Local News

March 18, 2008

Area guard unit preparing to deploy

<b>Sergeants offer different leadership styles, strive for same goal</b>

FORT STEWART, Ga. — Alpha Company of the 1/293 infantry battalion is built on the backs of experienced squad leaders who guide and discipline their young soldiers.

Some of the sergeants seem more like teachers, others like tougher big brothers, all to the same end — unit cohesion in the face of an enemy firing real bullets.

Staff Sgt. Daryl Bollhoefer, 25, of Logansport trained new recruits for two and a half years as part of pre-basic training in the South Bend area. Bollhoefer said many young men join the Army for reasons as varied as to impress a girlfriend or to get money for college, but when they start training, many start to question whether the military is for them.

It’s obvious from his demeanor that Bollhoefer, who was deployed on a peacekeeping mission to Bosnia in ’04, believes in positive reinforcement.

“You could lose everything,” he’s told the soldiers in his squad, “your girl, your house, your family, but the military will always be here for you.”

Bollhoefer joined the National Guard at the age of 17.

“They need to rely on the stability of their brothers and sisters in arms,” he said. “Once they realize that, it’s a confidence booster.”

Bollhoefer said that in the 2 1/2 years he trained over 240 new soldiers at South Bend, he can think of maybe 12 who weren’t bettered by the experience.

Sgt. Kevin Zickefoose, 30, of Warsaw is another squad leader in Alpha Company. Zickefoose has 13 years in the National Guard. In ’03 he was with the invasion of Iraq, and he said he spent 50 days without a shower while guarding Tilhill Air Base outside of Baghdad.

Zickefoose said the soldiers on this deployment are much younger than his first deployment. The most important lesson he tries to teach them is attention to detail.

“I’m old school,” Zickefoose said. “When it comes to getting stuff done, I have no tolerance for horseplay.”

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