By Brett Milam
After 17 years in the U.S. Army and 37 months deployed in war zones overseas, a Batavia High School graduate earned a promotion and a ceremony in front of his family on Oct. 7.
Sgt. 1st Class Brian Bailey graduated from BHS in 1998, where he also met and then married his high school sweetheart, Judie Thiele.
In 2000, Bailey said he was a 20-year-old “skinny kid” working 65-hour weeks in Eastgate, eating PB&Js and realized this isn’t what he wanted out of life.
“Is this what I want to do with the rest of my life?” Bailey said, reflecting on that time.
So, he joined and went through One Station Unit Training at Fort Knox, Kentucky and began his distinguished career as a Cavalry Scout. A role that meant being the “eyes and the ears” of the unit in battle and take stock of conditions, like the weather and of course, the enemy itself.
Being in the military meant taking his family from Alaska to Texas to Georgia. And along the way, Bailey and his wife had three kids, Samantha, 9-years-old; Isabelle, 7-years-old; and Maddox, 2-years-old.
“Having the support is incredible,” Bailey said. ”
Bailey would go on to serve in Operation Iraqi Freedom on a number of occasions and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. In particular, Bailey was serving in Baghdad in 2006, one of the deadliest years in the war up to that point. It was the surge before the official surge in 2007.
“We’re not in this to get into a tickle fight,” Bailey said.
And he serve in Afghanistan for a 16-month stretch, which he said was pretty difficult.
Among Bailey’s other assignments throughout his career: Duty as the Sniper Section Leader for the 6-8 Cav 2nd IBCT 3rd ID; Senior Military Mountaineering Instructor at the Northern Warfare Training Center in Black Rapids, Alaska; Senior Scout in A Troop 5-1 Cav 1-25th SBCT in Fort Wainwright, Alaska; Senior Scout in A Troop 4-14 Cav 172nd SBCT also in Fort Wainwright; and Bradley Gunner and Vehicle Commander B Troop 1-7 Cav 1st Cavalry Division in Fort Hood, Texas.
Bailey also graduated from the U.S. Army’s Sniper School Mobile Training Team in the former FOB (forward operating base) Speicher in Tikrit, Iraq; the Reconnaissance and Surveillance Leaders Course at Fort Benning, Georgia; the Assault Climbers Course, Military Mountaineering Instructor Qualification Course, Cold Weather Instructor Qualification Course and the Cold Weather Leadership Course at the Northern Warfare Training Center in Black Rapids, Alaska; the Senior Leaders Course also at Fort Benning; Advance Leaders Course at Fort Knox; the Warriors Leader Course at Fort Hood; and the U.S. Army’s Recruiter Course, also at Fort Knox.
His awards and decorations include: the Purple Heart, the Army Commendation Medal (7th Oak leaf cluster), Army Achievement Medal (3rd Award), the Army Good Conduct Medal (5th knot), the National Defense Service Medal, the Iraq Campaign Medal (four Campaign Stars), the Afghanistan Campaign Medal (one Campaign Star), the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon (3rd Numeral), the Army Service Ribbon, and the Army Overseas Medal (6th Numeral).
Additionally: The NATO medal ISAF, the Army Valorous Unit Award, the Army Meritorious Unit Award, the Army Recruiter Badge, the Drivers Badge, the Combat Action Badge, and the Draper Armor Leadership Award.
To his knowledge, Bailey said he’s the first member of his family to serve in combat since the first World War. And he’s the highest serving member in his family since the Civil War.
“I’m acutely aware of the responsibility that comes with this rank,” Bailey said, calling the promotion a significant step. “It’s been a long time coming. I’ve had a fairly successful career. It’s an obligation to other soldiers.”
For the last couple of years, Bailey has worked as an Army Recruiter for the Eastgate Recruiting Center in Cincinnati and often, he’s able to do it at his old stomping grounds: Batavia High School.
Being a recruiter isn’t easy, though, Bailey said, as he has a full-time family, as he called it and “full-time this,” referring to recruiting.
He’s also attending classes at the UC Clermont College to earn his degree in business management.
Recruiting is about bringing in good soldiers, although what defines a good soldier is hard to pin down. The character, aptitude and skill it takes to be a soldier often arises in the heat-of-the-moment; in the course of “being” a soldier.
“A lot of the time, it’s the kids you don’t expect,” Bailey said. “People will surprise you.”
Often they will have a skill you didn’t know they had, he said.
There is no soldier formula, but the goal is to find those people who can replace him and “do it even better,” Bailey said. “We breed it into each other. You have an obligation to foster the best in people.”
The two sides of the coin is the ability for the potential soldier to be qualified in a physical sense and to be dedicated mentally to the duty and sacrificed required, as it’s essentially a way of life, Bailey said.
Dozens of Bailey’s family, friends and other members of the military were on hand to celebrate with him, including his dad, Jack.
“Obviously, extremely proud of him and all the years he put into it,” he said, adding that Bailey had sacrificed for his family and that he loves his country.
The sacrifice for his family hasn’t been lost on Bailey: At the ceremony, he gave his wife 17 roses to signify 17 years together.
Even though Bailey said it’s been “tumultuous” at times because they both can be stubborn, they are also very dedicated to each other.
“The Army, honestly, it’s about failure. And what I mean by that is, you have to fail and continually fail until you find the point where you’re going to be successful at whatever it is you’re doing,” Bailey said, to those gathered in attendance. “I’ve been wanting to quit more times than I can count; the difference is, I just never did.”
Bailey added, later, after the ceremony, “I’ll do this until they tell me to quit.”