There is no fear in the voices of Bill and Kathryn Lee when they talk about their son Sanford's new assignment in Afghanistan. There is only pride there.
Sanford Nagel, sergeant first class in the Army Reserves, 95th Division, Detachment 8, has been deployed to Afghanistan to help train the trainers for the new Afghan army. He and 26 other drill sergeant instructors will be in Afghanistan for 18 months working closely with their counterparts to develop specialized training.
"They're the cream of the crop," said Bill.
"Before leaving, they met in Oklahoma City for three days, then went on to Fort Benning, Georgia," Kathryn said. "At Fort Benning, Sanford overheard someone ask how long the group had been together and was told probably two or three years. It had only been three days and they had meshed that well."
The Lees and two of their other children met up with Sgt. Nagel in Oklahoma City for a deployment ceremony.
"There was a dinner for all the men and their families. We were so proud of them. It was wonderful," Kathryn said.
"It really gives extra meaning when you say ‘I'm proud to be an American,' after you have been to something like that and seen the camaraderie," Bill said.
The 95th Division includes Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arkansas and Nebraska.
Nagel lives in Wichita Falls, Texas. He went into the Army when he graduated from high school for a four-year hitch in 1985.
He went to Germany about midway through his tour, where he was assigned to work with Pershing missiles. When his tour was up he became an inactive reserve, but with the first Gulf War, he decided he wanted to be a drill instructor, Kathryn explained.
By then, the job with Pershing missiles no longer existed, so the Army could send him anywhere to do any job they needed him to do.
Kathryn said Nagel made the decision to become a drill sergeant, thinking it would more likely keep him stateside. He has been a drill sergeant for 10 years, and a drill sergeant instructor for the last four years. "He's done really well and continued to rise in rank." She said he was recently awarded a medal and statue for excellence in leadership.
The job in Afghanistan was not an assignment, Nagel volunteered to go. The men participating are between 30 and 50 years old, Kathryn said.
It is still a dangerous mission.
"I worry about his safety and well-being," Kathryn said. "It's a big challenge with the difference in language and views. But I also feel very confident this group of men will be very professional and deal with it in a positive way."
Bill said it is really an unusual mission, the group is not taking a program from here and transplanting it in Afghanistan, they are going to develop the program there for the specific needs of the Afghans.
"I'm proud of the effort they're making and I am sure these men will do a wonderful job," he said.
Kathryn and Bill are also staying in closer touch with Nagel than they have in the past. Even though he just arrived in Afghanistan (May 16), they have already had plenty of contact through the computer.
"The thing about the mission that is so phenomenal is the soldiers are encouraged to stay in touch with families and friends," Kathryn said.