat Team.
JH: And the you volunteered to permanently transfer to a unit deploying what didyou anticipate that that meant for you in terms of your service, your career?
CB: I wanted to go. I felt like Egypt was a good experience and I wanted toexpand upon it. I wanted to go again. I had my wife's blessing. Another thing 01:28:00she was a little less excited about this one, but she still-- She knew that this was something. That it wasn't a fad. It was something I wanted to go do. I wanted to be a part of and so Major General Kambic was the ATAG [Assistant Adjutant General] the head of the Ohio Army National Guard. He came to Egypt and he said a lot of you are going to end up going with the 37th Infantry Brigade. And we looked at each-- A bunch of us look at each other. I think cursed a couple times and said does he not realize that we are currently deployed and he came all the way to Egypt not to tell us, but one of the things that he said was the 37th is going to need some of you to go. But what he knew that we didn't know is that there weren't enough combat soldiers from Ohio to go around and that some of us were going to need to go. But he also knew that some of us are going to want to go and so my platoon sergeant and I--over the course of the next couple weeks--we both said I'm not getting cross-leveled. I'm not going to get transferred to the unit. I'm joining the unit so I can learn the unit and be a part of it and be a leader who is a part of the solution, not a part of trying to figure himself out. We had our daughter during that time and then I remember my commander Captain Swisher coming up during the first SRP [Soldier Readiness Processing]--our medical and administrative screening--and he said hey what do you think about staying back. They need someone to stay back. You're the only lieutenant that's deployed in this battalion and it would be great and then you get promoted. I said, "no sir, I do not want to do that. I want to go." He was really just trying to grease the skids because they already decided they were gonna leave me back. But I had to be told by by the colonel. This colonel was the same officer as a major that I called to ask if I could go to be the common 01:30:00engineers and so I didn't have to tell him anything about my history. He knew that I wanted to go but the unit had deployed the last time and then had less than stellar performance from the people who stayed back. And so once they deployed the first time they-- I guess it was the second time this was now going to be the third and realized deploying was not the end-all be-all. That you had to come back and that things had to still be running. So I was chosen to be the-- We called the rear deck commander and OIC [Officer in Charge] and I stayed back and was in charge of getting the unit out the door somewhat administratively and then in charge of any of the things that happened back with the 200 soldiers that stayed behind.
JH: Where were you based?
CB: Well I was based out of Springfield and then I also did part-time weekendstuff out of Saint Marys still. So I moved my family to-- We had yet we moved up to near Springfield and we lived there during that time. I wanted to be close just in case anything happened and I wanted to be accessible during this time. I had left on the civilian side and left Morehead State ROTC and I worked for Amazon.com as a warehouse operations manager. So as an area manager there in Hebron, Kentucky just Cincinnati area. And so that was great. It was a good time. I learned a lot. I also learned that I probably needed to be doing military stuff. A military career was really where I was headed and what I wanted to do.
JH: What clarified that?
CB: Mission. I remember at Amazon we would do process improvement every day. It01:32:00was a focus and it's one of the reasons Amazon's so good, you know. And I would be listening to the music while everybody's going through process. Managers talk about process improvement the only things that I could focus in on were, we want to change processes to save time and money. I do too I really do, but I want them to be centered around people. That's who I am. If we made everybody come back to break on time instead of lallygagging--and it's kind of harsh but this is like the the top register of my thoughts--and we'll save just as much money as this over here, but it wouldn't cause as much friction with our operation. And so I firmly believe that I wasn't attempting to be the nice guy from a managerial standpoint, but I truly was trying to make the operation better. But I wasn't in the right place. It wasn't the right fit for me. I knew I should probably-- I began to look for something doing, something different.
JH: So tell me a little bit about your position as rear deck commander as yourunit goes off to--
JH: You had-- I kind of seem like there was a legacy going in maybe thingshadn't gone so great in the past. So it seems like there's a lot of pressure on you to do the job right?
CB: A little bit and I was still a lieutenant. I was-- I hadn't been promoted tocaptain yet so everybody kind of knew that hey about Ballard is, you know, probably not the dumbest guy in the world but really doesn't know exactly what's going on. That has probably enough patience and-- What's the word? Curiosity to 01:34:00get to get it figured out. So the first couple months were- they were stressful. The unit was going-- They were at Camp Shelby, Mississippi. Once they got to Camp Shelby the mission completely reorganized and they were supposed to go down as this, and do this mission overseas. And then that split and split into a bunch of different teams that went and mentored the Afghan National Army and sent a couple people home. And then they said who wants to go home so the unit people could volunteer to go home. And then the units had to pick a couple people and they went into a group that was potentially going to go home. And then those people didn't go home and those people got deployed into other parts of the world. And so that was really frustrating to a lot of people. I volunteered to go home but instead you're going to send me to a different part of Afghanistan. That I-- Why couldn't I just stay with my unit if I was going to go to Afghanistan or other countries? So that that had some pressure. Once they got in country there was a fairly large lull. It wasn't too bad. I would keep up with the commanders monthly. Had lots of emails back and forth. We had our rear detachment operations which still didn't stop. We had drills. We had some, yep, lots of different things going on. We had annual training. We sent a couple people to support different missions here and there. Probably the one good the funnest thing that we did was the engineer company back in Saint Marys, we built a wall and we did some work in the motor pool. So when we we got the drill we knew what we were going to be doing. We did it. There were times where the guys didn't want to leave. We're like hey we got we got to go. Don't you want to go home? No, we're doing this mission. I like my job here at the Guard. I want to 01:36:00stay and do it and that was the most fulfilling. It was great. It's probably the only big time that I got to focus in on some construction projects in my career and as an engineer officer. I spent most of my time in the combat engineer side as opposed to construction and it was great.
JH: You said you built a wall.
CB: We built a retaining wall. So we had one and it flooded.
JH: Around the barracks or--
CB: It wasn't the lake itself but the community of Saint Marys, yes. And ourarmory is the armory there is in a patch of ground that is. Oh it's no more than-- It's no more than 200-250 meters between the two canals that go into Grand Lakes Saint Marys. So water just it just it sits there and on one side are our grounds but up against the one canal. So the the project was building this wall back up that busted and it was kind of cool. And we used all-- Some of our new equipment. We used some of our-- All of our soldiers were able to be a part of it and it was a good time.
JH: What was happening in your family at this time? Were you able to live athome with your wife and family?
CB: Yes, I sure was. We had just bought a house back in in Hebron so we kind ofhad two homes at that point. We had an apartment and then our house. So we were always striving and yearning to get our house together and-- But we hadn't lived there for very long at all. We actually bought it when we had already moved to Springfield and we knew that was was going to happen. So we had a buddy who was 01:38:00staying there at the house with with us for two years. He was another RA from Ohio state ATI who had also been in the Guard. Deployed to Iraq and came back, got married, and he said hey I got accepted to the University of Cincinnati. I said hey we gotta we got a room for you. So Marcus's room. That room is still Marcus's room. It would never be called anything else and he and his wife are godparents to Veronica. So it was good. We look back on our time in the apartment, fond. It was just us and Veronica. It was small but we could kind of do whatever we needed to. Just two hours from her parents house and fairly close to mine as well my family.
JH: [Indiscernible] What kind of lessons did you learn from this time?
CB: I became a captain during that time so the first six months I was alieutenant and then the last 11 months I was a captain.
JH: So you were a captain then.
CB: Sure, yes ma'am.
CB: I-- Some of the major things I learned were your perception from the top.Some people I learned and realized were not weren't terribly happy with me unless I was present at something and I couldn't be at everything. And some things I chose family wise to attend instead of, and that was frustrating. But, 01:40:00so I think there I landed-- The beginnings of the formation where I had to make decisions because the Army, I couldn't be there 24/7. And there were just some people that I was not going to be able to please and that was okay and the army wasn't designed for me to be able to do that in the first place. I had to lead, not please people. I learned that my professional development as a captain on up was hinged on how I behaved myself even more so than a lieutenant. One training meeting, I remember, I was almost yelling about something and it came off that I was yelling. I didn't feel like I was. About oh the next higher unit, they're not giving us what we need so we're just gonna come up with it. I don't know, I don't know but we're not waiting for them anymore. You tell them that we need a plan. And a good sergeant called me the next day. He said, "you're the leader, you can't lose your composure like that." I said, "I didn't realize it came off that way, but you're right." And I did a little I felt like I did a little bit but I certainly didn't quite understand it. And I called my commander that morning. Oh the other issue there was-- My commander didn't go on the deployment so they sent him back for about three months and then they said, okay, there's a new commander and he's in Afghanistan so Ballard you're now both the OIC and the commander while he's still deployed. And so I had some command duties that I wasn't really used to. And so anyway during that time I still had a commander 01:42:00and I called him and said, "hey sir, I think I probably misspoke last night during our meeting." He said, "you did but I'm glad that you called me and talked to me about it because it is part of your leader maturity." So a couple other instances and situations like that. I had one where I got to the end of a rating period with a sergeant and I realized that I did not have a favorable view of that sergeant's performance during the year. And I waited way too long to tell that sergeant. So when it came time to write the evaluation my heart told me and my heart and head told me this is less than acceptable and I need to rate this person as such. But I waited way too long to tell that person and that person lost respect for me and I give that person respect still because that sergeant was able to to stay cordial with me. And really, I think at the time kind of healed that wound, but I wounded that sergeant and I shouldn't have and I learned that lesson. Partially because the person was about twice my age. I didn't know how to deal with it. It was like I was counseling my father. It was too much like that and I was doing too much with my heart, which had gotten me far but it wasn't what the Army was asking me to do. The Army is asking me to lead and when I did it was quite painful. When I decided yes this per-- This part of this evaluation is less than acceptable and I need to tell you that. So those are some of the lessons that I learned. I learned a lot of positive stuff. 01:44:00A lot of positive things too. I loved being an engineer. I had to realize that all my soldiers weren't combat soldiers. Especially when I came up to headquarters in Springfield instead of being in Saint Marys where-- Not that it's not that anything goes but in the combat arms you're running around and you're and being a unit that can do anything is part of your mantra. That's what you like. It was different. Become more organized. I had to communicate better. I had to write better. I had to put people out of the Army that weren't-- that shouldn't have been a part of our formation anymore because they were using marijuana. Because they couldn't show up to drill. Because of things like that. And I had to tell them the realities with a clear conscience. It took me a while to work on.
JH: Were there really formative moments with the rest of the rear guard thatstand out? Building a wall like that. Were there other things like that?
CB: Some negative and positive. Definitely driving a Hemtt fueler, which is a--I don't know how many gallons, hundreds of gallons of fuel this thing can hold. So I say-- They said hey sign up for driver's training time. I said I'll sign up and I was just going to go on as a ride-along since I'm an officer and officers usually don't drive. So I got out there and I told the sergeant I'm driving so you better figure out real quick how to teach me how to do this, but I'm driving. So he said okay let's go and there were a couple country curves that we 01:46:00had to back up take it again. The first-- The front four wheels turn and then the back four wheels do not. So it's just different than I'm used to. I'm used to driving Hondas and a humvee at the most which is wide enough, and it was fun. I definitely remember that to being a good time. On the negative side in early April of 2012, three of our soldiers died from the brigade. So I remember calling my boss and I asked-- I think I asked if we had a Passover--one of the holidays--or something like that. It was good Friday. Do we have good Friday off sir? I didn't know. He's like no we don't and he kind of-- No, he didn't kind of snap. He was very quick. He was like we got some stuff going on. I said okay sir I'll talk to you later and I was on-- Oh I just got my wisdom teeth pulled out so I was on Percocet and I thought oh well he's got some stuff going on. I hope nothing's too bad. So I find out later he called me back he said hey sorry I probably snapped at you. Three, we had three KIA [killed in action]. We have a lot more injured and that was hard. The hardest part was probably when I spoke about our battalion when we went down the-- We split up. They gave them new missions. My soldiers--the soldiers from 37th special troops battalion--split to the other five battalions and we didn't-- They overseas knew where everybody was but I back in the states, I did not. I was not able to get an accurate roster back. So I didn't know if some of my soldiers were hurt or not and I was 01:48:00extremely frustrated. Actually that still to this day it frustrated me because there was a period of time I just I didn't know. We knew that some of the guys, they were hurt and we were not sure if they were going to live or not. They were that badly hurt and it turned out that one of them was a friend of mine and he lived. It took a while but he lived. He was in the hospital for a while and I remember going to his parade. I won't-- I won't say his name because I think he probably wouldn't want me to necessarily. They told him the police chief or fire chief just wanted to meet with him. It's a little small town in northern Ohio. I just wanted to thank him for service. He's finally home. Then I say the entire town because I just don't know how it wasn't the entire town was out and the entire school which is a k-12 one schoolhouse was actually out there and he had no idea. He was just blown away and it was such a good day. Got to hear a little bit from him you know just kind of one-on-one back at his parents house and just kind of hear the the things that happened. That was-- it was great though and the other part about that I experienced. I was not a casualty assistance officer. Excuse me. And I was the only officer in the in the brigade that stayed back in the rear who wasn't. Because I was a lieutenant during the time and then I don't think there was another training. So I wasn't trained. So the rest of the officers and two of my sergeants had to go and notify-- Either be a casualty 01:50:00notification. Hey, your son/husband has passed away overseas, or casualty assistance which is a different person. Okay, hey obviously already had somebody come tell you this I am now your link to those people's benefits. I got a call, "hey Ballard you live in Kentucky how close do you are to Fort Knox area?" "Well hey sir, I'm about two hours away and I'm on Percocet, but whatever you need me to do I can figure out my Percocet so I can drive again and I can get down there." He said, "good one of the guys is coming home. He's the least injured soldier that got hurt during this explosion." Motorcycle suicide bomber. "And I need you to go pick him up and you take his two sisters down there and you pick them up. And there's no book for this so you gotta go figure it out, but we're taking care of our soldier. And he's not from your battalion and that's okay." I said roger. So again the same colonel who had left me back on the rear had changed and now he was the battalion commander of the 148th Infantry, and the 148th Infantry was the one that had three soldiers die. And so I shot him a quick email and said hey sir I'm going to go pick up your private that's coming back. And he said I appreciate you doing that it's been kind of crazy here and it's good to know that he's in hands that I know, that I trust. And that meant the world to me because I was able to help. So I take this guy's sisters down 01:52:00and he's delayed by 24 hours. And he gets there. He gets to see his sisters and I knew he didn't know me from Adam. I'm just this officer who just showed up trying to take care of things for him. But I say, "hey, I hear you know so and so." The guy I was just talking about with the parade. And he said-- He perked up. He said you know him that guy? That's a great guy. I love that guy. How's he doing? What's going on with him? And Instantly I have this connection. All right, you know him. I know him. I brought your sisters. We're okay. So I took him to Catherine Rosanski's funeral that was a heavy day. I was his escort. He couldn't drive due to a leg injury and that was my connection to that. So many, many, many soldiers in our brigade-- Especially the officers since one of the officers died and the other two were sergeants first class. So officers and senior NCOs. That was easily the worst day of the deployment. It was hard.
JH: Did you have a role in responding to the fallout from those deaths, thattragedy? What did you guys do state side honoring the fallen?
CB: We were blessed to have a staff sergeant with a lot of drill and ceremonyexperience so we did a couple things. We were part of the honor guard for at least one of the funerals. The other thing that we did was we provided soldiers that watched over the caskets. The entire time from when they came back from 01:54:00Dover until we placed them in the ground and our battalion was part of that. I'm pretty proud of that. I didn't do it. I didn't do-- I did hardly any of it. I was on escort duty for the private that had come back but they did great.
JH: What did homecoming look like from your perspective? Did everyone come backat once? I know it seems like there was some shuffling at the beginning. Were there people that were supposed to come home but--
CB: Yeah. No, not at all. I came back-- One unit came back to-- Two units cameback together. All together at once. And so I was there to greet them coming off the plane and that was about it. Now the other units and then the Saint Marys unit--which probably talk about next--I ended up commanding that unit next. So I was the XO and then they deployed and got back and I was the commander. So they came back single file on commercial planes. That's how their tickets worked. So we--the the 37th Infantry Brigade Combat Team--came home throughout the drawdown in Afghanistan. So they wanted to get down to a certain number so they pulled some soldiers out as early as July. I want to say maybe even June and the rest July, August, September maybe the end of early October. by the time people were done.
JH: So that this is 2012?
CB: This is 2012. Yes ma'am. So that that was different because I wanted to go.Those are my guys, you know. They were my guys before we we went and I was with the whole battalion and I didn't have that opportunity to see them all. I think I went and saw the the commander pretty quick and so homecoming kind of looked 01:56:00different. It was actually the 30-day event was homecoming. Everybody was together again there and that was kind of the parade mentality. Even though it was a more a welcome home ceremony that's really what it's called and so that was cool. Those were fun. For one of the units--HHC 37th Special Teams Battalion out of Springfield and Charlie Company--Governor Kasich came and spoke and that was neat. The the Adjutant General would come, Major General Ashton Hurst, and the the ATAG--Major General Harris--they came. It was a neat thing. They were a little stressful for me because I would organize those events. That was part of my job but not terribly stressful. It was a good time. A lot better than the going away?
JH: As an organizer of these events what do you need to make sure it happens?What did you want to give soldiers in your battalion when they came back?I guess some of its regulation to bring them that way but I'm assuming some elements were left--
CB: We wanted-- So one--on the administrative side--we wanted to give them a thebest information possible on their benefits. And I think the other side was just honestly to give them a nice event. I think some of the pressure to do a welcome home--like when I came home from Egypt--it was A, get off the plane at Akron/Canton, take a bus to the University of Akron I want to say the convocation center, and then get off the bus see my family go sit down welcome home ceremony for an hour. And then she invited some of my good friends and we went to get a bite to eat and then we drove home. It wasn't like that at all. So 01:58:0030 day you've been home for a month--almost two months sometimes--you've been with your family, you've eaten out, you've done whatever you wanted to. You've taken a vacation and now it's almost a little bit back to business. But you also want to celebrate the unit's accomplishments. There's also an element of hey we need to get people jobs. I remember Governor Kasich really being a big thing. I think for him governmentally one and two for veterans, especially veterans. I remember him saying there's no reason that every vet that comes home we can't find a job for him. He's passionate about it.
JH: What did coming home mean for you own activities or your own job?
CB: It was over, active wise, and it was back to Amazon, which I was thoroughlyexcited for.
JH: So you went back to work full-time?
CB: Correct and my goal was to get back in time for the most important time ofyear for Amazon, which is now, which is peak. So I started the cyber Monday of 2012. And I remember-- And I always worked night shift. My entire Amazon career was night shift except for a couple trainings. So I remember being-- It was about four o'clock in the morning, you know, with that evening starting to cyber Monday and getting into Tuesday and the guys are like Chris just go home. Just, you're not adding anything and we already saw you doze off once. Just go home. You've got four more days like this this week of 12 to 14 hour days. We'll get you back acclimatized and I was excited. I wanted to get back to Amazon. I was enjoying it. I did a lot of my people skill learning at Amazon. I didn't have-- 02:00:00I had somewhat of a the style of Army leadership. Especially in logistics. and warehouse. Without a lot of the motivation behind. It didn't pay as much as the Army. People went home, they didn't stay in a barracks. Males and females, which I'm just male in the combat engineers and it was different. I had to learn a lot. Theories of motivation: giving praise, telling people that they weren't doing it right, teaching them how to do it right, knowing that I couldn't tell them that they really did it wrong. If they were never told how to do it the right way first place. Did a lot. Got a lot of that at Amazon. So I was excited to get back and it wasn't until about mid-year 2013 where I realized, hey I'm fairly committed that I want to do something full-time Army with the Guard.
JH: Was there something that had already that you had in mind at that point youwere eyeing?
CB: I had some connections to know that something may have been. But I went--See we had our second child--Thomas--on what May 29th and then on June 1st I left- on may 31st I left for-- It might be 28th. Why can I remember my son's birthday? 28th I think. May 31st I left for annual training that year. When I got done with that I knew that I wasn't supposed to be at Amazon anymore for 02:02:00whatever reason. That I needed to be doing the Army stuff. It was stuck in my blood and so I waited about one more month and then I put in my resignation. And about that time an email had come across. Hey, they're looking for a captain up at joint force headquarters to work for the assistant chief of staff. And I told my boss, "hey sir, put me in for that." He said so what's--my battalion commander--so what's with your job, he said. I said "sir, I resigned." And he said basically without saying. He said, hey this is not Army advice this is personal advice for another person who also, you know, he's works warehouse as an engineer. He said, "it's a lot easier to get a job if you have a job. Make sure you're taking care of your family." And it didn't have a reflection on me as a soldier, me as an officer for the most part, probably. But he was trying to take care of me. And as we have learned in the Guard oftentimes the best way to keep a soldier in--especially one that you've invested time and energy in--is to help with their family and their job. Then they have the peace of mind to be a good soldier. Excuse me. So and I had taken command of of Alpha Company in Saint Marys in January of 2013. So militarily I was there and I started in late July mid July of 13 as a temporary full-time soldier on orders again. And having looked--
JH: That was here?
CB: In Columbus, full time in Columbus at joint force headquarters and then onthe weekends still the commander up in Saint Marys.
JH: Has the situation changed since then?02:04:00
CB: I've had basically two full-time job changes since then. So I got hired as afederal employee for the Guard in the human resource office. So in the course of 18 months there I did three different jobs. I got promoted twice. Yes, I got promoted twice in the end leaving as the federal employee branch manager, HR branch manager for the Ohio National Guard. So that was a very educational experience. I learned a ton. I was managing-- It was a team of 18 at its greatest in size and we managed all the HR functions. Everything from pay benefits, performance management, I did a lot with as the leader I did a lot with terminations, and all the not fun stuff. And it was a great time though. Had active duty. I had federal employees. I had Air Guard. I had civilians. I had Army Guard. Everybody was something different and we just made it work and it was a great team. So at first I managed the state's federal technician training program and the budget on that side and then they moved me over and I was the hiring. So the human resources managers what we call it basically. So the staffing and the classification those two sub-branches and then my boss got 02:06:00promoted out. And they said all right Ballard we want to make you stand in for 18 months while another captain--who was selected for the position--is still serving over for one of our satellite offices in another country. So I did that for another six or seven months and then in September I became active duty Ohio Army National Guard and I changed units. So I left Saint Marys for the first time in six years. I mean and so basically most of my career. Almost all my career I had been in Wooster and Saint Marys and been with engineers and so I'm now with the 371st Special Troops Battalion in Newark. And it's a logistics headquarters organization and it's new, it's different, I don't know a lot about logistics but I'm learning, and I like it.
JH: So what happening on the civilian side in the meantime?
CB: So civilian-- Like civilian job-wise or family?
JH: Yeah your family too. At this point you are I guess there is no civilianside to your career.
CB: Right yeah.
JH: Anymore which is awesome. You're doing this full-time with the Guard. right,what happening with your family and the rest of your life, the last three or four years?
CB: And I'll probably add on to the weekend side of the Guard as well. So familywise Thomas was born in 13 and so up to now my wife is pregnant with her third 02:08:00and we moved once I got permanent employment. We moved in February of 14 from Hebron and we live in Johnstown, Ohio now fairly close to Columbus and enjoy that community very much. Family-wise we kind of moved back and I've got a lot of the same close friends that I did in high school and some in college. And that's been nice. Central Ohio is home so I appreciate it. It's where we know we're supposed to be and my wife has readily accepted this home as well. So we have church members and civically I've done a couple things. I helped worked on rezoning this village of Johnstown. I'm active in my American Legion Post. Buckeye Boys State is probably the number one thing that I continually do. I've again served as a staff member since 2001 and this June will be my 14th year on staff. Yes, because I missed two due to military obligation. And I'm a member of the board of trustees there. That program, you know, back to junior year of high school really helped for me as a leader, as a man of conviction, as a person who learned to trust those who are professional what they do. And whether that be a plumber because he's fitted way more pipe than I ever have or a professor 02:10:00because even the first day he puts a PHD at the end of his name he knows exactly what he's talking about about some specific things. I sort of listen to subject matter experts because they're smarter than me unless I am the subject matter expert at one of very few things. And I want to give back continually the way that Boy State has given to me. The counselor group is a group that has some of my closest friends in life as well. On the military side being a commander was the most formative military assignment I've ever had. Being a company commander everything under the sun happened. My battalion-- My company was able to be number one at a lot of things in my battalion, and we let everybody know and that was, okay. And because that's kind of what we do in the military always tops in PT, best height weight rates, but, you know, the other things were important to us too like making sure people had jobs. They were coming back from deployment that was awfully important. The guys got off the deployment. They got me as new commander. They were kind of familiar with me but everybody was trying to feel out, you know, what's he going to be like. Then we got a new first sergeant, okay. What's he going to be like? And if we couldn't take care of people then they wouldn't come back to drill. That's a continual thing. So we spent a lot of time on that. I made a determination when I got four brand new second lieutenants that I was going to train them to be commanders one day. And that was hard because I would put them in charge of things that they had no idea how to do at first and they've spit out to be all right. And I thought some of 02:12:00my sergeants were gonna kill me. They give me that look sometimes like, roger, I don't want to do this but okay. And I just kept pushing you think I'm gonna be here forever. I barely know what to do and that guy has no idea and he's going to replace me so you better train your leaders. And I think out of everything we did my first sergeant and I continually come back to we feel like we did that as best as we could. And then just getting out and doing engineer operations was fun. We blew a lot of explosives up. We detonated a lot of c4. We built a road this year. Half a mile of a road or our heavy equipment section. We improved ranges at Camp Grayling Michigan. We built that wall. We supported the infantry in a lot of their training and always loved being the guys with the heavy equipment that came. Can you do this? Oh, this is amazing. It would have taken us 12 hours to dig this by hand. Again the good instant gratification but it only came because we had professional soldiers. It was pretty awesome. There were hard times too. Coming back from the deployment we had soldiers with DUIs. Soldiers who had substance abuse. Had to kick soldiers out. There were soldiers where it was time for them to not be in the military anymore. We had leaders that did the same and I could be fairly compassionate. That was hard. It was-- I'd get myself all worked up before we had to have a discussion and then half the time I dropped back into into my father's footsteps and every time would say we're going to leave this room with you dealing with your demons. What's done is 02:14:00done. You already know that they're going to process you out of the military. You're going to lose rank. You're going to lose pay. These things are-- You think these are the most important things, they're not. You dealing with whatever brought you to this point where you had to use these substances is what I care about the most. And the soldiers that rehabilitated themselves and stayed in are some of my favorite stories. So a lot of long nights as a commander. So worth it. I owe probably the most to my first sergeant and my readiness NCO, my training NCO, my supply sergeant who kept us moving kept our soldiers paid, and kept that eight million dollars that I was signed for up in Saint Marys safe for me 28 days out of the month.
JH: Now that you're with the 371st-- You're not with them?
CB: I am not. I am the operations officer.
JH: Is that bittersweet?
CB: It is bittersweet. The parts that I miss are developing leaders. Getting tohear stories from soldiers, you know. Everything for me. I like to have a conversation. Hey sir, I need to miss drill. Why? What are you doing? Got a wedding. Tell me about that. I want to know. Hey, how's your wife? Anytime I'd pick people at random--soldiers at random--to be my driver and I just learned about them. That was cool. That's kind of my personality. I didn't have a permanent driver ever because I didn't want that. I wanted them to be a part of a unit and then just have an additional duty sometimes. So I miss those things. I don't miss the late phone calls. The text messages two days before drill. Oh, so-and-so is a knucklehead and forgot to coordinate properly. But nobody misses 02:16:00those things. That's not-- They're negative. It's not something to be missed. I'm miss standing in front of soldiers. The operations officer, I'm the battalion commander's mover and shaker for operations so I have his authority to write orders and disseminate them and orders that come with his authority and units. And that's how we communicate with each other so it's not so much that I'm telling them what to do I'm telling them these are the things that we have to get done. Most of the times I'm not even-- We're told that we have to do them in the first place just kind of how the Army runs. And so I write orders and I coordinate, communicate, observe plans, and make preparations for the units to go out and do the things that they need to do. So we've got medical units, maintenance units, we have the band, we have the public affairs attachment, we've got a couple headquarters units, and we've got a satellite communications company. And I don't know exactly what all of them do but I'm learning. Especially the communications guys.
JH: Where is your affiliation for your weekend and summer drill? Are youaffiliated through Newark?
CB: Say it one more time. Yes that's correct.
JH: Are the drills the same in the weekend and the summer?
CB: For me they are--
JH: That's not always the case?
CB: Correct and for the guard the way we have it set up that's not usually thecase. It is the exact same for me. In other battalions I would have a major who is the the operations officer and I would be the assistant. Our battalion is set up differently or it's focused more on logistics so it's a captain and I do the exact same job. 02:18:00
JH: What do you feel like is on the horizon for you as far as your career in the Guard?
CB: My unit is set to deploy so we're supposed to go to Kuwait in a couple yearsand I think I'll stay in the unit and deploy with them in the same position. That's the current plan as we see it and as my colonel has told me that he's planning on. I'm really excited about that. I wanna go over again and do good things. It's been, let's see September of 08 when I last went so that's over seven years. I've got buddies who've deployed twice since then at times or a few I should say, unfortunately. And beyond that I probably headed for a promotion to major in maybe three years, two to three years. Hopefully two, we'll see and just professionally I'm just focused on making sure that when that time comes that I am competitive for it and I want to do that through having the right experiences. I want to do that through leading the right way not shortchanging my soldiers or my unit on what has to happen.
JH: [Indiscernible] Are there any parts of your service experience happeningsplaces you've been stationed things you've been able to accomplish or have endures that you haven't got to share.
CB: I don't know that there really are. I've kind of I've talked about a lot of02:20:00the most formative things. Probably one other one it's sad a cadet committed suicide five days before we commissioned. He was in my class and I won't share the full circumstance but it was formative. It was the first time I really dealt with loss in the military so close. I had a guy I went to high school with that was in my, it was in my Wooster unit that, and was from Mount Vernon, yeah, obviously with high school with. That was killed in Iraq and 04. So I went to his funeral and that was real and it was almost more real for everybody else around me. I didn't know him that well personally but everybody else only saw that I could go. I was there in uniform supporting my buddies but it was my community that came that the lasting impression from that is is on my heart. When specialist Martin died so. And then when cadet passed in ROTC and I got angry. I developed an anger towards it, towards him for a while because I watched and I-- So I had dealt with some deaths before and I had a suicide in high school of a good friend of mine. So I dealt with it. So in terms of dealing with hey this person's gone, okay. I got-- I'm okay but I'm watching all the freshmen and I'm watching just bawling. Just what happened. Why are we doing this? I remember I couldn't get a hold of my buddy and I called and called and 02:22:00called. And and so I'm up in Mount Vernon. I'm driving down, you know, the guy calls to tell me it's just-- He's just hysterical. The battalion commander, cadet tank commander, he's like you know he committed suicide. We found him. It was bad. He sent a text to everybody letting them know that he was going to do it and he did. And they went and found him. It was just a bad situation and so my good buddy in ROTC. I went and tried to find him and I'm calling. It's like midnight and he's over at another buddy's place and I go to pick him up. I'm like hey man, Rich where you at? Where you at? Come on man. He's like hey what's going on, you know. So I call and tell them like you gotta you get to Capital now. You gotta get there, you know. We everybody's there. And I just really remember being angry. I was angry with the cadet. It's five days before commissioning. I was in my senior play. I got home at four or five o'clock in the morning, woke back up, and was in the play at nine o'clock in the morning, and was just frustrated and struggling. So that was-- I think that was formative but when I look back on experiences I dealt with something as a leader early right on as a lieutenant. And conversely the Ohio guard, they were there for us because we-- That caused a change in our speaker due to some circumstances where the speaker was close to the cadet and the ATAG Major General Kambic was right there. Stepped in within what, four days notice. He was our commissioning speaker and I appreciated that. You know it was a small small thing a small thing for him. It really wasn't, it was a big thing and especially for two of the lieutenants commissioning that day joining his ranks including myself. So I 02:24:00think beyond those those two-- So probably one of the major milestones in my career I think recently coming to a logistics unit not being in engineers. It's big for me especially being such a chest banger for the Corps of Engineers. But I know that I wouldn't have it any other way. I'm in the right place in my career. Especially if I'm gonna be a senior leader one day in this organization. I can't be-- I can't just have one experience. So I'm excited about it and I work with good people.
JH: So all told how has your military experience effect you personally? How hasit shaped your family?
CB: I told my wife when we were dating early on. It's probably a little gruffbut I said this Guard thing. I said it probably just like that. It's not going away for another four years. I have a six year contract and you like it when I bring home paycheck. So don't-- We can't get into a situation where we're complaining. And I don't think it was that. I think it was just one of those-- It seems like every wedding ever planned is on drill weekend, you know. You can ask any Guard soldier somebody else may have even said that same thing. And so that's frustrating, it is. But I told her I'm not getting out. I'm not doing anything different. I may get out when it comes to six years and I may not and that will be the time-- That's the time when we're going to make a decision together, but until then I'm in the Guard period. And we came to it. I liked it. 02:26:00I liked it enough to stay and I was already in ROTC. She-- I think she kind of saw a glimpse of oh I was looking to go on active duty so we kind of saw a glimpse of oh this this might be a world that we live in. We don't know anything different. It's our it's our family, it's our home, it's our friends, it's our lifestyle. She was the family readiness group leader when I went to Egypt and for Saint Marys and she's been doing that for years. She currently serves on the ATAG's advisory board for the-- She's just concluding that with the 371st Infantry Brigade and yeah I we don't know any other way. My kids don't know anything else. It's who we are. It's where I was supposed to be.
JH: Have you heard your kids reflect at all on what they understand of yourservice or what it means to them?
CB: A little bit and most of their reflection is-- I try to say that during theweek I go to work. On the weekends I go to the Army. And so they know the Army means that I won't be home that night. Is basically how I separate it for them. So that means I have to bring home chemical lights for them to play around with--glow sticks--every time. So whether I get them from the PX or I order them from Amazon it doesn't matter as long as they're there when I get home. We can go play in the dark. We can have a good time. So they know when I'm packing I may be gone for a couple days, for a little while. I've shared with my daughter that I'm going to go away when she's in first grade, but I'll be back when she's in second grade and she's going to be a big girl. She's going to have to help 02:28:00mommy, but you don't have to worry about that right now because it's a long way away and daddy will always be coming home to her. So Thomas wrecks things. He doesn't know anything different right now, but he's starting to a little bit more. And so their reflection is yep daddy's in the Army and that's what he does.
JH: Are there certain values or aspects of service that you feel like havereally shaped your life or synced up your own personal value system?
CB: Yeah definitely. Responding to an earlier question about why I left Amazonand it was the mission. It's where I was supposed to be. Destiny if you will in terms of the right fit and what's in your heart. So that, you know, has turned into--. I love having a job where everything isn't laid out for us, but nothing is really being done the first time. We always have new missions in new countries, new parts of countries, but somebody's done something similar before and you can always go back and reference that. But half the fun of the military is just figuring those things out and the adventure of it. The values there though are so important to that because it takes a long time to grow soldiers 02:30:00who can go in and do those things. It doesn't take that long to grow a captain but it does take nine or ten years, and that's just a junior captain who went from one bar to two yesterday. Who you're saying has enough potential to do the big things, but then a senior captain who you're putting in charge of major parts of or small parts of major things. I should say and you really have to place a lot of trust in. So when it comes back to faith and values trust is a big one and saying and doing what you're going to say-- Doing what you said you were going to do. Excuse me. Then having faith that the people around you aren't lying, stealing, and cheating is huge. Those people become your friends for life.
JH: So given that-- I think the statistic is like one percent of the U.S.population serves. What do you think people need to know about military service, about modern combat, and about you?
CB: I think people need to know that we serve because we love. It's a service oflove. The soldiers that join now--troops--they join in a world of persistent conflict. They know what they're getting into. I joined for college money straight up. I stayed for love of what I was doing. Soldiers now they know 02:32:00they're going to deploy. They know the skill sets that they're going to bring. Those combat and combat support soldiers know that they're going to bring elements to the battlefield that are going to allow us to achieve our political objectives, militarily. And they're also--especially in the Guard--you're going to be able to help your homeland. I mean our unit--although I wasn't a part--responded to Toledo when there was no water. We brought water. Thank the lord it wasn't a sustained amount of time because it's hard, but we brought what was asked. It's a labor of love. It's a sacrifice of of love. And I think the second thing that I focus on sometimes too is, you know, when we make that six year commitment, eight year commitment you don't know what's going to happen. You don't know what the new President may choose to do. All I know is that I'm gonna be there to do the legal and moral and ethical things that our President and policy makers both civilian and military ask me to do. And that comes back to the love because I think and I truly believe that they love me enough to put me only in harm's way when they need to. And it's hard. It's not easy stuff. It's war, it's war makers, peace keepers, all of that.
CB: I'm grateful for serving. I'd do it again. I do it again in a heartbeat andyeah I think I'm just really grateful for my wife Corrine. Because I wouldn't be successful without her. Yeah, there's just no way I could serve. I could still be a captain but I would not be as well-rounded a person and be able to project the love to my fellow soldiers and country men and women because I would not have experienced it. I think that's it.