Last Tour of Duty: Deployed Soldier reflects on storied career
Story and photos by Staff Sgt. Paul Evans, KY ADT 4 Public Affairs NCO
NOTE: Each week kentuckyguard.com publishes stories by or about Kentucky National Guard unit public affairs historian representatives, also known as UPAHRs. This is an additional duty taken on by a Soldier or Airmen with the intent of telling their unit’s story. This is one such story ….
FORWARD OPERATING BASE PASAB, Afghanistan—“The Army’s changed a lot since I’ve been in,” recalled Staff Sgt. William Lile, a 39-year-old Louisville, Ky. native during an interview at a small Forward Operating Base in the mountains of southern Afghanistan on March 13, 2012.
“The Soldiers, I think are smarter. They’re required to be because of all the equipment that we have, advanced technology…the battlefield is ever-changing, and you’ve got to be flexible with it. Clearly, I think the Soldiers we have today are maybe not better Soldiers, but more skilled than when I was a young Soldier. You kind of have to be in today’s Army. It takes a lot,” Lile added.
Lile, who served thirteen years on active duty before becoming a member of the Kentucky National Guard eight years ago, is now a Team Leader on Kentucky’s Agribusiness Development Team 4. Altogether, this is his sixth deployment overseas, not counting time spent serving in Germany and Korea while on active duty. It is his second deployment with the Kentucky National Guard, after serving in Iraq from 2008 to 2009 with the 223rd Military Police Co.
“I’ve had the opportunity of working with, in my opinion, the best NCOs in the world in our Army, (and) some of the best Officers,” Lile recalled. “To have the opportunity to work with really good leadership affords me the opportunity to really go out and learn my job,” he added.
“The entire time I was active duty, it kind of seemed as though the military was my first priority. I’ve been married for 18 years,” Lile said before adding, “Angie’s put up with a lot. My wife’s the best wife in the world.”
“When I left active duty and I joined the National Guard, I think my priorities changed. My top priority was no longer the military—it was my family. And I’m very thankful for that. I think having a really strong relationship with my wife and my children… makes me a better Soldier and a better leader.”
Lile said he sees it as his goal to help create better noncommissioned officers for the future.
“In my opinion, the side you don’t see with the National Guard…for me, it’s easy to lead a Soldier on active duty because you’re with them 24/7,” Lile said. “In the National Guard, you only have them two or three days a month. So it’s really hard to mentor young folks in the Guard, but it is a highlight of mine to be able to see my young folks in the Guard get promoted,” he added.
“Sgt. Richmond, she’s one of my Team leaders back home…she was runner-up for NCO of the Year for the state,” Lile mentioned. “That shows a lot of hard work on her part.”
“She’s had an opportunity to work with a lot of good NCOs and I’m lucky enough to be one of them. I think she’s also on ADT 5,” he added.
Staff Sgt. Robert Foushee, a 29-year-old Bowling Green, Ky. native residing in Lexington, Ky. serving as a Team Leader alongside Lile, offered two words to describe Lile.
“Knowledgeable…experienced,” Foushee said. “I think he (Lile) brings an extensive background to the mission. He’s done things both with the 82nd (Airborne) and the infantry side of things. He’s got experience in just about every area of operations.”
“I think Lile’s experience has helped at all levels,” Foushee said. “He’s added operational knowledge to the Operations department since he’s served in that role. He’s obviously been a mentor for his Soldiers and his junior NCOs under him. Besides that, he’s also been kind of a leader for his leadership. They see what he’s done and see the roles he’s been in that bring knowledge, as well as to his counterparts and his colleagues like me who are Team Leaders with him. He brings a different viewpoint of the things we do,” Foushee added.
While Lile spent the majority of his active duty career serving as an Automated Logistical Specialist with the 82nd Airborne Division, he also served three years as an infantryman and two years as the Operations Section Air NCOIC and a Jumpmaster for the 82nd Airborne Division’s 82nd Forward Support Battalion. Since joining the National Guard in 2004, Lile has served as a Military Policeman.
As for his career highlights, Lile said there were a few.
“A highlight…everything Jumpmaster,” Lile said. “I mean, that’s what the 82nd is about if you’re a leader. Kind of being in control of all the Airborne operations, sling loads, I really enjoyed that. That was probably the best job I’ve had,” he recalled.
“I’ve had a lot of opportunities. Rappelling out of helicopters, jumping out of airplanes, everything about being in Korea…Korea’s a tough place to be assigned, but you learn so much there,” Lile mentioned.
“I really enjoy being in the Kentucky Guard back home, helping the community and the state. I’ve deployed as much with the National Guard as I did when I was active, and that’s because of the two wars,” he added.
As for what brought him to Afghanistan, Lile gives credit to Capt. Brian Ink, a 33-year-old native of San Jose, Calif. now living in Richmond, Ky. who was his platoon leader during his 2008 deployment to Iraq.
“Capt. Ink actually came to my office one day…and he told me he was coming to Afghanistan with ADT 4 and offered me an opportunity to come with him,” Lile recalled. “So I went home and I talked to my wife about it…she really doesn’t like that I volunteered to come on this deployment, but… this should be the deployment that’ll lock me into a 20-year active duty retirement. I’m pretty sure this will be my last deployment,” he noted.
“I guess my goals during this mission would be to assist in training and mentoring some really good NCOs, assisting in some really good Soldiers becoming NCOs,” Lile noted.
“Every other deployment prior to this one, I’ve had a set job with responsibilities and you just do that every day. This deployment gives me the opportunity to help many more Soldiers, many more NCOs to try to better themselves. And it’s a good opportunity because I think I mentor other Soldiers pretty well…I’m having fun, although we’re in Afghanistan and the mission’s still tough, it is a pretty decent mission where you can mentor fairly easy.”
Over 21 years of service, Lile said he’s seen a lot of change.
“When I got to (Fort) Bragg straight out of Airborne school, the military was very disciplined,” Lile recalled. “Very disciplined, very high motivation, a lot of teamwork…and we still have the discipline and the teamwork, but over the years, especially since 2001, the focus changed from being a garrison type Army to a combat Army. As a Soldier, you’re required to work one level above, sometimes two levels above (your rank) because we’re at war. In a peacetime military like when I joined, things were not as difficult.”
In the end, serving as a member Kentucky’s ADT 4, it seems Staff Sgt. Lile may have come full circle on what will most likely be his final deployment overseas before retiring in the next few years.
“I started my military career with the 82nd (Airborne Division), so in a weird kind of way to be able to possibly end my career with a deployment serving under them, it does bring back a lot of pride,” Lile said.
“Twenty-one years is a long time to be in the Army, but if the wars were to stop, I’d probably stay in the military longer. But I am getting tired, you know.”