Gregory Lowell, (Class of 2006) is a forward observer with the 3rd Infantry Division of the US Army in Afghanistan. Forward observers are responsible for all indirect fire and the communication of battlefield intelligence. Soldiers who become forward observers require a high level of training and skill, both to work with high physical demands as well as the strategic and communications aspects of their role. Because of their strategic importance, they even require a security clearance. According to Greg, “I control and adjust surface to surface artillery and mortar fire, and provide terminal guidance for close air support. Basically, I'm the guy with the radio who calls up coordinates. It's a challenging but rewarding job.”
Greg’s battalion is doing "village stability operations," an initiative that is part of strengthening the Afghan response to insurgents by training the Afghan army and police and improving the quality of life so that the region will continue to be stable after the American combat forces withdraw. It does this by helping to connect the local populations to district level governance, giving the government an opportunity to regain legitimacy with the population, reducing the support for insurgents.
When Greg is not on a mission he has a lot of free time that is filled with quite a bit of reading. He says "I loaded up my kindle with a lot of books before we left with a lot of classics, spy thrillers and sci-fi/fantasy. Right now I'm going back and forth between Moby Dick and The Bourne Identity. On the classical front I'm planning on tackling the Mahabharata next (in abridged form, but still 2,000 pages)." Earlier in his deployment he read a lot of Tolkien and Heinlein.
Greg's love of reading began at SFWS. He loved reading the Iliad, the O, Henry V, and Moby Dick and these books continue to call to him strongly. He describes many of the stories that he was told and the books that he read at SFWS and later in college as being instrumental in encouraging his military service. “Even the strongly anti-war stuff we read, like the poetry of Owen and Sassoon that we read with Ms. Gorman held a strange appeal for me.”
After high school, Greg took a gap year and worked for long enough to support a two month backpacking trip through Europe. He enlisted in the Army at the beginning of his senior year at St. John’s College in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he graduated with a degree in liberal arts in 2011. He started basic training two weeks after graduation. Greg says that he joined the Army for many reasons, “some combination of a desire for adventure, needing a job, patriotism, and wanting to ‘be all that I can be.’” He plans to remain with the Army for the next few years at least, and would like to teach history at the high school or college level when he leaves active duty.