MP fights adversity, fulfills Army commitment
by Sgt. Jes Smith 16th MPAD
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan – When faced with adversity, many people are asked if they are going to look at their glass as half-full or half-empty. The question is designed to determine if a person will look for the positives in a situation or the negatives. Spc. Ben C. Ballard is a glass-half-full kind of guy.
Ballard is a military police specialist in the 202nd Military Police Company, based out of Fort Bliss, Texas. The company is assigned to the 504th Military Police Battalion, and they train Afghan Police forces as well as patrol the streets of Kandahar City, Afghanistan.
While on patrol in Iraq on Aug. 13, 2008, Ballard’s Humvee was struck by an improvised explosive device that resulted in an amputation of his left arm above the elbow. Rather than focusing on what he couldn’t do, he kept a positive attitude by continuing to look at what he can do in life.
“I committed to a five-year contract and after getting injured I had only served nine months of that contract,” said Ballard. “I wanted to keep serving – I wanted to fulfill my contract and keep serving my country.”
Through an upbeat attitude and a lot of hard work, Ballard has achieved that goal by working his way back to full active-duty status. On top of being back on full duty, Ballard also deployed in August 2010 for a yearlong tour in Afghanistan.
He didn’t just want to be back to work. More importantly, he wanted to go back to combat. Despite his injury, he wanted to prove to himself and those around him that he could do the job of any military police officer in the force.
Ballard’s journey back to full service started at the Brooke Army Medical Center in Fort Sam Houston, Texas, where he went through months of rehabilitation and prosthetic fittings.
While at BAMC, he spent a lot of time at the Center for the Intrepid, a center designed by the Army to facilitate the rehabilitation of amputees and burn victims from Iraq and Afghanistan.
While at the center, Ballard was given a chance to test himself against a number of soldier related skills, to include firing a multitude of weapons and putting on a chemical protective mask.
“I found that I could still qualify expert with all of my weapons,” said Ballard. “I could also still run, jump and march.”
The last time Ballard qualified with his rifle was before deploying to Afghanistan. He hit 39 out of the 40 possible targets on the range, giving him the qualification of expert marksman.
Ballard was grateful for his time at the center, because it showed him that he could still perform his basic warrior tasks and drills, which gave him the confidence to stay in the Army and continue to serve his nation.
“I felt that I had something to prove, but now that I am in Afghanistan, my mentality has changed,” said Ballard. “Now I just feel like any other soldier out here.”
When asked about the limitations he faces since his injury, Ballard jokes that he can’t play the guitar anymore. Without showing any negativity, he quickly changes subjects and explain that the prosthetic he wear in place of his left arm has the ability to lock in place, thus providing a more stable platform for him to fire his rifle.
Ballard always finds a way to put a positive outlook on something many would perceive as a negative.
“It’s really hard to be negative around Ballard,” said Sgt. 1st Class Miguel A. Espinoza, 202nd MPC operations sergeant, assigned to 504th MPB, attached to 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division. “He shows others that they can face adversity and still be productive in the Army.”
Espinoza, an El Paso, Texas, native, was Ballard’s platoon sergeant when he was injured in Iraq and continued to stay in touch with him as he recovered from his injury. While stationed at Fort Bliss, Espinoza found out that Ballard was going to be stationed at Fort Bliss as well, so he worked to get Ballard not only assigned to his unit, but more importantly back into his platoon.
“I wanted him to work for me again, because I knew he was the kind of soldier that every platoon sergeant wants,” said Espinoza. “He always tries hard at everything, always has a sharp appearance and has a ‘go-getter’ attitude.”
The 202nd MP’s are scheduled to return to Fort Bliss in August 2011.