Unlike many college freshmen at the University of Mississippi, Geoff Lynch learned life-changing lessons as a soldier in the U.S. Army.
Only a year removed from high school graduation, Lynch was deployed from Ft. Polk, Louisiana on Sept. 7, 2013 headed for Afghanistan.
With little time to prepare, he gathered his belongings and made stops in Washington, D.C., Germany, and Kyrgyzstan before finally landing in Bagram, Afghanistan.
From Bagram, Lynch and six other members of his unit were flown by helicopter to Forward Operating Base Fenty in Jalalabad of the Nangarhar Province of Afghanistan.
“Where I stayed at the beginning was in a giant bay with everyone in your unit, which is about 300-500 people,” Lynch said. “You’re in bunk beds that are two feet from each other, so people we’re getting sick and stuff all the time.”
Arriving to FOB Fenty in Jalalabad, Lynch said soldiers were moved into more fitting living quarters with two-person rooms. He said his room had a roof that leaked on the rare occasion that it rained.
“Life there is pretty boring on the base,” he said. “You pretty much do the same thing everyday for however long you’re stationed out there. If you’re on a big enough base, they’ll have celebrities come in and do stuff to boost morale.”
Lynch said soldiers receive downtime to shoot the breeze with comrades and were given internet access, allowing soldiers to video chat with family back home. Some days, Lynch and his friends hit golf balls out of sand dunes with a pitching wedge.
“My official MOS (military occupation code) was a 92 Yankee, which is a unit supply specialist,” Lynch said. “Basically, you are in charge of every movement that happens for the people in your company or battalion.”
Lynch said he was once ordered to oversee a battalion’s logistics, which accounts for more than a thousand people.
“I was responsible for $21 million worth of property, and only being 20 years old, that was kind of overwhelming,” Lynch said. “While I was there, we were part of a retrograde process, and I would fill in for infantry guys. I would go out on missions with them outside the wire when they would need extra guys.”
In military jargon, Lynch said “going outside the wire” means you are leaving the base or your compound. When a team was ordered outside the wire, logistics soldiers like Lynch were essential in making sure the company was properly prepared.
“Anytime we would go out, we would go meet at the governor’s palace, the prison, and with tribal leaders,” said Lynch. “We were over there trying to create peace with these people, but also hold some middle ground.”
Lynch said the people of Afghanistan understood that the United States was there for their personal safety, but also to stimulate the economy. Many shops opened and other infrastructure was built during Lynch’s time in Afghanistan.
“Obviously, they all don’t want us over there, but they did understand that we were there to help,” Lynch said.
Time spent overseas stationed in Afghanistan and lessons Lynch learned in basic training have helped shape him. He now uses much of the military structure he learned in the Army in his daily life.
“I thought it was a great decision,” said Zach Duncan, Lynch’s lifelong friend. “He needed some structure. Hell, we all did, and the Army was the best place for him. He came back different. He’s the same guy, just some of his emotions have been turned off, and some have been amplified.”
Lynch considers himself a creative thinker, but said structure is important in keeping order. Military life has trained Lynch to tackle everyday life with preparation and determination.
“The first thing you’re taught at basic training is: time, place, uniform,” Lynch said. “It becomes your motto.”
Lynch applies this motto in many aspects of his life. He said it pushes him everyday to be punctual and prepared for classes or whatever the day may hold. While in boot camp, Lynch learned to respect superiors through exercises like cleaning toilets with toothbrushes and mopping in the rain.
“Living with him, you can definitely see some of the military training that has rubbed off on him,” said Holden Ilseng, Lynch’s high school friend and current roommate. “His room is super organized. He leaves the house 30 minutes before class to make sure he’s one of the first people in the building. He’s a stickler about things being left out. Everything has to be put up in a specific place.”
Much of Lynch’s motto – time, place, uniform, were on full display during a recent round of golf. He made sure he was at the course an hour before tee time to practice and ensure his game was in top shape. His uniform, a Polo tucked into neatly ironed khakis, helped him look the part on the course too.
“Responsibility and accountability – those are definitely big,” he said. “They give you a weapon, and you’re responsible to eat, sleep, (expletive deleted), everything with it,” Lynch said jokingly. “When you’re in a real-life situation, be it a combat situation, a golf shot or just an everyday problem, there’s going to be obstacles in your way, no matter how well you plan it. I’ve sat in meetings with colonels, and they will want something done a specific way, and it just won’t happen, so you have to find an alternative and overcome the adversity.”
Today, Lynch, 23, is a freshman finishing his first semester at Ole Miss. He expects to end the semester with all As and Bs. After graduation, he hopes to work in a position where he can mix business and logistics.
“It never could’ve happened straight out of high school,” he said, referring to his GPA. “I wasn’t ready. I’m grateful for the experiences I had in the Army. I got to see a whole new side of the world that I never would’ve seen otherwise. But most importantly, I’m a more driven person. I know I can accomplish anything put in my way.”
Taylor Jones can be reached at email@example.com.