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Operation Iraqi Freedom

Sergeant Major Bernard J Hobbs

(10/11) I was born in 1957 in Gettysburg Pa and I was raised in and around the Fairfield and Emmitsburg areas. As a young man, I spent time at my Aunt Helen and Uncle Mark Sanders farm in Taneytown Md. On 7 May 1976, I Joined the Army Reserves in Gettysburg PA. I departed for basic training at Ft Sill, OK in June 1976 were I spent 8 weeks doing basic combat training and then 10 weeks of advance infantry training as a field radio repairman. I completed this training in October 1976. After returning home, I performed my one weekend a month drills and two weeks of annual training. In 1978, I transferred to the Maryland Army National Guard in Frederick MD. I spent the next 5 1/2/ years from1980 to 1985 on active duty with the National Guard where I was stationed at Highfield Armory with the 558th Signal Detachment. In 1985, the 29th Division was reactivated replacing the 558th Signal Detachment. The 29th Division has a lot of history with the invasion of Normandy on D-Day during WWII. I left active duty and returned to doing my weekend drills and two weeks in the summer. During this time I did construction work eventually becoming a project manager. I remained a member of the Maryland Army National Guard for the next 20 plus years. I had achieved the rank of First Sergeant. In summer of 2001, after 25years of service, I felt I had had enough. I decided to put in my retirement papers. As you might not know when you retire from the reserve you can not draw any money or benefits until the age of 60.

Then Sept 11 happened. My retirement papers had not been processed, so I felt that I needed to withdraw them. In 2002, my unit deployed in support of Noble Eagle and was assigned to Ft. Belvoir VA in support of homeland security. At the end of 2002, I was promoted to the highest enlisted grade in the Army - Sergeants Major. As a lowly country boy with only a high school education, I never thought that I would achieve an honor with such prestige. After returning home in 2003 and going back to working construction, I felt lost and out of place. The 14 months on active duty gave me a taste of what I feel is my true calling. Returning to civilian life was hard. In the army I was and am respected and looked to for guidance. I am the old man of the unit. It was a hard time for me, my wife and my family. Everyone thinks that it is hard to leave and be away from your family, which it is, but it is even harder to return. Time goes by and each person changes and adapts to the role that they must perform. Deployments not only change you but cause you to miss important events like my wife graduating from college and the births of my grandchildren. Missing Christmas, holidays and time away from your family make you realize what is truly important.

In January 2006 I was deployed to Guantanamo Bay Cuba (GTMO) where I served as the operations SGM of the Joint Forces Headquarters over the detention facility for 15 months. After returning in 2007, I tried civilian life again for a year. I felt lost. I made a decision and after talking it over with my wife I did something that everyone has told me I was crazy for doing. I did something that I was told never to do when I first joined the military some 30 plus years before. I volunteered to go to Afghanistan. I left in April 2008 and was assigned with the Army Corp of Engineers overseeing construction projects and teaching Afghan contractors. In September of that year my daughter gave birth to a premature baby weighing only 2lb 3oz. My father passed away at the end of September. I was able to come home for my fatherÕs funeral so I was able to see my granddaughter. I returned to Afghanistan. In November I suffered a heart attack. With the grace of God, I have fully recovered.

I am currently a member of the West Virginia National Guard. My full time job is an active duty position with the National Guard Bureau in Washington, DC. My current position involves overseeing individual and unit awards for all 54 states and territories. It is something I enjoy. After serving at present time for 35 years I am looking forward to retiring in two years. This time for good! This will make my wife and family very happy as you can imagine.

As member of the National Guard I happily embrace the responsibility of promoting service to oneÕs country. The camaraderie and fellowship I have shared in the military helped define me and profoundly changed my character and redirected my path in life. I can honestly say the time IÕve spent as a member of the United States Army National Guard will stay with me and define me till the day I die. It changed me from a young man angry about my childhood and not having the material things, to an old soldier thankful to God and grateful for the things my family and the Lord has given me spiritually and mentally. I now know God has a plan for me.

I have been married to my wife, Dawn, for 32 years living in Rocky Ridge, MD. We have 4 children, 7 grandchildren and another on the way. My son, SPC Michael J. Hobbs just returned from a one year tour in Afghanistan and is stationed at Ft. Eustis, VA. I am on the board of directors and a life member of VFW Post 6658 and a member of American Legion Post 121 in Emmitsburg Md. I am a member and deacon of Monocacy Church of the Brethren in Rocky Ridge, MD.

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