Norwich student gains leadership experience from recent deployment

Chris Pond on deployment.

Chris Pond on deployment.

Many college students enlist in the National Guard because they are not required to deploy. This was not the case, however, for Norwich University student Spc. Chris Pond, who volunteered for deployment.

In August 2011, Pond, a 20 year old academic sophomore criminal justice major from Braintree, Mass., stepped onto the NU campus as a rook in the Corps of Cadets. Unlike most of his fellow recruits, Pond had already signed himself to the Massachusetts National Guard.

Prior to attending Norwich, he enlisted as an Infantryman (11B) in the Massachusetts National Guard following in the footsteps of his parents. “Both of my parents are in (the army) and I’ve always wanted to join,” Pond said.

Going into his sophomore year, Pond said that he knew the great sacrifices that he would have to make as he volunteered for deployment with his unit. “The best officers are ones with experience,” he said. “I was given this opportunity, and in the military if someone gives you an opportunity, it would be foolish to give it up.”

In order to deploy with his unit (A, 3-126 Aviation), Pond spent 10 weeks at Fort Indiantown Gap, Penn. training to become a Blackhawk mechanic crew chief (15T).

Pond said that additional training included two months in Fort Hood, Texas where the army made sure we were ready for the deployment. “I flew every day to get used to flying long hours and being away from home.”

Pond first landed in Bagram Air Force Base, Afghanistan, on Sept. 28, 2013, and was unsure what to expect. Upon landing, he said, the first thing he noticed was the unique smell. “There’s an indescribable smell no matter where I go here,” he said from his current location in Bagram Airfield, “and it’s not pleasant.”

Due to the significance of his mission, Pond is not allowed to reveal much information other than the fact that he is “either flying or fixing aircraft” everyday.

According to the United Press International (UPI) website in an article posted on Oct. 14, there was an attack by Taliban militants on Bagram Airfield, where Pond is currently stationed. “Taliban militants fired at least a dozen missiles on the U.S. airfield in Bagram, Afghanistan.”

Pond was safe after the attack, but he was not able to go into much detail regarding the event.

Pond said that each unexpected encounter with the native Afghans has made his deployment a unique experience. “They (the Afghanis) live totally different lives from us,” Pond said, “and it’s hard to understand how and why they live a certain way.”

While overseas, Pond says, there is considerable effort in maintaining a professional and positive image. “It’s important to keep in mind that we are always being watched,” he said.

Although Pond has yet to participate in many “shoot, move, communicate” situations, he claimed that his time at Norwich, and interactions with the diverse NU community, prepared him for his deployment. “Norwich has taught me respect for fellow soldiers and even people from other countries.”

Though he is thousands of miles away, Pond still has a connection to NU through the soldiers around him.  Many of the ranking officers stationed with Pond, he says, have heard of Norwich before and the institution’s reputation. “Their faces light up when they find out I’m a cadet,” Pond said. “The conversation instantly becomes more relaxed because there’s a common respect between officers that Norwich Cadets seem to have earned.”

Pond says that he also stays connected by wearing his rook platoon 11-4-1 patch on his helmet wherever he flies.

When his deployment ends and he comes back to the U.S., Pond said that he plans on returning to NU in the fall of 2014. He will continue both Army ROTC and the Corps of Cadets along with his academics.

Although he has sacrificed his time and is now serving overseas, Pond said that his choice to enlist is one he does not regret.

“There’s not a day that goes by where I regret joining.  Enlisting will not only make you a better officer, but also a better person.”

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