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Master Gunnery Sgt. Roger Werthmann (left) shaks the hand of his newly promoted son, Sgt. Greg Werthmann, May 1,2006, at Qayyarah West Airbase, Iraq. Greg was promoted from specialist to sergeant by his father, Roger, who made the special trip from Al Asad.

Photo by Staff Sgt. Robert S. Parker

Father travels great lengths to promote son

27 Nov 2007 | Capt. Patrick Shepherd

When a family is separated from their military children during a time of war, it usually takes months, or possibly years, for a father to see his son again. This holds true even throughout Iraq, where fathers and sons serve in the U.S. Armed Forces fighting the War on Terrorism during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

However, in rare cases, there are circumstances that afford military family members the opportunity to reunite with one another and spend quality time together. This rarity occurred when Marine and father, Master Gunnery Sgt. Roger Werthmann, aviation ordnance chief, Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 16 (Reinforced), 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, made the trek through parts of Iraq to participate in the promotion of his son, Army Spc. Greg Werthmann, Stryker driver and forward observer, Alpha Company 52nd Infantry, 172nd Stryker Brigade, to a sergeant.

The coordination between the Marine Corps and Army units was successful in getting the father and son reunited for Greg's promotion - the first step to him becoming a leader in the noncommissioned officer ranks. Through the diligent efforts of both commands in Iraq, arrangements were made to allow Roger to fly from Al Asad to Qayyarah West Airbase.

Although the travel time seemed long and complicated, the reward at the end of the trip was well worth it.

Emerging from a "Sherpa," a small cargo plane, Roger, a 26-year veteran and Davenport, Iowa, native, began his journey with his arrival at Qayyarah West Airbase in the early morning hours April 29.

Welcomed by his son at the military airport, they spent the remainder of the day getting reacquainted followed by a tour of the base.

The following day, as part of Greg's ongoing mission in Iraq, the two went out on an eight-hour patrol donned in full combat gear in Alpha Company's area of responsibility to perform civil military operations. 

Greg is a vital member of the Fire Support Team, which is responsible for all civil affairs projects in the area. The team has been able to establish several schools, wells and electrical systems, providing the people of the Tigris River Valley with basic living needs. 

During this patrol, the team, along with the second platoon from Alpha Company, traveled into the desert to search for outlying towns in order to gather as much information as possible about the area. This information allows company and battalion leaders to make an accurate assessment of the current water, power and education levels at each location.

As the mission dragged into its eighth hour, father and son discussed everything from their future in the military to families and friends back home.

Upon arrival at their base of operations, Roger told tales of his son, a younger more defiant soldier, as a small group of listeners gathered outside the living quarters.

The next day was the central reason for Roger's trip - his son's promotion to the rank of sergeant. For the rare occasion, Lt. Col. Scott Wuestner, task force commander, 4th Battalion, 11th Field Artillery, joined the remainder of the company at the Al Hatra Ruins located within the Task Force's area of responsibility. 

Roger, proud of welcoming his son to the ranks of the noncommissioned officer corps, stood stiffly at attention along with his son as Wuestner spoke, "It's a rare occurrence in a time of war that a father is able to promote his son."  

As the orders where read aloud, everyone stood in silence. The only sounds were the wind blowing through the Al Hatra Ruins and digital cameras snapping photographs. Roger stood in front of his son, removed the Velcro specialist rank from Greg's chest and proudly attached his son's new rank of sergeant.

After the promotion, Greg, his father and the rest of the group toured the ancient ruins of Al Hatra.  

Following the tour and several other photo opportunities, the fire support team and Roger set out once again on another civil affairs mission. This time to verify the start of construction on a well in the area, as well as pass out school supplies and candy to a town that has had little contact with multi-national forces since 2003. During the patrol, the men were greeted happily by Iraqi children as they handed out candy, clothing, shoes, MRE's and water.

On the final night of Roger's visit to Qayyarah West Airbase, once again, father and son sat outside, talking, laughing and telling tales. The same group encircled the pair once again, listening to all the stories told by father and son. After trading as many photos as possible, all parties left father and son to enjoy their last night together to relive the past few days.

In the early hours May 2, the newly promoted sergeant drove his father back to the terminal where they said their good-byes. Both Werthmanns were humbly aware of the rarity of the occasion that afforded them the opportunity to see each other. For Roger, it was days filled with pride in his son. He saw his son as a true responsible adult, he saw the work his son had accomplished so skillfully in a war zone and got to know his son's fellow soldiers. The cooperation between the Marine Corps and the Army had given him a memory he will cherish forever.
3rd Marine Aircraft Wing