Don Stane’s daddy was an evangelical preacher. While he didn’t lean toward preaching, Stane said he believes he got some of his leadership abilities from his dad.
"Back in high school, the guys I played ball with would stand around and say, ‘What do you wanna do?’ The next one would say ‘I dunno, what do you wanna do?’
"I’d say: Boys, this is what we’re gonna do," Stane said
Command Sgt. Maj. Don Stane, a Bigelow boy, has reached the highest rank for an enlisted man. He’s an E-9, and that, in Army talk, is the highest.
He’s been in the Army 28 years, and it’s all he’s known.
"Our family was poor, and I thought the Army was a way to better myself. I’ve been very successful, and I don’t know how to do anything else," Stane said. He joined up before he graduated from high school.
"I’ve taken every hard assignment. I might mumble about it, but I’ve always done what I was told. And I work hard to get other people to do what’s right. I ask them: ‘Who are you when nobody’s looking?’"
As the senior enlisted person, one of his jobs is to handle discipline.
"You don’t want to screw up bad enough to have to come see me," he says.
The best part of his job, however, is rewarding those who do a great job.
"There are 500 soldiers under me, and I look for any way I can to promote them," he said.
He also will make sure that the soldiers’ families are taken care of as Arkansas soldiers prepare to deploy to Afghanistan.
He knows about that kind of hardship.
A veteran of the first Gulf War, Desert Storm, in 1990, he has been deployed to Iraq twice since, in 2004, going ahead to prepare the base at Taji, 20 miles north of Baghdad, for the arrival of the 39th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, the Bowie Brigade.
Stane was the NCO in charge and handled the delivery and dispersal of everything: parts, food, supplies and, for instance, unloading drinking water from 20 vans in 130 degree temperatures.
He came home from that tour 50 pounds lighter.
His second deployment was in 2007 to Tallil Airbase in southern Iraq. He was a First Sergeant then, leading 142 soldiers who served as scouts and escorts for convoys hauling supplies.
Back at home, his weekday job at Camp Robinson is as a maintenance supervisor for Allied Trades, a Department of Defense agency that supplies all military equipment in the state.
On weekends, he’s in Conway at the National Guard Armory.
That’s closer to home, his wife Pamela, daughters Brittany Jackson and Megan Stane, and two grandchildren.
He’s seven years away from retirement, but he’s not thinking about that much.
"What would I do? It’s all I know how to do. It’s a good life; all my friends are soldiers," Stane said.
(Staff writer Becky Harris can be reached at email@example.com and 505-1234.)