Soldier reflects on Kentucky’s ADT 4, from the front truck

Story and photos by Sgt. Paul Evans, KY ADT 4 Unit Public Affairs and Historian Representative

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Staff Sgt. Robert Foushee of Lexington, Ky. smiles for the camera while preparing for a mission in southern Afghanistan on May 20, 2012. Foushee serves as a Dismounted Team Leader and Truck Commander with the Kentucky National Guard’s Agribusiness Development Team 4. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Paul Evans)

FORWARD OPERATING BASE PASAB, Afghanistan—“We run lead truck probably every other mission, that’s about the way it works,” explained Staff Sgt. Robert Foushee, a 28-year-old Lexington, Ky., native.In February 2012, Foushee deployed to southern Afghanistan’s Kandahar Province as a Security Platoon Dismounted Team Leader and Truck Commander with the Kentucky National Guard’s Agribusiness Development Team 4. Since then, his team has effectively taken over its role of running security from the front of ADT 4’s convoys, according to Foushee.

“It’s weird. I think coming here…training the way we trained as 1st Squad, I was always the lead truck, so I got used to that in training,” Foushee recalled. “There’s a natural nervousness, not so much about the IEDs or the insurgent forces or anything. I was more nervous about being able to find the routes,” he said with a smile.

“You know, not making a wrong turn and not knowing where I’m going and ending up in Helmand (Province),” he joked. Helmand, which is west of FOB Pasab, is commonly regarded as Afghanistan’s most volatile area.

“Leaving the United States, I always expected this giant wave of fear to hit me when I stepped outside the gate the first time, when that truck rolled outside the wire the first time,” Foushee noted. “That wasn’t the case. I think I was comfortable with myself…I was comfortable with my team, I knew that they knew what they were doing. And it was just business–time to go to work.”

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Staff Sgt. Robert Foushee of Lexington, Ky. conducts security checks during a mission in southern Afghanistan on May 25, 2012. Foushee is a Dismounted Team Leader and Truck Commander with the Kentucky National Guard’s Agribusiness Development Team 4. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Paul Evans)

“I think now we’re more comfortable out front than we are in the back,” Foushee continued. “That’s our role on this mission. We’re the scout guys, that’s our job. That’s our role and we own it.”“You bear a large responsibility not only for the navigation portion, but obviously you’re the IED spotter for the crew, you’re the guy that’s letting everybody know what’s coming up,” Foushee explained. “Yeah, there are some unique pressures that go with it, but I welcome that.”

Foushee briefly talked up how diversity helped his team function better.

“I think I have the best of all worlds. I have an Air Force Porter (Staff Sgt. Jonathon Stribling of Louisville, Ky.) who has literally grown into the best Soldier I’ve ever had work for me, I have a Sapper (Sgt. Nikko Moreno of Bowling Green, Ky.) who has almost 10 years of experience and can tell you anything you need to know about engineering, and I have an MP (Military Policeman Spc. Chris Young of Richmond, Ky.) who has worked detainee ops in Iraq,” Foushee said.

“So I have a vast background, and I also have open minds,” he added. “I have guys who listen to me, guys that will work with me, guys that will share their experience with me but not expect me to go the way they went in the past…I think that aspect has made my team, and I’m pretty biased, I think it’s made my team the best here.”

“The team makes the leader in a lot of aspects. We kind of see it the other way that the leader makes the team, but I don’t have to worry about what my guys are doing,” Foushee noted. “When I tell them to do something, I know they’re doing it–I don’t have to micromanage them. If I give them a task, they’ll figure out a way to do it, or they’ll come and ask me.”

“I think he (Foushee) has done everything that’s been asked of him, and I think he tries to do more,” said Stribling. “He tries to exceed the standards that they set for him.”

“He’s a good NCO,” Stribling added. “He’s still a young guy, still learning things just like I am. I think he’ll just grow as he progresses through his career.”

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Staff Sgt. Robert Foushee of Lexington, Ky. conducts security checks of a building in southern Afghanistan on February 20, 2012. Foushee is a Dismounted Team Leader and Truck Commander with the Kentucky National Guard’s Agribusiness Development Team 4. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Paul Evans)

Initially, Foushee described some trouble getting onto ADT 4 from his full-time job as a Readiness NCO in Richmond, Ky.’s Charlie Co., 2nd Battalion, 75th Recruiting & Retention Command.”I don’t think my Battalion was on board maybe from the get-go…they thought I was too valuable where I was, they didn’t want to lose me, try to replace me for a year,” Foushee recalled. “But I had a really good company commander, Capt. Stephen Strack, who kind of stood up and said ‘hey, this is a squared away guy. He wants to do this. Let him do it.’ He made the case for me and they let me go.”

“I’ve met a lot of great people, felt like part of a great team,” Foushee mentioned, “to be part of something bigger than yourself. It’s a great experience to bond with a unit, and to go through this whole thing with a great group of people that I think I will never forget.”

“In the beginning, I learned from my fellow Soldiers, but here I learned from experience,” Foushee noted. “Seeing things on the road, seeing things outside the wire, and learning how to adapt and overcome those things.”

“I’ve been blessed to work with people from vast backgrounds,” he added. “I originally came into the Army from an Armor background. And I’ve worked with former Marines like Sgt. (Charles) White, guys with extensive backgrounds like Sgt. (Charles) Yankey and Sgt. (William) Lile, so I think every day you learn something.”

“What I think I’ve learned is that you can learn in any environment, regardless of the situation you’re placed in. If you open your mind, you can learn something. I mean, I’ve learned something from every single person I’ve encountered on this mission…Coalition, Afghani, local nationals. I’ve learned something from each and every one of them in a different way.”

“Every day I’ve spent in the Guard has prepared me for this. You know, one of the things that I tried to make the case for coming on this deployment is that I’ve been taking dancing lessons for seven years and I want to go to the prom. This is the prom, this is the World Series…this is the World Series of what we do.”

“Coming from recruiting, where you have a vast background, you have people from all different branches of service. You have people from all different MOS’s (military occupational specialties). They’re all kind of lumped in together with a mission of putting people in the Guard and getting them trained,” Foushee said.

“Well, that’s kind of what ADT is too,” he continued. “You have people from all different backgrounds that are kind of ‘okay, here you are together for six months, now go do the mission.’ So I think that time in recruiting working with all different styles of people helped me meld in with this team and maybe work easily with people that don’t see things the exact same way as I do.”

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Staff Sgt. Robert Foushee (right) of Lexington, Ky. goes over notes prior to a dismounted security mission in southern Afghanistan with Staff Sgt. Eric Elliot (left) of Lawrenceburg, Ky. on May 20, 2012. Foushee and Elliot serve as Team Leaders with the Kentucky National Guard’s Agribusiness Development Team 4. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Paul Evans)

“We’re all Soldiers, everybody here is hand-picked–you know, I think everybody here is the best of the best in some regards,” Foushee observed. “This isn’t a mission where you have people brand-new to the Army.”“It’s been a great experience,” Foushee said of his time so far in Afghanistan. “I’ve learned more in six months here than I’ve probably learned in six years in garrison.”

“And this place kind of forces you to take an inner look at yourself too,” he continued. “It’s one of those things that Soldiers don’t talk about a lot. You have to look deep inside and face yourself because you’re kind of alone, you’re away from all of the distractions that America has to offer, and you can’t really hide behind anything.”

Foushee discussed some of the surprises of coming to Afghanistan.

“The biggest surprise I’ve had has been the normalcy of it,” he recalled. “You see the news, you see the media reports, you see how people view what’s going on in Afghanistan, but what you don’t see is 99 percent of the people here are just trying to live their lives.”

“And the Pashtun people, I’m so amazed, so overwhelmed at the resiliency of these people,” he said. “These people, they cope with things that people in our culture never had to cope with, and they do it on a daily basis. They live with war, they live with strife, they live with constant threat of driving to the grocery store and their car exploding on the way because there’s an IED. But they just keep living.”

“A perfect example is up in Arghandab, there’s a river that they’ve built a bridge across it with mud and sticks,” he explained. “Americans wouldn’t do that. We would swim across the river or we’d just figure out a way to live on the other side of the river.”

“That blows me away. I could not go into how impressed I am with the Pashtun people,” Foushee said.

Foushee briefly discussed the challenges he’s seen ADT 4 face since arriving in February 2012.

“I think with the move south, ADT kind of had to reinvent itself. The three previous years, we worked in northern areas, where you had a completely different type of people,” he said.

“Coming down here, we’ve had to kind of reinvent the wheel, so-to-speak. We’re working with a whole new culture of people, not just different ways of going about things, but also a whole new agricultural dynamic of what will grow, what won’t grow,” Foushee explained. “What will work, what won’t work–how to deal with the climate here, which is a lot different than up north.”

“We’ve started the mission. Six months in, we’re way ahead of the power curve, where we should be, and there’s no limit to what we can do and what ADT 5 can do on the back end of that,” he added.

“I joined the Army to be a defender of freedom, a warrior,” Foushee said. “But this (mission) brings a different aspect to it. You’re still winning the war, but you’re not doing it with bullets, but with bread.”

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