February 12, 2003 at 10:54 PM CST - Updated June 19 at 11:02 PM
Life Off-Duty, On Base By: Amy Jacquin
(Fort Campbell, KY)--Ft. Campbell is home to the only Air Assault Division in the world. Amy Jacquin traveled to Ft. Campbell, and tagged along for some of the 101st Airborne Division training.
In this story, she steps back from training, and looks at life dudring their off-hours. Soldiers still tend to stick together, even when out of uniform... building a strong brotherhood. Those bonds become vital elements to get soldiers ready for war.
"I wanted to get some college money, get out of the house! Get off on my own," says 20-year-old Tyler Springstead, when asked why he enlisted. Tyler joined 2.5 years ago... and has been independent ever since, much to the mixed feelings of his parents.... who both teach school in Farmington. And his Father served in the U-S Army First Infantry Division.
"I'm a Vietnam War vet, so I'm concerned, naturally," says his Father, Jay.
"I'm scared," echoes his Mother, Stacey. "But I'm also very proud."
Tyler's older brother, Cullan, is also at Fort Campbell. So the Springsteads often travel the 4-hours from Farmington to Fort Campbell, to visit their sons during their "down" time.
When they enter the gates of Ft Campbell, they're in a fully sufficient city. Soldiers and their families can live on base, catch the bus to a campus school, buy groceries and clothes -- tax free of course -- get the car worked on, run by the bank, and head to Church. And just like any other city, you'll find fitness centers, golf courses, parks, swimming pools, all sorts of sporting facilities... even archery and horseback riding.
"It wasn't really set-up for families in the 60's, like it is now," says Jay, comparing some of the many differences about life on base.
"They go to the rec center and exercise," Stacey says, as she laughs as some of their pasttimes. "They're typically kids... they have their Play Stations, and X Boxes! Typical kids!"
She shares a picture of her sons, galavanting in one of the base pools. They look very young, and very different than they do "on duty". But building that bond is important, even among soldiers who aren't related.
"Well, we live together, work together... Pretty much we're always together," says Tyler. "So you're pretty good friends."
The brothers grew up with their Dad's war stories. We see a picture at the Vietnam Memorial Wall, where Tyler is making impressions of the friends Jay lost. Jay thought those stories might actually scare his sons away from the army... but obviously the discipline and opportunities of service made the biggest impression.
"They're so young, at this age I really think they don't care about politics," he says. "So when they're called to fight, they fight for their buddies, their friends. It's a commraderie I can't explain."
One of Tyler's platoon members sums it up. "It's like a big family," says Chris Barton. "We know we got to depend on each other if we go to war. So we try to hang out, and do what we can as a group, to build brotherhood."
They's why the military does what it can to foster friendships among soldiers... off the training field... as well as on.