Maj. Gareth J. Boyd was deployed to the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic when his superiors phoned him seeking his preference for his next posting. A slight mishap meant he needed to select from a list of jobs on the spot.
Boyd quickly called his wife, Emma, back in Salisbury, England, to let her know “New York” was his first choice. She grew excited, saying she always wanted to live in New York City.
“That’s how he sold it to me,” Emma Boyd says now with a good laugh.
Of course, “New York” meant Fort Drum, where the 10th Mountain Division’s latest British exchange officer now serves in a two-year post as chief of future operations G-3. As a part of the exchange program, an American officer is currently serving somewhere in the British Army.
“It’s an exchange of not just cultures,” said Boyd, an infantry officer normally assigned to the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers (Light Infantry). “I come in and experience working with a U.S. division. I take that back home with me and pass it on to others in future jobs. By the same token, the U.S. Army here and the 10th Mountain Division, particularly, get me. So they get a British feel of things as well.
“So it’s an exchange of culture and a (strengthening of) the understanding between each other’s armies, the way we work, the way we do business,” he added.
Brits in the North Country
After online research, the Boyds came to terms with the fact that Canada was a more realistic jaunt from Fort Drum than America’s largest city.
“Then we saw that it was a mountain division,” Emma Boyd said. “So we thought, ‘Oh, that’s nice. It’s up in the mountains. That will be great.’”
The two laugh now, since New York City, the Adirondacks and many other attractions in the Northeast and Canada are already crossed off on their list of desti- nations to visit.
But for the Boyds, experiencing the simple, small-town warmth of North Country communities has been just as pleasing since arriving here last August with 9-year-old Olivia and 7-year-old Thomas.
“My family has been very well received and very well looked after,” Gareth Boyd said.
“I feel really welcomed here,” his wife echoed. “Everybody’s lovely; they will bend over backwards to help you.”
In nine short months, the adventurous family has already experienced many of the activities native to North Country residents, from ice-fishing and hockey games to shoveling snow and stoking the fire in their living room.
Although the fast food and large portions of American cuisine have been a bit of an adjustment for them, the Boyds are quick to admit that American beef is the best in the world.
“Your steaks are something else,” said Boyd, his wife nodding her strong agreement. “The taste is amazing. You won’t get anything better than that.”
Winter was another adjustment. After their first small snowfall last year, Olivia and Thomas stayed in their rooms and missed the school bus, presuming classes would “obviously” be cancelled.
“I think it’s difficult for someone from the North Country, who experiences these winters, to appreciate the (difference),” Boyd said. “When we looked at the wea-ther here, we genuinely (thought) we would have to go out and buy all of our Christmas shopping in October, because after that we’ll be snowed in. We had no concept of people in trucks coming around and just clearing the roads and everything just carries on as normal.”
Other aspects of North Country living are natural phenomenon.
“Sometimes, the accent takes people by surprise,” Emma Boyd said. “I’ve been mistaken for being Canadian, Australian and even from the ‘south.’”
She said she was thrilled to know that northern New Yorkers could detect her slight accent from the south of England. Then she understood they meant the southern U.S.
With his distinctive headdress — which includes a red and white-colored plume, or “hackle” — Boyd said he is sometimes surprised that no one appears to think he looks out of place.
“You know, nobody has ever asked me what I am doing here,” he said with a laugh.
His wife and children have found their niche as well. The children love school, and Emma Boyd has become heavily involved in Army Community Service programs, family readiness groups and spouses’ clubs.
Boyd said he was pleasantly surprised to see his wife even receive a certificate of appreciation after assisting with the Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion’s Christmas Party and Valentine’s Day Party.
“To have people appreciate what others put in, I’ve never come across anything like that,” he said. “Especially not for spouses — that was quite significant for us.”
Soldier for life
Boyd grew up under the guidance of a father who served for more than 30 years in the Royal Navy.
He joined the Bri-tish Army in 1993, the same year that his father retired.
After 15 months in officer training at the Royal Military Academy in Sandhurst (the British equivalent of West Point) and several more months of infantry training, Boyd was assigned as a platoon commander with Royal Regiment of Fusiliers.
Four years later, he began a mission into mortar expertise, serving for two years as a mortar platoon commander and another two years as a mortar instructor at the Support Weapons School of the Infantry Training Centre in Warminster.
Those four years prepared him for his next major test — support weapons company commander. The company consisted of a reconnaissance platoon, mortar platoon, machine gun platoon, anti-tank platoon and sniper platoon.
Boyd deployed with his men to Northern Ireland and Cyprus, before deploying to Basra, Iraq, in 2006. He deployed to Kabul, Afghanistan, in 2007.
In 2008, while attending a command and staff course at the U.K. Defence Academy, Boyd was recognized by the monarchy for his service in Iraq and Afghanistan. At Buckingham Palace, he was officially decorated by Queen Elizabeth II as a member of the Order of the British Empire, a national order of chivalry.
Boyd’s job at Fort Drum is the same that any U.S. Army officer would perform at the same desk. As chief of FUOPS, he integrates all operational activities for the division that fall in the three-week to three-month timeframe.
His supervisor, Col. Michael Loos, assistant chief of staff G3, said the exchange program is important, since Boyd’s presence helps division staff and units gain experience with operating in a coalition environment.
“Boyd is a terrific addition to the 10th Mountain Division (LI) headquarters staff,” Loos said. “We are very fortunate to have (him).”
Loos added that Boyd has caught on to Army acronyms, and he was officially introduced to American football.
“And while he’s professed disinterest in cricket, we hope to make him a fan of baseball,” he said.
Lt. Col. Jason L. Lewallen, deputy assistant chief of staff at G-3, said as a former exchange officer to the U.K. himself, he understands the adjustments Boyd has had to make since arriving at Fort Drum.
“But he really has caught on fast to everything we do,” said Lewallen, pointing out that Boyd even served as a lane evaluator during last month’s Mountain Peak exercise.
Approaching 20 years of military service, Boyd has no plans of retiring. He said being a soldier is all he wants in life.
“If you asked me what else (I) could do, I’m sure I could do a lot of things,” Boyd said. “But there is nothing I particularly want to do outside of the Army.”
For now, however, Boyd said he is grateful to be working and living among the Soldiers and community members of the 10th Mountain Division — comrades and friends of his host nation who share the same mindset.
“As countries, and certainly as armies and soldiers, we pretty much have the same mentality and approach to operations,” he said. “My personal view is that I can’t see a situation, in this ongoing global war on terror, where the U.S. Army would deploy to theater and we would not be prepared to deploy in support.”