Village of Pinehurst, N.C. – Trading fatigues for pink polo shirts and kahki shorts, 15 members from nearby Fort Bragg are at The Country Club of North Carolina this week volunteering their services.
They aren’t at the 62nd U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship for security reasons. Instead they are among the 250 individuals assisting in various aspects of the competition.
“Today I’m working the range,” said 35-year-old Texan Thomas White, an operations sergeant with the 11th Quartermaster Company. He spent nine years in the Navy before moving to the Army three years ago.
That would be the driving range, not a mortar one.
Darlene Mosley, 27, of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., who is an E4 specialist (junior leader) in the 126 Transportation Company, was headed to the seventh hole to serve as a forecaddie.
Texan Chris Strong, also 27, did not yet have an assignment, but he did have a preference. “Hopefully behind the bar,” he said with laughter.
Volunteering at the U.S. Girls’ Junior might be a fun diversion, but what these three do for a living is serious business. Protecting the freedoms of Americans is no easy task, and White and Mosley have both seen the harsh realities of war.
Mosley has been deployed three times; twice to Iraq and once to Afghanistan. White can’t count the number of times he’s been deployed. Strong, who has hopes of joining the special forces, just joined the Army 17 months ago and has yet to be deployed, but knows it’s coming.
“Breaking down doors and clearing houses,” said White, describing his duties. “I smelled some things you don’t want to smell. I had to run from some things that most people don’t want to run from. I’ve seen pipe bombs in houses.”
“Looking at an RPG (rocket propelled grenade) coming right at you,” interjected Mosley.
This week’s assignment brings far fewer hazards. Following a golf ball certainly is safer than monitoring a missile or dodging an IED (improvised explosive device).
Not having to rise at 5 a.m. for 6:30 physical training is also a pleasant diversion.
“It’s a much-needed break,” said Mosley, whose husband is also stationed at Fort Bragg, one of the largest military bases in the U.S. with some 18,000 soldiers.
“We don’t have anyone yelling at you when you need to do something,” added White.
None of the three soldiers had ever volunteered at a golf event before. White and Strong play the game, while Mosley tried it once and got frustrated. She has, however, attended the Masters in Augusta, Ga., as well as LPGA Tour Qualifying School Finals in Daytona Beach, Fla.
White said he normally shoots in the high 90s to low 100s. “On the X-Box, Tiger Woods can’t touch me,” he said.
Perhaps he will pick up a few pointers from the elite 17-and-under female golfers assembled at CCNC.
Then again, all of the competitors here can also gain an invaluable appreciation for what these soldiers do for them on a daily basis.
All of the Ft. Bragg volunteers plan to work shifts at CCNC for the entire championship. Mosley said she found out about the volunteer work when a superior showed her the paperwork. She jumped at the opportunity. Ditto for White and Strong.
“We volunteered to be here,” said White. “This wasn’t an order.”
But when the week concludes, it will be back to work. For White and Strong, that means packing the parachutes for those who jump out of planes. For Mosley, it means assembling the used parachutes and bringing them back to the jumpers.
And there’s always the chance of being deployed again, which brings about inherent dangers, even fatalities.
“I just lost a friend recently,” said Mosley, who has learned to cope with the casualties of being in the U.S. Army.
Added Strong: “We form bonds with people. It helps a lot. People [in the Army] become like your brothers and sisters.”
In the Army, everyone becomes family. Their survival relies on teamwork, even if it means you’ll occasionally lose someone.
“If you let all the negative stuff pile up, you are not going to be successful in the military,” said White. “You’ve got to know when to have a good time and still make jokes at work. You have to know where to divide certain things.”
This week, that means watching golf, not war reports.
David Shefter is a USGA communications staff writer. E-mail him with questions or comments at email@example.com.