A Look at America’s Fighting Men and Women

Name:  Mike Draper

Age: 59

Place of Duty:  Range Control

Job title:  Range and Training Area Coordinator

Previous work experience:  Thirty years with Fort Lee Fire and Emergency Services

Former branch of Service:  Army

Time in Service: 1969-1972 (drafted)

Former MOS: 76Y – unit and organizational supply (now 92Y)

Last military unit of note: 1st Battalion, 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment

Hometown:  Roanoke Rapids, N.C.

Family:  mother, Dot; son, Mark; daughter, Jessica; and one granddaughter

Pastimes:  “I don’t have a great deal of free time because my 95-year-old mother lives with me. I’m dedicated to her care most of the time I’m off.”

How you would describe yourself:  “I guess I like to think of myself as being a service-oriented person. The values that the government has espoused the past few years has been toward customer service, so I like to think that I’m an individual who likes to take care of people. I spent 30 years as a firefighter. I guess that’s testament to wanting to help and serve people.”

The people I most admire: “I would say, my father, Haywood (Draper). He’s deceased, but he was a World War II veteran. He raised me in what I call ‘the right frame of mind.’”

What is it that you know now that you didn’t know when you served?:  “Even though it was a little less than three years, my time as a Soldier certainly had a great impact on how I am today. I wouldn’t be that person had I not had that opportunity.” 

You were an airborne Soldier. How much does that mean to you?:  “Anyone that goes to the Airborne School at Fort Benning (Ga.) has to volunteer to do it. It’s not an MOS or something the Army assigns to you when you come in. That meant a lot to me because I always felt like that I wanted to be around people that wanted to do what they were doing, not just doing what they were told to do. I think that most people who are airborne-qualified or are in paratrooper or special units enjoy the honor and camaraderie. They stick together.”

How’d you feel the first time you jumped from a plane?:  “You probably can’t print that. When you first jump it’s such a shock that you don’t know the effect. It’s kind of bewildering. I and a lot of other paratroopers say that it’s not the first jump, it’s the second jump. The second jump is when know what’s going to happen.”

What would you tell Soldiers today about airborne training?:  “I’d recommend it to a Soldier who wanted to put a little extra effort into their career. If they’re looking for excitement; working with small units, great people – yeah – but it’s not for everybody.”

Your thoughts about Soldiers today: “I’m very proud of the Soldiers we have today. Especially since I came from the last of the draftee era. I can remember some of the senior Soldiers in my unit, what they call the bottom volunteer Army came out, and a lot of them said that we’re not going to get enough people to volunteer to do this. Of course, they certainly proved us wrong. I’m very proud of the Soldiers that we have today and all of the service members we have today for standing up.”

What are you going to do the rest of your life?:  “Work at Range Control. It was certainly a big change from being a firefighter to coming in to doing a job like this, but I’m really happy to have it. As long as I can be productive and can work, I’ll probably work.”