50 graduate Fatima Girls High School

Tabasum Sharqi (left) opens a book she received for graduating at the top of her Fatima Girls High School class at a ceremony held at the Kunar Department of Women’s (click for more)

Polish and US Forces bond through weapons

Soldiers from the Polish Army and the Texas National Guard Agribusiness Development Team-IV check their shot grouping during qualification on the Polish AK-74 5.56 mm Mini-Beryl short assault rifle Feb. (click for more)

TF Duke Soldiers volley for peace

U.S. Army Soldiers from Company B, 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Task Force Duke, play an impromptu game of volleyball against a team (click for more)

Nurgaram District leaders electrify Nangaresh schools

Dr. Mehirulla Muslim, the Nurgaram District subgovernor, addresses an audience of teachers, government officials and citizens during a ceremony to celebrate a completed solar panel electricity project Feb. 21 in (click for more)

10th CAB Soldiers bring communications to Bagram’s east side

U.S. Army Spc. Raheem Stewart, an automations specialist with TF Phoenix, steps along the rafters of the building his team helped wire for communications. Stewart, from Dallas, was one of (click for more)

ANA, Red Bulls search Parwai during Operation Brass Monkey

An Afghan National Army soldier from Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 201st Infantry Regiment, searches a pile of rocks in the courtyard of a high-value target home outside the village of (click for more)

Female engagement teams trained to aid communication with Afghan women

U.S. Army Capt. Nicole Zupka of Fair Lawn, N.J., a battlewatch captain with Combined Joint Task Force-Paladin, helps an Afghan child with her writing skills during female engagement team training (click for more)

ANA, TF Storm break trail, make difference in Kharwar

LOGAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Afghan National Army soldiers move through Kharwar District to prevent the Taliban’s freedom of movement Feb. 12. U.S. and Afghan soldiers braved more than 3 feet (click for more)

Ky. ADT II begins Panjshir sheep parasite project

Kentucky Agribusiness Development Team II members, U.S. Army Spc. Justin Allen (left), a London, Ky., native, and U.S. Army Sgt. Nicholas Combs, a Corbin, Ky., native, get to know a (click for more)

Engineer Soldiers deliver aid to Afghans

An Afghan carrying a child approaches U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Peter Moeller of Atkins, Iowa, a medic with Task Force Red Bulls, for humanitarian aid at Qale-Mussa Pain Middle School (click for more)

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KHOWST PROVINCE, Afghanistan – U.S. Army Command Sgt. Maj. Drew Pumarejo, senior enlisted Soldier of 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Task Force Duke, and a native of Harrisburg, Pa., inspects a guard tower on Combat Outpost Dand Patan, Afghanistan, Jan. 27. Pumarejo marked his 30th year of active service on March 26. (Photo by U.S. Army Spc. Tobey White, Task Force Duke Public Affairs)KHOWST PROVINCE, Afghanistan – In the 30 years since 1981, the United States Army has seen its fair share of change from the Cold War build up of the ‘80s, to the slimming down of the force during the ‘90s and on to the War on Terror following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

But through it all, at least one thing has remained constant: the leadership and professionalism of U.S. Army Command Sgt. Maj. Drew Pumarejo, the senior enlisted Soldier of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Task Force Duke, who marked his 30th year of active service in the U.S. Army March 26.

Pumarejo said he was an average kid of 19, looking for some action and adventure, when he went to the joint recruiting station in his hometown of Harrisburg, Pa.

But for a slight twist of fate, he might’ve joined the Marines when their recruiter approached him first.

“The Marine recruiter intercepted me first, but I really wasn’t smelling what he was cooking,” said Pumarejo. “As soon as he stepped out to grab me something to drink, the Army recruiter came by and brought me in to his office.”

“When the Marine recruiter came back,” he continued, laughing, “he brought the Army recruiter outside, and they got into a pretty heated argument. But the Army won out.”

Lured by the idea of action, Pumarejo enlisted as an infantryman, planning to head to Hawaii for his first duty station with the 25th Inf. Div. But again, fate had other plans.

Half-way through his basic training, a recruiter from the 82nd Airborne Div. spoke with the recruits. At first Pumarejo had no interest, looking forward to serving in Hawaii, but his friends convinced him otherwise.

“I let them talk me into it,” he said. “Eight of us signed to go to jump school and the 82nd Airborne Div., but after the dust settled six of them had quit.”

Pumarejo and one other private were left to go it alone.

“They left me, but I’ve got no regrets,” he said.  “As it turned out it was the start of something really great.”

Pumarejo has since served as a paratrooper in every enlisted rank in the Army, from private to command sergeant major.

“That’s one of the things I’m most proud of,” he said. “Not too many Soldiers have done that.”

In his long career, Pumarejo has borne witness to the myriad changes that the Army has undergone over the past 30 years.

During the Reagan administration in the Cold War era, he said he travelled a lot for training and operational purposes, and attended a host of military schooling; just a few of which include U.S. Army Ranger School, Jumpmaster School, Arctic, Jungle, and Amphibious Warfare Schools.

The training was a lot more focused on traditional warfare in the 80’s, he said, as opposed to today’s counter-insurgency focus.

“Back then in the Cold War days, you conducted a parachute assault and you moved out to your objective,” he said. “If you weren’t on the offense, you were on the defense, digging your position.”

In the post-Desert Storm ‘90s, Pumarejo saw first-hand the tightening of the military budget and the slimming down of the force.

“The motto at that time was ‘Do more with less,’” he said. “Units weren’t picking up and going exotic places like they used to. It was pretty much home-station training.”

During that time, as the technology used by the Army improved, Soldiers started experiencing the more modern style of combat training that developed into the methods used today.

“That’s when close-quarter combat training began, and we started to see some changes to the weapon systems,” said Pumarejo.

He said when he first enlisted, there was no squad automatic weapon; the squad’s automatic rifleman was equipped with the same rifle as everyone else, except he got a 30-round magazine instead of a 20-round one, and a bipod for his weapon that “looked like a pair of salad tongs.”

The introduction of the SAW in the mid-‘80s, and the M240-B machine gun in the 90’s marked a notable change in the weapon technology used by the Army, Pumarejo said.

“Equipment just started getting better and better, and I really started noticing that in the mid-‘90s,” he said.

Even with all the technological advancements that have come and gone over the years, Pumarejo insists his Soldiers fighting in the mountains of Afghanistan are in essence no different than those he fought and trained alongside in the ‘80s.

“It’s not the kit that makes the Soldier,” he said. “I caution Soldiers not to get too far away from the basics, there’s always iron sights on the weapons; you should always make sure you can use those first, and then you put the optics on.”

Pumarejo is getting ready to hang up his own weapon, iron sights and all, following this deployment and move on to the next stage of his life. But that doesn’t mean he can start taking it easy now.

“I’m going to stay out with the Soldiers where I should be, leading by example and enduring the hardships,” he said. “In fact, tonight two lucky Soldiers are going to get some extra sleep or chow, because Command Sgt. Maj. is going to take their guard shift for them.”

As for the next chapter in his life, Pumarejo is still undecided, although the two things he’s sure about are trying to grow out his hair and beard -- which he admits probably won’t work -- and spending time with his wife, Dee, and their two young children, Abigail Faith, 6, and Drew Jr., 5.

“It’s time for me to support my family,” he said, pounding his desk for emphasis. “They’ve been following me all these years to all these different places. So I’m going to give back and allow my wife to pursue her career.”

Still, retirement is a bit far off for now, and he continues to concentrate on his task at hand: being the best leader he can be for his roughly 4,500-strong TF Duke.

When asked, he has difficulty picking a single most important piece of advice from his vast well of experience to give to younger Soldiers, but he expressed the six rules he’s lived by for 30 years, that have made him such a successful noncommissioned officer.

“You do what you’re told, when you’re told, how you’re told. You be a team player, you be respectful, and don’t be a brown-noser. If you can do these six things, you’ll be a success.”
KHOWST PROVINCE, Afghanistan – U.S. Army Command Sgt. Maj. Drew Pumarejo, the senior enlisted Soldier in the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Task Force Duke, stand outside the TF headquarters at Forward Operating Base Salerno, Afghanistan, March 29. Pumarejo marked his 30th year of active duty on March 26. (Photo by U.S. Army Maj. Travis Dettmer, Task Force Duke Public Affairs)


Last Updated on Wednesday, 30 March 2011 03:58


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Coalition forces engage insurgents in Kapisa

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – Coalition forces killed seven insurgents in defensive operations in the Alah Say District, Kapisa Province, eastern Afghanistan, March 29.

Coalition forces and aircraft responded to an insurgent attack. Four insurgents were killed by air strike and three were killed by direct fire from coalition forces.

All rounds were reported safe and on target. There were no reports of injuries or damages to civilians in the area.

ANSF, ISAF begin major operation in Laghman valley

LAGHMAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan – The Afghan National Security Forces, partnered with U.S. Task Forces Red Bulls and Phoenix and French Task Force La Fayette, began operations in Galuch Valley, Laghman Province, March 25.

Soldiers of the Afghan National Army’s 201st Corps, Afghan National Police’s 202nd Shamshod and the U.S. Army’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division, TF Red Bulls, supported by the 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, TF Phoenix, conducted an air assault into the valley to remove enemy forces. Battle Group Richelieu, TF La Fayette, provided artillery support from Kapisa Province.

While conducting operations, the forces found multiple weapons caches including assorted rocket propelled grenades, mortar rounds, Russian rockets, materials to make homemade explosives, various other ordnances and communication equipment.  

While moving through the valley, unit leadership met with village elders to discuss the security situation and to allow them to give up insurgents still in the area.

The operation will assist the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in establishing the valley as a new district giving the Afghan people in the area freedom from the insurgency.   

President Hamid Karzai approved the creation of the additional district and hopes the new district will help improve the security of the area and support the reconstruction effort.

Mohammad Iqbal Azizi, Laghman Province governor, held a press conference March 7 announcing the establishment of a new district located in the valley.

ANSF, TF Bastogne continue operations in Kunar


KUNAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Afghan National Security Forces and coalition troops from Task Force Bastogne continued operations in the Shigal District March 18 after clearing the village of Lawsin and the surrounding area.

Afghan leaders, coalition forces look forward

PAKTYA, Afghanistan – Leaders from across eastern Afghanistan attended a security conference March 9 at Forward Operating Base Thunder, the home of the Afghan Army’s 203rd Thunder Corps.