Veteran Salute: 25 years of mentoring soldiers

Veteran Salute

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – A retired Army Sergeant First Class says every person needs a mentor since we are all constantly learning.

Jeff Gaines was that leader to look up to for so many soldiers.

Gaines said when he looks back over his time in the Army, he’s beyond thankful for his wife and three daughters, and their support and many sacrifices.

“I start to reminisce about everything that I have accomplished, where I’ve been,” retired Army Sergeant First Class Jeff Gaines said.

There is a lot to consider when you are talking about 25 years in the Army.

“This picture was way back in 1989,” Gaines said.

Gaines’ desire to serve started in high school when he was a member of the JRTOC or the U.S. Army Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps.

“I can think of every great leader that I’ve had,” Gaines said.

He can even name them by name.

“There’s a term we use in the military, you know what right looks like, and they showed me and demonstrated more than anything that right looks like,” Gaines said.

His leadership skills were applied often, in combat.

“There were 700 of us, but we were really a team, at this point we really just counted on each other,” Gaines said.

The soldiers were part of the Stryker Brigade Team, a first of its kind Army unit.

“We got to prove the system over there and actually make it better,” Gaines said.

He said many of the recommendations they made are still in place today on the battlefield.

“That allows the battlefield commander the same situational awareness that he would have in his headquarters but now on the move,” Gaines said.

He would go back to Iraq, and many other places around the world.

“These are some of the pictures I have of my deployments,” Gaines said.

He deployed many times from Chad to Kuwait to Korea to Bosnia.

“This is how we lived, we were in a tent,” Gaines said.

One of many accolades Gaines received along the way was the Commanding General’s Sabor Award.

He said his unit got it for not having any alcohol-related incidents in one year, but his unit had gone four years without any mishaps.

Gaines said that was thanks to the culture his commander and he created.

“It was family-oriented, it was team-oriented, everybody felt like they contributed to the unit,” Gaines said.

He said he felt like he could empathize with his soldiers.

“Being able to maintain that positive contact, between the soldier forward in the battlefield, but also maintain that back with the family is a good thing,” Gaines said.

He said he is thankful he was able to lead and mentor so many, over the years.

“The most rewarding part for me and all those experiences, in that capacity, which leads me here today was definitely the leadership and mentorship roles I’ve had throughout my career,” Gaines said.

Even in retirement, you’ll still find Gaines helping the families of the fallen.

“My overwhelming calling is to help, so I am going to be there to assist, whatever it is they need to get them through that crucial time,” Gaines said.

He said the two Gold Star Mother coins he has received mean more than any of the others he ever earned.

“These mean a lot to me, that I have these,” Gaines said.

Gaines has many family members who have served in the Air Force, even his wife is retired Air Force.

He said there is some friendly competition in their house, and when I asked him about that, he looked directly at the camera and said ‘Go Army.’

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