LIEUTENANT KELLY J. Lawler, left, with his “best buddy,” Command Sergeant Major Stevie Burch, on Forward Operating Base Hammer in Iraq.
Kelly Lawler Answers the Call
By Frank Rizzo
FOB HAMMER, IRAQ October 2, 2007 The military labels Lieutenant Colonel Kelly J. Lawler’s MOS (military occupation specialty) as “logistician.”
In civilian terms Lawler, who has been in the Army Quartermaster Corps for nearly 20 years, would be the equivalent of a CEO of a supply company and mayor and police chief of a city all rolled into one.
The Monticello native is the unofficial “mayor” of Forward Operating Base (FOB) Hammer, a 4x4-kilometer home for the 3,800-soldier 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team.
It’s 18 miles from Baghdad and about twice as far to the 3rd Infantry Division headquarters of which the brigade is a part.
Lawler commands the 203rd Brigade Support Battalion, which put up all the necessary structures including a movie theater at the FOB “from the ground up.”
The 203rd’s responsibilities include acquiring and storing food and water, fuel and medical supplies and heavy equipment.
In 2004, his brigade built a FOB at Taji, about 20 miles north of Baghdad.
The Monticello connection
Lawler said he made the decision to join the military in his junior year at Monticello High School (he graduated in 1983).
Both of his parents were educators (mother JoAnn was a teacher while John T. Lawler was longtime Superintendent of Schools at Monticello) and both, according to Kelly, “Whole heartedly supported my decision. Military service was something I just felt I was born into.”
He added, “The childhood and education I received in the Monticello Central School District prepared me for the challenges that we as a nation face today.”
His family spent more than 30 years in Monticello, Lawler noted.
“I just want to give best regards to all. I have fond memories of Monticello, and its people,” he said.
After high school, Lawler attended West Chester University in West Chester, Pa., earning a BS in Criminal Justice and received a three-year Reserve Officer Training Corps commissioning as a second lieutenant in 1987.
He later received a Master’s Degree in Logistics Management from the Florida Institute of Technology in 1998.
While in college, he met his wife of 19 years, Mary. The couple has four children: Meghan, 15; Jonnie, 11; Grace, 6; and Shannon, 5.
His family lives at Fort Benning, Ga.
“Part of the reason to serve initially was to see the world,” Lawler noted, “and that myself and my family have done. We have been traveled the world from Germany to Egypt to Saudi Arabia and Iraq, stateside we have been assigned to Ft. Lee, Virginia; Ft. Carson, Colorado; Ft. Leavenworth Kansas; Ft. Hood, Texas and Ft. Benning, Georgia.”
Three tours to Iraq
Lawler was first deployed to the Iraq theatre of operations as a Second Lieutenant for Operation Desert Storm in 1990. At the time he was serving with VII Corps, 2d Support Command, based in Stuttgart, Germany.
His second deployment was as a Major for Operation Iraqi Freedom II in 2004-2005. He served with the First Cavalry Division, Division Support Command, based at Ft. Hood, TX.
This past spring Lawler was called upon once again to leave his family and return to Iraq.
“To serve our country is the most honorable thing an American citizen can do,” said Lawler. “There is no decision about deployments when the nation calls.”
His 203rd brigade is scheduled to return to Fort Benning in the spring of 2008.
Lawler has driven or flown to Baghdad numerous times in his deployments.
His 203rd has executed over 300 combat patrols in support of the Brigade Combat Team to resupply the units via ground.
Lawler was modest about his achievements.
“I do not build anything,” he said. “I lead the greatest treasure entrusted to me as a leader: America’s sons and daughters to accomplish the missions we are given.”
The mission, and the Surge
Lawler is focused on his bureaucratic tasks, but understands that base security is job number one for all his soldiers.
“As logistics’ soldiers we are warriors first,” he noted.
Turning to the wider issues of the war he commented, “Morale is very high, and we continue to improve the quality of life. Success in Iraq is slow but certain, and progress is made every day. From my perspective, General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker provided a candid and forthright assessment of the progress since the Surge. My soldiers are doing well in a tough environment. We have met our reenlistment goals for the year.
“The surge has given the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team the opportunity to build in areas where we are holding ground,” he added.
Obviously, Lawler looks forward to getting back to his wife and family.
“Mary’s job as a homemaker is harder than mine as a soldier and she is the real trooper,” he said. “Serving this great nation takes both soldier and spouse. She is doing well, and I am fortunate that she came into my life.”
The career military officer has no regrets about his decision.
“Being in the United States Army has been the most rewarding experience of my life,” Lawler concluded. “Our soldiers are focused on fighting the enemy and will continue to perform their mission independently of any political debate.”