New Castle News

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May 26, 2014

Former resident gets battlefield promotion

NEW CASTLE — A master gunner gets no sleep.

When the tank crew wakes, he builds. When the tank crew fires, he observes. When the tank crew rests, he teaches. When the tank crew leaves, he resets for the next. The entire battalion waits for him; he cannot let the battalion wait.

Staff Sgt. Gregory Hennon gets no sleep and the 1st Battalion, 67th Armor Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, will not leave him behind.

Hennon, 36, is one of five soldiers in Army Central to receive a battlefield promotion in Kuwait, promoting him from sergeant to staff sergeant.

A battlefield promotion is received only when forward deployed and requires a soldier to stand out among his or her peers and work in a job level above his rank.

The battlefield promotion system is a program that meritoriously promotes eligible soldiers during a deployment outside of the traditional Army promotion system.

With eight years in the Army and three as a promotable sergeant, Hennon knows hardship and knows struggles, starting from before he joined at 27.

“I was a mason before coming in,” he said. “My appendix ruptured and after three months in the hospital, I lost my job.”

An uncle convinced him to join the Army. Hennon signed up as a 19K tanker.

A graduate of Mohawk High School, he is the son of Ron and Debby Hennon of Shenango Township. He is married to the former Jessica Papach, also a Mohawk grad, and has an 11-year-old daughter, Shiane. His family is stationed at Fort Carson, Colorado Springs.

His brother, Michael, lives in New Castle and his sister, Danielle Lliles, is in Denver.

Noting a military career “was never on his radar,” Debby Hennon said her son found the Army a perfect fit and plans to make it his career.

“It set him on the path that gave his life a purpose, that makes him the man, the father he became.”

She added her son is expected home soon, the first time in four years.

Hennon said he also was recently knighted into the Order of St. George.

“It’s the highest honor a master gunner of a tanker can get,” she said.

Rising up through the ranks, Hennon found he loved to teach. He noted the ultimate teacher for a tank company is the master gunner.

“At the company level, it’s first training your guys how to manipulate the tank and use the fire control system. After that, it’s teaching them how to conduct fire engagements, and ultimately, it’s tracking the gunnery of the unit and finding the weak and strong points of the crews.”

When the unit arrived in Kuwait, Hennon was asked to be the battalion master gunner. The battalion tasked him with creating gunnery tables, which are combat simulated engagements.

“I was the one who built all the tables we fired on. There were no targets in the ground, so we picked where they went, dug them into place and built the scenarios,” Hennon said.

The results and dedication were not lost on his leadership.

“He understands what the master gunner program is about. He’s implemented all the correct standards for the companies to follow, and he’s succeeded at any kind of range or table,” said 1st Sgt. Sammie Clark, senior enlisted leader, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 67 Armor Regiment.

Clark added that while developing the battalion’s gunnery program, Hennon did it filling a slot two ranks above him, and the battalion felt it was their duty to recognize his leadership potential.

“From a leadership perspective, we are making sure we promote those who are able to lead at different levels,” Clark said.

In a career field hit hard by the Army’s current draw down, Hennon’s battlefield promotion still leaves him a bit apprehensive of what he thinks some may call a freebie. But he feels it’s needed for those who sacrifice for the mission.

“The Army doesn’t look at you (for staff sergeant), they look at a number on a piece of paper,” he said.

“I think it cuts a lot of guys short whenever you have guys who are working in the field on a day-to-day basis and don’t have a chance to do college or correspondence courses. This is a system that lets some people know there’s still a chance.”

(This story was written by Sgt. Marcus Fichtl. The New Castle News contributed to the report.)

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