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Sgt. Jason Goodman of Morristown
Sgt. Jason Goodman of Morristown

Behind the scenes in a well-equipped Army troop

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At a media briefing last Friday, Fort Drum commander James Terry updated the status of the 1st Brigade. The brigade based at the Army base near Watertown deployed to Afghanistan earlier this spring as a part of President Obama's troop surge in the country. Terry says the brigade is split in three. He says the 2-22nd is first cohesive battalion to spend all their time training the Afghan Army. Another group of soldiers is training army and local police in northern Afghanistan. And the 1-71st Cavalry is in Kandahar, the country's Taliban hotbed, attached to a Canadian battle unit. Before the 1-71st Cavalry left Fort Drum, David Sommerstein visited with a St. Lawrence County man in the unit. He's in charge of keeping his troop well-equipped. Here's his profile.

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Goodman in his domain - Shadow Troop's supply cage

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David Sommerstein
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A humvee drops off Sergeant Jason Goodman at the 1-71st Cavalry headquarters.  Goodman was on range, testing his weapon one last time before Afghanistan. 

How's it goin, sir, Sergeant Goodman.  "Pretty good.  David Sommerstein, nice to meet you."  Is there anyway that we can start the interview outside so I can have a quick cigarette sir, it's been about 4 hours.

[door opening]

Outside, Goodman sparks up a discount smoke. 

Cheyenne, sir, just over 2 dollars a pack.

Goodman's camo uniform is baggy.  He wears wire-rimmed glasses and a fleece hat that looks a size too big for his head.  He's a guy who seems to slip into the background.

Goodman says he was a quiet kid at Morristown high school, just waiting for it to get over.  After graduation, he worked for a caterer and Walmart and someplace else he can't remember.  Spinning his wheels, he says.

After high school, I just couldn't find my place around here for any kind of jobs or anything, but when I lost my last job, the recruiter came calling.  I started talking to him.  It just sounded like, to my style at the time, I was looking for something bigger than myself.  I found it.  I've stuck with it since, sir.

Goodman's job in the Army, too, is one that goes largely unnoticed.  But it helps drive the military endeavor.

You remember Radar, right?  From MASH?  Ditzy as he could be, he was a company clerk who got the little things right.

[MASH clip]

For Troop A of the 1-71st Cavalry, known as Shadow Troop, Sergeant Goodman is Radar, minus the spaciness.

He presides over his company's equipment cage, a fenced-in cell buried deep in a warehouse on post.

[sound up of cage]

This is my office for while I'm still here....

Goodman can barely walk amidst an eclectic mess of stuff.  There's a can of transmission fluid.

For when we're working on our vehicles for maintenance days, sir.

A roll of barbed wire used in training exercises.

It's been said that they do, but I've never actually seen it myself, sir.

And three push lawnmowers...

For soldiers that aren't doing what they should, they get the task of mowing grass sometimes.

Officially Shadow Troop's supply sergeant, Goodman tracks a couple million dollars worth of equipment. 

I don't envy him.  It's a very strenuous job.

Shadow Troop Commander, Doug Baker, says Goodman tracks every piece of equipment going to Afghanistan and where it goes once it gets there.

He's the subject matter expert.  What's right, what's not.  How to fix broken stuff.  How to change out old stuff.  Pretty much inventorying, helping us pack, finding out what needs to go where.

Baker says the unit Goodman tracks supplies for - the 1-71st Cavalry - is the eyes and ears of the U.S. Army in Afghanistan. 

Interacting with the populace, validating...helping to validate local governments and really paertner with the local police.  And by partner, I mean, living with them, eating with them, planning with them, working with them.

In other words, President Obama's strategy to rebuild Afghanistan - and begin to withdraw American troops next year - relies in no small part on people like Sergeant Goodman.

This is one of the remarkable things about nearly a decade of war in the Middle East.  It's not just the copter pilots and combat troops and bomb defusers --  scores of local men and women  in the back room are playing key roles in global geopolitics.

Sergeant Goodman says it's where he fits in.

We're going over there to help out.  And for myself, I signed up for it.  I knew what to expect and I knew I was going to deploy.  I didn't shy away from it because I want to help people.

Goodman's family in Morristown and Rossie and Ogdensburg is, like America as whole, divided over the war.  His parents and siblings and cousins fear the danger that awaits him.

Last fall, Goodman got married, to a woman with two childrenlast fall.  He says the deployment'll be hardest on her.

My wife is scared.  She's never been in this situation.  That was bound to happen.  But she understands that the year will go by faster once she realizes that once I'm over there, each day I'm over there is one day less I have to be over there.

Sergeant Goodman's served almost eight years in the Army, with two to go.  Three years in Korea and three at Fort Polk, Louisiana.  FortDrum was supposed to be a homecoming. 

Afghanistan changed that.  Now, the days are counting down before Sergeant Goodman returns home to the North Country.

For North Country Public Radio, I'm David Sommerstein at FortDrum.

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