Written by Sgt. 1st Class Peter Mayes
101st Sustainment Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (AA) Public Affairs
Fort Campbell, KY – Sgt. James Croghan and Sgt. David Eldridge definitely left a lasting impression on their last deployment to Afghanistan.
From renovating the brigade’s gym, Morale, Welfare and Recreation Center, to building the “Lifeliner Oasis” in front of the headquarters, the two non-commissioned officers’ carpentry skills were instrumental in leaving the brigade complex in Afghanistan in much better condition.Their most notable work, however, was constructing the super-sized, brigade “Deathstar” in front of the Lifeliners headquarters. Not to be outdone abroad, Croghan and Eldgridge were tasked to build a second Deathstar inside the brigade quadrangle area.
“Our brigade sergeant major (Command Sgt. Maj. David Thompson) told us he wanted a Deathstar built here and that he wanted it bigger than any Torii here on post,” Croghan said. “Basically, it shows us as a unit taking pride in our brigade.”
The two, who are assigned to the 101st Sustainment Brigade’s Facilities Maintenance Technicians and their small team from Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 101st Sustainment Brigade, and the 326th Engineer Battalion, 101st Sustainment Brigade, worked round the clock and finally completed the task.
The wooden structure is approximately 33 feet tall and 32 feet wide. The key features – a four-point gold roped compass featuring Old Abe, the Screaming Eagle, surrounded by the heart, club, spade and torii- is double-sided, allowing Soldiers to view it from either side.
“It don’t matter which side of the quad you’re on, you’ll still see the star in the background,” Croghan said.
Eldridge said plans to build a Deathstar on Fort Campbell started in Afghanistan. Construction started on the Death star following block leave in January, he said.
“We probably went through four designs before we settled on the final one,” he said.
Thompson, a former battalion command sergeant major with the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, is constantly looking for means to instill pride in the Soldier’s units, Croghan said, and building the Deathstar is one means of accomplishing that goal.
“The Torii’s got nothing on the Deathstar,” Croghan said. “That’s just the way it is.”
Eldridge took a more diplomatic posture. “From what we’ve seen, we haven’t taken a full measure of the Torii, but we’re guessing they’re no more than 29 feet high. That’s their biggest one, and we definitely topped that.”
The Deathstar’s legacy began back in 2006, as the brigade was beginning to shift from the 101st Division Support Command to the 101st Sustainment Brigade. It was the brigade’s former Command Sgt. Maj. Steven Blake who came with the new combat patch design that gave birth to the new logo.
“We still wore old Abe ‘till just a little while ago. Since taking on the new combat patch and the Death star, Command Sgt. Maj. Thompson and (101st Sustainment Commander) Col. Michael Peterman are the one who instill in the pride of the unit, what we are and what we do,” Croghan said. “We’ve heard them say there’s no other brigade that can touch what we do.”
“Command Sgt. Maj. Blake’s daughter posted on the page during the construction and made some really nice comments about it,” Eldridge said. “She said she was very proud to have been part of the family process, since her father designed it, and that it was nice to see the legacy live on.”
Eldridge said he views the construction projects as both a legacy and his job.
“It’s a little bit of both. Day to day, it’s a job, but it is nice to have a lasting impression,” he said. “If we know that our stuff has made a difference, we’ll continue to make that difference.”