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Military life has served Brownfield well

Life is not a field exercise. Just ask Mitch Brownfield.

The 29-year-old, who is part of the sales team at family-owned Sweet Clover Produce in Walla Walla, WA, has been a member of the U.S. Army, both active and reserve, since 2000, and has served as a senior drill sergeant out of Ft. Knox, KY.

Mr. Brownfield is a man of business and a man of action, and the military is in his blood.

The foundation was laid for the native Washingtonian at an early age. He didn't have an "aha" moment that guided him to the military, but by the time he was in high school, Mr. Brownfield said that his career path was established. He joined the Army at the age of 19 following graduation from high school.

“It always interested me. It’s just something I wanted to do,” he told The Produce News. “I wanted to serve our country.”

He reminiscenced about his basic training at Fort Benning, GA. “You always remember basic training. When I went in, I didn’t know anything,” he said. “We’re just privates.”

One of the things that impressed him most was shooting training. “It was the first time I got to do organized shooting,” he stated. “It was definitely an experience.” He learned how to handle everything from rocket launchers to assault rifles.

At the conclusion of basic training, he was assigned to Fort Leonardwood, MS. “There I learned how to do motor transportation,” Mr. Brownfield said.

The training would serve him well during his 14-month tour of duty in Iraq in 2004. Times were perilous. “We were there when all the people were getting their heads cut off,” Mr. Brownfield recalled. “That’s the mission we took over.” His unit provided escort service. “We were attacked a number times,” he said. “We med-evacced numerous people. The main purpose was to eliminate threats. It took a couple of months to get used to it.”

As reality set in, Mr. Brownfield said that he did have moments when he wondered why he was there. “I was alarmed at how they lived over there, and how their stuff is all based on religion,” he said. He also realized how actually intense things can be. “It seems unreal at first. It’s a lot different than seeing it on TV.”

During his military career, Mr. Brownfield has also served as a platoon sergeant, squad leader, team leader and instructor. He sees himself as a self- motivated leader with exemplary people skills.

His unflinching service to his country has been recognized. In 2005, Mr. Brownfield received a bronze star, which acknowledged his meritorious service while in combat under direct and indirect fire. He also received four Army achievement medals, three Army Reserve achievement medals, the national defense medal, global war on terror service and expeditionary medal, Iraq campaign medal, overseas service ribbon, two non-commissioned officer professional development ribbons, Army service ribbon, expert marksmanship badge, combat action badge, drivers’ badge and drill sergeant badge.

Iraq was his last overseas assignment. “It was very difficult returning to a civilian job,” he said. Mr. Brownfield is currently a security police officer with the tactical response team at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. Once again, his life experience has served him well. But, as he contemplates the scope of his life, he observed, “Sometimes you think about it, and you feel old.”

Today, he is content with a simpler life. “When I was over there, I lived in a tent with 18 people,” he laughed. It is a far cry from the duplex in which he currently lives. Being stateside has given him increased opportunities to spend with family, particularly with his sons, Jaden, 10, and Kade, 6.

The boys are duly impressed with their father, as any sons would be. The boys regularly don camouflage and have unending questions about the military for their dad.

“It catches me off guard to hear them talk about guns and rank and uniforms,” Mr. Brownfield said.

The military will always be part of Mr. Brownfield’s family life. But at the end of the day, Little League is the special activity that now warms his heart. As for what Mr. Brownfield sees as the best part of being a father, he said, “Seeing how the little ones 'marry’ you somewhat.”

Mr. Brownfield was asked what he does for himself. “I like to work out,” he replied. “I go to the gym all the time.” He continues to participate in shooting competitions and enjoys running.

“If I take time to breathe, I feel like I’m getting old,” he laughed.

The activities are an interesting contrast to those preferred by his identical twin brother, Matt. “He golfs and fishes. He sat still. I didn’t,” Mr. Brownfield chuckled. “But everybody that’s a twin knows you’re there for your twin brother.”