By Walter T. Ham IV
8th U.S. Army
CAMP JACKSON, South Korea, Feb. 5, 2014 – A combat veteran who earned the Purple Heart in Iraq is teaching a new generation of U.S. and South Korean noncommissioned officers in Korea.
Army Staff Sgt. Keith C. Thompson teaches noncommissioned officers in the Warrior Leader Course at the Wightman NCO Academy.
Attached to a reconnaissance platoon with the 3rd Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment in Waddaha, Iraq, Thompson was participating in a route clearance mission when his Stryker infantry fighting vehicle ran over a crush wire connected to a 500-pound improvised explosive device buried under the ground.
The blast injured him and two other soldiers in the Stryker.
"I remember the initial chaos to get us out of the Stryker, because the power to all the systems shut down and the door sealed," said Thompson, a 16-year Army veteran from Miami.
"Initially, I felt some fear. Once out of the Stryker, I saw soldiers pulling security and others assessing the battle damage while the medic was checking out the other injured soldiers," he continued. "I remember seeing a lot of teamwork."
After exiting the damaged Stryker, Thompson helped to treat the injured driver for shock and carry him to the medevac helicopter.
Despite his injuries, Thompson requested to rejoin his unit 10 days later.
This fateful mission occurred on Thompson's first deployment with the Vilseck, Germany-based 2nd Stryker Calvary Regiment to Iraq from 2007 to 2008. He made a second wartime deployment with the 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment to Afghanistan from 2010 to 2011.
The staff sergeant reported to Korea in 2011 to serve with the 501st Military Intelligence Brigade, and he later volunteered to serve as an instructor at the Wightman NCO Academy, where he teaches U.S. and South Korean noncommissioned officers.
Since August 2012, South Korean army staff sergeants and sergeants have attended the Warrior Leader Course together with U.S. Army NCOs.
"I was happy to get the position where I can use my experience from combat to teach the Warrior Leader Course students on resilience, understanding the dynamics of the mission and taking care of soldiers," Thompson said. "I learn, grow and mold future NCOs."
Thompson said character, trust and competence are what make soldiers want to follow their NCOs.
The chief of the Warrior Leader Course, Army 1st Sgt. Andrew Malik, said Thompson has excelled at the NCO Academy.
"Staff Sergeant Thompson is one of the most competent Warrior Leader Course small group leaders at the academy, as reflected by his high student [grades] each cycle," said Malik, from Middleburg, Fla.