Staff Sgt. Gregory L. Elam, 39, 1st Sustainment Command (Theater), died as a result of a non-combat related illness at Kandahar, Afghanistan, Dec. 11.
Elam, a mortuary affairs collection point leader, was assigned to the 54th Quartermaster Company, 49th QM Group, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) out of Fort Lee since August of 2006. He deployed to Afghanistan in June of 2007.
His chain of command in Afghanistan reflected on his contribution to his unit and his country, and had nothing but praises for him.
“Looking at Staff Sergeant Elam, one would think he was a linebacker for a professional football team, or a noncommissioned officer that could scare any Soldier by raising his voice, but he was just the opposite,” said 1st Lt. Thomas Jones, the 54th’s Detachment Commander in theater. “He was a man with a calm, reserved demeanor. His goal was to be the NCO that wanted the Soldiers to form a team. He always had a smile on his face, or a joke to tell to pull the team together. He not only wanted to be a leader to Soldiers, but he wanted to be a role model, and he was just that to officers, NCOs and Soldiers.”
“Staff Sergeant Elam was a take charge kind of NCO,” added 1st Lt. Charles Grutzmacher, the 54th’s executive officer in theater. “There was no challenge he would not take on. He was always quick and eager to learn new challenges. If he did not know how to do something, he would always call and ask. When the phone stopped ringing, you knew that Staff Sergeant Elam had picked up and ran with the mission.”
His first sergeant, Sgt. 1st Class Shaw Harris, gave his take on Elam’s impact on the unit and others around him.
“Staff Sergeant Elam had just reentered the Army from the Reserves. He decided he wanted to come back in and take care of Soldiers,” said Harris, the first sergeant for the 54th’s detachment in theater. “He was the type of person that would always help people out. There was no favor he would turn down, and he always did it with a joke, a smile and a laugh.”
Elam, native of Columbus, Ga., joined the Army in October of 1986. He previously deployed in support of Operations Desert Shield/Desert Storm from August 1990 thru March 1991. His military schools include Bradley Fighting Vehicle System Basic Noncommissioned Officer Course, Primary Leadership Development Course, Chaplain Assistant Reclassification Course, and the Mortuary Affairs Advanced Individual Training.
His awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal (with two oak leaf clusters), Good Conduct Medal (4th award), National Defense Service Medal with bronze star, Southwest Asia Medal with
bronze service star, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal, Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon (numeral two), Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon (numeral two), Kuwait Liberation Medal (Government of Saudi Arabia), Kuwait Liberation Medal (Government of Kuwait), Driver and Mechanic Badge with Driver-Tracked Vehicles, Afghanistan Campaign Medal Ribbon, the NATO Medal, the Meritorious Unit Commendation (numeral two), and the Army Superior Unit Award.
A memorial service for Elam will be held in Kandahar, Afghanistan by his unit.
The incident is under investigation by the 1st Sustainment Command (Theater).