Veteran Spotlight: Command Sgt. Maj. Steve Valley
He grew up in Brockton and graduated from what was then North Adams State College, getting his first taste of the military with the 104th Infantry Division while in college.
He did his basic at Fort Benning, Ga., in Advanced Infantry Training.
"I like to be challenged physically, I knew I could do it as I played sports in high school," he said. "I don't think anyone can prepare you for the intense mental aspect, where you have three people yelling at you at the same time ... They break you down to the lowest level, then build you up so you feel bulletproof."
Valley's first assignment was as an infantryman in North Adams, then was transferred back to Brockton when he became qualified in field artillery.
He would go on to be deployed six times — once to Iraq, twice to Japan then three times as a civilian working for CENTCOMM (U.S. Central Command).
He spoke about his deployment to Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
"It was the wild, wild west for sure. Everything that could go wrong did. I was in the Green Zone (a heavily defended area around Baghdad). We got bombed constantly by the enemy, and I also travelled on the world's most dangerous highway — Route Irish (the road to Baghdad International Airport).
Valley said it was what they had been training for, and that "every day you were training for something to happen."
He was assigned to the Combined Press Information Center and was a spokesman for the multinational force.
"It was an active war zone, rockets were fired at us at least five times a week coming out of chow hall," he said. "You could hear the gun shots, sometimes bullets whizzing by your head. We called it 'Full Battle Rattle' and you could never get complacent. I was glad I wasn't a 'door banger' and was happy to not have to go to downtown Bagdad — those were the real heroes."
When I brought up the subject of being afraid, Valley responded with this: "Only time I was afraid was when I was in Japan, they had an enormous earthquake, like 9-plus."
"I was never afraid of bombs, bullets or war fighting but I was afraid when that earthquake hit," he remembered. "I felt completely helpless."
How were the holidays being overseas? "We worked. I missed home, I had a wife and two small kids," he said. "No one can train a spouse for everyday life. They are the glue that holds it all together.
"Holidays were tough but definitely tougher for the loved ones back home," he continued. "As a first sergeant, I made sure everyone got a phone call home. Tell your family you're OK and that you love them at the end of the day."
When asked about a mentor, he replied he had one of the world's best.
"Jordan St. John, a Marine, Vietnam vet, took a personal interest in me," Valley said. "To this day, one of my closest friends. For me personally, as an officer, it was to put the effort in with my men and communicate and get to know them."
Something he remembers most? "The teamwork." He recalled that when he was an Army Reservist, it was about "earning the respect from active-duty military members that you are equal and fully confident. Always soldier first, your specific skills set secondary."
Thoughts on service to his country? "Felt it was an obligation," he said. "It takes a sense of pride when you go across the world. We have our faults but we're still the greatest country in the world. It was an honor to serve my country.
"The military is not for everyone, but everyone should be on the docket to pay it back."
He is the extremely proud father of Army Reserve Capt. Alex Valley and Marine Capt. Sam Valley, an Osprey pilot. He also is the author of, "Inside The Fortress: A Soldier's Life Inside The Green Zone."
Command Sgt. Maj. Steve Valley, thank you for your service to our great country.
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