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Dedication, determination and demolition

posted Nov 6, 2012, 9:11 AM by Sam House   [ updated Dec 26, 2012, 7:41 AM by Wyoming Guard ]
By Sgt. Kelly Gary
197th Public Affairs Detachment

ROCK SPRINGS, Wyo. – Walking into the Army recruiter’s office at the age of 17, Sgt. Mark D. White never expected that the military would take him to such great heights. Today White is, among other things, a bridge builder, combat engineer trainer, triathlon runner and scuba diver. Looking back on nearly seven years in the Army, White says he has experienced and learned volumes since swearing the oath and now enjoys training Soldiers in addition to building his own skill set.

White, a team leader in the Wyoming Army National Guard’s 1041st Engineer Company, has earned the admiration of his leadership with his commitment and ambition. White’s section leader, Staff Sgt. David M. Cox, praises his Soldier’s dedication.

“[Sgt. White] is an outstanding individual,” says Cox. “He makes things happen and he does what he says he is going to do, when he says he is going to do it.”

Shortly after finishing his entry-level training in 2009, White deployed to Kuwait with A Battery, 2nd Battalion, 300th Field Artillery. That year turned out to be a true growing experience. As a new Soldier, he says he gained significant insight into multiple fields of training. For example, instead of constructing bridges, White found himself running short convoy missions in and out of Iraq.

“I hadn’t done my job all that much, prior to going on the deployment,” says White, “so actually doing the convoy missions and coming back to do engineer work—that was a learning curve.”

Camaraderie and knowledge of weapon systems became integral to life in Kuwait, but the number one thing White took away was learning not to stress about the little things. He attributes his ability to stay calm under nerve-racking situations to being a wildland firefighter as well as a Soldier. Since high school, White spent his summers battling flames around the Jackson Hole area, lending him the ability to know how to keep cool under pressure.

However, instead of fighting fires this past June, White spent the month training in war-fighter tactics and leadership skills at the Sapper Leader Course, at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. Sappers are considered to be elite combat engineers, and White is the second noncommissioned officer in the Wyoming National Guard to hold the title as a “sapper trainer.” Cox says he was more than impressed with White’s performance.

“I think he stepped up and went above and beyond what his peers are willing to do,” says Cox. “In turn, it has benefited the unit tremendously.”

The combat engineer training offered a variety of skills, including various water operations, extractions, and demolition techniques. He said his favorite, however, was the mountaineering maneuvers. He loved this portion because it related directly to his interests in civilian life as well as Army-related ventures.

“I do a lot of hiking and camping and I like to go climbing a lot,” says White. “All of the skills are transferable and are something I can teach the rest of my unit.”

White’s outdoor hobbies can be physically demanding, motivating him to stay in excellent shape. In May, he finished an Iron Man race in Utah and currently serves as president of the University of Wyoming Triathlon Club. White also enjoys scuba diving; having recently attained his dry suit certification, he plans on diving icy lakes in search of ghost towns. Cox believes White’s ardor for adventure and fitness carries over into his military performance.

“Where there is a will, there is a way,” says Cox, adding that White has scored a 300-plus on every one of his Army physical fitness tests and is a positive example for junior-enlisted in many regards.

“He is a well-rounded leader,” assures Cox. “He is able to connect with Soldiers beneath him and communicate with those above him.”

White believes communication is essential throughout the chain of command regardless of the mission. Good information flow, and understanding the commander’s intent was something White says he saw demonstrated on his deployment and wants to continue.

“The most important part of being a leader, in my eyes, is being able to see a problem from all aspects,” says White. “To be able to see it from the higher-up’s level, your level, and from the junior-enlisted is difficult, but important.”


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