Boots on the ground in Iraq

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Many times, National Guard soldiers often find them selves doing a job outside of their military occupational specialty. Army Capt. Jaime Hernandez, who serves in Multinational Division Baghdad with the 36th Infantry Division’s Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 56th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, is one such soldier.

Hernandez, an armor officer, spent his first deployment -- to Taqqadum, Iraq, in 2005 with the 2nd Battalion, 112th Armored Regiment -- serving primarily as an infantry officer. “We did patrolling, route clearance, quick-reaction force and entry control point missions,” he said.

In his current deployment, he works in the brigade engineer cell. His civilian education and experience were deciding factors for his selection to serve in the section.

“He was hand-picked by me because of his construction experience,” explained Army Maj. Robert Crockem, 56th Infantry Brigade Combat Team’s engineer officer.

Hernandez is a 2002 graduate of Texas A&M University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in construction science. The Fort Worth, Texas, native now works as a project engineer with a contractor on commercial projects. Prior to his deployment, he worked as a civilian project engineer on the Tarrant County Convention Center parking garage.

His civilian skills have helped him be successful during this deployment, he said, adding that he has used those skills to put together various project proposals. But although there are many skill sets that are the same in his job back home and his mission here in Iraq, Hernandez said, there are some large differences as well.

“Back home, I work for a general contractor, so we basically build off of the plans and specificat­ions,” he explained. “Here, we are developing the plan, designing the structure, providing the scope of work and quality control for the military, but I use a lot of the same skills.”

His brigade commander noted that National Guard soldiers often bring valuable experience gained outside the military when they deploy.

“When you drop a National Guard soldier on the ground, you’re getting more bang for your buck because of the civilian soft skills that they bring,” Army Col. Lee Henry, commander of the 56th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, said.

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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