BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – Just a couple of months after the 9/11 attacks in 2001, then-Staff Sgt. John Kolodgy arrived at Fort Drum from an assignment in Korea. Since then, the northern New York post would become home for him and his Family.
Within two years of his arrival, Kolodgy deployed with 10th Combat Aviation Brigade for the unit’s first deployment to Afghanistan. He is now on his fifth deployment with the unit – its fourth to Afghanistan – and working in the same building at Bagram Airfield as during his first deployment in 2003.
During that first deployment, Kolodgy was promoted to sergeant first class – the first senior noncommissioned officer rank. On June 22, in nearly the same spot as last time, Kolodgy received the rank of sergeant major – the highest senior noncommissioned officer rank.
“It’s kind of full circle,” he said. “I started my senior NCO career in this building, and it could be my last senior NCO rank.”
During the promotion ceremony, Col. David Francis, 10th CAB and Task Force Falcon commander, recognized the Kolodgy Family, who were able to witness the ceremony via video teleconference, for their contributions to the unit and to the Fort Drum community. Francis noted that he is honored to be Kolodgy’s sixth 10th CAB commander, adding that he had met the new sergeant major during an earlier deployment. He said the impression Kolodgy had made on him had not been forgotten.
“If you look up ‘leader’ in the dictionary, that’s whose picture you should see,” Francis said. “He is an absolutely outstanding leader, and he’s the epitome of an NCO. He hasn’t lost the energy in training young Soldiers with passion and expertise. He has touched not only everyone in this room but those on the other side of the ocean as well.”
Kolodgy joined the Army in 1989 to become an aeroscout observer. He eventually flew alongside a pilot aboard an OH-58A Kiowa.
He said his father played a significant role in his career. Few people knew of the aeroscout observer occupational specialty, but his father knew, and he told his son it was the job to take.
“There were only two slots per state allowed for that job, and I just happened to get it,” Kolodgy said. “Basically, it’s an enlisted co-pilot that is focused on the tactical piece – radios and calls for fire. Occasionally, I would dismount and conduct dismounted observation on hilltops to call in airstrikes.”
Kolodgy served as an aeroscout observer for eight years, until 1997, when the Army required two officers in the cockpit. Two months after becoming an aviation operations specialist, Kolodgy was promoted to sergeant. Since then, in addition to a three-year stint as a company first sergeant, he has served for 13 years in aviation operations at the battalion and brigade levels.
Currently, he serves as 10th CAB operations sergeant major.
In addition to the promotion ceremony, Kolodgy celebrated another milestone. On the day of his promotion, he woke up at 3 a.m. to proudly watch his daughter Beth’s graduation from Indian River Central High School.