Patriot Profiles: ‘My dad had me on the range at a very young age’
This column presents “Patriot Profiles” to provide readers insight into the lives of our country’s heroes.
A soldier must be ready when the time comes for him to fire his weapon. The U.S. military expertly trains and tests its forces before a weapon is placed in a fighter’s hand. Many who enter military service have never held a rifle, let alone targeted a human enemy who is aiming to kill them, their brothers in arms or innocents. Army Sgt. Cody A. Pultz is not one of those who had never held a gun.
Pultz’s father, a competition shooter on the New York National Guard Rifleman Team, exposed Pultz to shooting. “My dad had me on the range at a very young age,” said Pultz. He remembers going out with his dad and shooting with .22s.
Pultz tasted competition at age 10, when his dad enrolled him in a Small Bore Rifle shooting program. “It was here I learned basic rifle marksmanship skills and the importance of firearm safety.” By age 15, he was competing in nationally-ranked matches. “Biggest thing with him (Dad) was rifle safety, being aware and conscious of what you’re doing at all times.”
Pultz graduated from high school in Mesa, Ariz., where the family had relocated. He jumped into some college courses, but noticed a transformation in some friends who had returned from Army and Marine Corps basic training. “I saw the way they carried themselves — with a sense of pride with what they’d already done.” He thought, “I think I’ll try something else. I like what they are doing.”
At age 18, Pultz began to train on a military shooting range, as an Army infantryman. He was a little frustrated at first. He’d learned from the “best of the best” and felt he was “ahead of the power curve.” Tasked to understand the Army way, he surmised there is a gap between civilian and military shooting worlds. He talked to Army shooters and rifle marksmen. “They taught me some new tricks for honing my skills with weapons.”
Handling the M-4, Pultz says he’s strong in “the ability to be flexible and adaptable to the mission at hand.”
Assigned to Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Aviation at Fort Hood, Texas, Pultz deployed to Afghanistan in 2011, serving as a CH-47 (Chinook) helicopter door gunner. The primary role for a CH-47 is troop movement, artillery placement and battlefield resupply. “We’d put guys on the ground, and then we’d hang out at various altitudes, and when they called for a pick-up, we’d go in and pick them up. I know they (the enemy) would get close, but most of our missions were conducted at night, so they could hear us, but they couldn’t exactly see us. It was an awesome experience and I miss it.”
Pultz enjoyed aerial views from his gunner post — able to see the snow-covered Afghan mountains, while flying missions from Camp Marmal, in the city of Mazar-e-Shariff.
Re-deployed to Fort Hood, Pultz served as an Air Assault School instructor, his most intense position. “I was one of the youngest guys in the cadre (and) the lowest ranking, so I had to climb the rings, learn all the material, and then apply everything to all the noncommissioned officers I was working with.” It took eight months to earn the title of “Black Hat” (instructor).
“The biggest concern for the students was predominantly safety.” Pultz worked in Phase III, teaching soldiers to rappel off a 53-foot tower, dealing with extreme heat, high winds and cold. The exercise offered a challenge while simulating an air operation. “We definitely find out who are afraid of heights once they get up in a helicopter at about 80 feet.”
A good marksman has to understand the fundamentals of aim, alignment, trigger pressure and breathing. Practice builds confidence, which Pultz had spent a lifetime gaining. In situations where there are many unknowns, the sure shot may be vague and confidence can be tried.
When Pultz deployed to Liberia in October 2014, he would join in Operation United Assistance’s efforts to help the Liberian government control Ebola. A clear view of what he would face was not in his sights. He was happy to see he was not “in the middle of a jungle” but met with civilized society. “I was expecting nowhere near the amount of infrastructure and the various government programs in effect here.”
Pultz serves at Division Non-Tactical Vehicle Dispatch office — the primary control center for Barclay Training Center, a hub of activity. His job includes facilitating, managing, and maintaining accountability of all vehicle movement in and out of the BTC. “I arrange trips, coordinate drivers, and get times and locations to get the missions done. “
All the driving is done by Liberian nationals. Pultz describes one of his best drivers, Milton Lomax, a local militiaman, who had experienced war and tragedy. “He’s the definition of selfless service. He’ll go out of his way to make anything happen.” Lomax is an electrician, student, music producer, mechanic. “Every Sunday, he cuts hair for all the U.S. Army personnel.”
Being the middle man for Army personnel and local drivers created an “aha” moment for Pultz. “Even though I was trained to do one thing (infantry), I found myself in many different situations. I still came out on top and made all the missions happen, no matter what section I was working in.
“I’ve had good days and bad days, same as everyone else. But the biggest thing is how you recover from the bad days,” said Pultz. The Liberia deployment caused him to miss a one-year wedding anniversary. “That was a little rough on us, but she (his wife) is coping with it very well. She’s just waiting for me to get home.”
Good days are remembered with his father. “We were on the same range — we had the same stage for one of the big competitions. One of my favorite memories was working with him — seeing how he’d conduct business and how I would conduct business.”
The skills a doting dad taught go out with this infantryman on every battlefield. Sgt. Cody A. Pultz is prepared to fire his weapon, when the time comes.
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