SGT David Harding, an Army recruiter assigned to the Dodge City recruiting station, has served in the Army for nearly ten years.
When SGT Harding joined the Army in 2004, he intended to serve for three years and then get out and go do something else, he said. Nearly ten years later, SGT Harding is still in the Army and now works to help other young people understand what opportunities the Army could give them.
At first, all SGT Harding wanted from the Army was the chance to say that he had chosen to serve just as others in his family had served, he said. SGT Harding’s father served in the military and his grandfather was a police officer. “I started to do family research and I realized how much civil service was in my family. I wanted to carry on their tradition,” he explained.
In February of 2006, SGT Harding was deployed to the Middle East where he served in Operation Iraqi Freedom. SGT Harding’s unit was based in Al Nasseria, Iraq and supported the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division and several other units. Among other duties, SGT Harding served as a gunner on convoy security operations, helped to train Iraqi police and military, and was a team leader.
After a year in Iraq, SGT Harding returned home from war, but continued his service in the Army. In September of 2008, SGT Harding again received orders to go to Iraq. This time, SGT Harding’s unit was tasked with assisting the 101st Airborne Division, the 4th Infantry Division, and the 10th Infantry Division at five different locations around the country.
At the end of his second deployment, the sergeant reported to the Army Recruiting and Retention School in Fort Jackson, South Carolina. After graduation he was assigned to the recruiting station in Dodge City.
During SGT Harding’s two tours in Iraq, he built close friendships with many of his fellow soldiers. “Every person that works with you has a family (that they are away from, too.) They will bond with you. That makes it a lot easier,” he said.
Having close friendships with the people that he served with has made his time in the service more enjoyable and his life richer. “The camaraderie definitely makes it better. I talk to my old friends from high school sometimes, but I communicate with my Army friends on a daily basis,” SGT Harding said.
One of the reasons that SGT Harding gravitates toward fellow soldiers for friendship is because he knows what to expect from them, he said. Other soldiers are more likely to understand his lifestyle and his background because they have had similar experiences. “We are going to take care of each other.”
Page 2 of 2 - Regardless of where a soldier grew up or what their cultural, ethnic, or racial background is, all soldiers have a common bond and respect for one another. “We respect the person in the uniform and the rank,” SGT Harding said.
The Army and his two tours in Iraq have changed SGT Harding for the better, he said. “After basic training, everybody around me saw a change.” SGT Harding credits the Army with motivating him, giving him direction in life, and helping him to develop his leadership skills.
The Army has given SGT Harding a number of skills that will be useful to him when his service ends, but he isn’t yet ready to leave, he said. “I am happy to serve and I am proud to serve. I will stay in the Army as long as the Army will keep me.”