Riding through the sand in a Humvee away from an entry control point on the National Training Center June 11, Sgt. 1st Class Charles Davis embraced one of his most cherished sentiments.
â€œThereâ€™s always something you can learn,â€ said the senior paralegal for Headquarters, Headquarters Company, 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division.
Davis, currently stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., has served as an Army paralegal for 15 years.Â He has deployed to Kuwait once and to Iraq twice, and heâ€™s been to the expansive training center four times.
But still, he said, heâ€™s doing things that, even in the bulk of his extensive career, have never much crossed his path.
â€œIâ€™ve predominantly punished Soldiers who have committed offenses,â€ he said.
But now, heâ€™s learning to deal with Afghan locals â€“ role players from the country who offer units at NTC a realistic experience. His main focus: pay them compensation if the Army damages any of their property or kills any of their farm animals.
â€œAccidents happen,â€ said Davis, a native of Williamston, N.C. â€œWe have a lot of vehicles, a lot of Soldiers on deployments for the first time that may not have the experience driving vehicles and things of that nature.Â But when those things happen, we have mechanisms in place to compensate for them.â€
The scenario in this case: pay a local 10,500 Afghani â€“ amounting to 217 U.S. dollars â€“ for damages to his vehicle after Soldiers in a convoy accidentally ran into it.
â€œIt shows our maturity and responsibility,â€ he said. â€œIf we were just destroying stuff, and we werenâ€™t owning up to it and actually compensating people for it, I think that would be a worse thing.â€
â€œWe want to make right with the public, so I think thatâ€™s awesome,â€ said Spc. Elisabeth Barnett, Davisâ€™s driver and assistant for his June 11 mission and a paralegal herself.
Barnett held Davisâ€™s rifle as he met with the role-playing Afghan local â€“ one of his first real encounters with the traditions of Afghan culture.
Afterward, he talked about some things he could have done better, noting that he should have returned the localâ€™s traditional greeting, â€œAs-Salamu Alaykum.â€
In previous rotations at the training center, Davis has never dealt with claims for local nationals, and while at JBLM, he said, civilians handle claims for residents of the surrounding communities.Â But here he has some time to work out all the kinks before the brigadeâ€™s Afghanistan deployment.
â€œWith any job you do, no one ever knows everything,â€ Davis said. â€œThereâ€™s always something you can improve on, that you can learn to make you a better person and add to your toolkit.â€
Thatâ€™s especially the mentality out here, where curveballs are thrown, missions can change at a momentâ€™s notice and the learning never ends.