FORWARD OPERATING BASE MASUM GHAR, Afghanistan - When Spc. Daniel Kelch, Jr. walked across the stage to receive his branch insignia as a combat engineer during his Advanced Individual Training graduation, his father, a sergeant major who was serving at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., at the time, surprised him by stepping out at the last minute to pin the insignia onto the lapel of his son's dress uniform. Nearly a year and a half later, it was no surprise to Sgt. Maj. Daniel Kelch Sr.'s son that he was traveling from northeastern Afghanistan to promote Kelch Jr. to specialist, Feb. 27 at FOB Masum Ghar in the Panjwa'i district of Afghanistan. The father and son are both deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Kelch Jr. is a combat engineer with 38th Engineer Company, Combined Task Force 4-2 (4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division). Kelch Sr. is the operations sergeant major for 555th Engineer Brigade. Both units are based out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. "Being I was in theatre and an engineer like he is, I wanted to be able to give him his first promotion," said Kelch Sr.
The two men agreed that the experience of Kelch Sr. being able to promote Kelch Jr. in a deployed environment would bring them closer, not only because of the father and son bond, but also the military tie. "He's one of the inspirations I had to join the Army, so ... him being here is very important to me," said Kelch Jr. When he decided to join the military, Kelch Jr. followed his father's footsteps after seeing how much his father enjoyed being a combat engineer. "I have the same mindset as my dad," he explained. Even with their similar mindsets, their reasons why they enjoy being combat engineers are different. Kelch Jr. said he likes the excitement of looking for improvised explosive devices, while his father said he loves building things and blowing things up. Even though the two simply spent the day walking around the FOB and hanging out, Kelch Jr. said he was glad to have some time with his father. "I miss him as my dad," he said. "So, it was good to see family." Should his son choose to stay in the military, Kelch Sr. had some poignant words of advice for him. "Remember where he came from; we were all privates once," he said. Kelch Jr. said he does not know if he will make a career out of the Army like his father did, but he is going to take it one day at a time.