Speeding tickets don’t stop Army’s Parker

Published 10:23 pm Monday, May 12, 2014

Col. Christopher Lestochi (left), Alaska District commander, was present for Master Sgt. Darnyell Parker’s recognition of promotion to the rank of Sergeant Major earlier this year with Parker’s wife, Michele, at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska. Parker is the non-commissioned officer-in-charge of the district’s team supporting the humanitarian assistance program in Southeast Asia.

Col. Christopher Lestochi (left), Alaska District commander, was present for Master Sgt. Darnyell Parker’s recognition of promotion to the rank of Sergeant Major earlier this year with Parker’s wife, Michele, at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska. Parker is the non-commissioned officer-in-charge of the district’s team supporting the humanitarian assistance program in Southeast Asia.

By John Budnick

Special to the News-Herald

If speeding tickets kindled his Army career, then an act of generosity provided the spark.

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For a 20-year-old young man from Suffolk, this was the case when his father’s best friend paid the traffic citations barring him from serving his country.

In the early 1990s, a suspended driver’s license and roofing job were not going to support Master Sgt. Darnyell Parker’s future that was about to deliver a baby boy. Catching rides between home and work, and even walking at times, would lead the young Parker to a revelation that would set him on a path to excellence.

“Knowing where my life was at, I just needed to do something better,” said Parker, whi is currently the non-commissioned officer-in-charge of the Military Contingency Contracting Team at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers — Alaska District.

His older brother serving in the Army inspired him to look into joining the military. The Air Force rejected him for those pesky tickets. But when his father’s friend paid the approximately $500 in speeding violations, the door opened for Parker to join the Army.

More than 20 years later, Parker reflects on that moment in his life with gratitude. The Army helped shape him into the man he is today, he says.

“There are two big moments in my life right now,” Parker explained. “In May, I finish my bachelor’s degree in business, and the feeling of making [sergeant major] is huge, because I started at the bottom and worked my way through.”

As one of the highest-ranking enlisted soldiers, he puts a premium on graduating from Wayland Baptist University.

“The degree is the most important thing for my career as a whole, because that will open up doors in the future,” he said.

In 1993, Parker started as a petroleum supply specialist. He deployed to Iraq twice during 2003-2005 and once to Afghanistan in 2010. After Iraq, Parker sought a career that could bring new opportunities after military life.

His leaders encouraged him to become a contract specialist as part of a military contingency contracting team. The profession was a new and developing Army career in 2006. Parker soon realized the influence of contracting in daily operations.

“Everything starts with the contract and getting it awarded,” Parker said. “Look around the installation, and it’s everything from the grass getting cut, snow removal or a simple port-a-john on the battlefield.”

Having visited U.S. Army Corps of Engineers construction projects while deployed, Parker felt inspired to join the Corps.

“You’ve got to stand out to be a part of something so great,” he expressed. “That’s how I look at being with the Corps.”

One month into his year-long deployment in Afghanistan, he learned he had orders to Alaska to join the district’s military contingency contracting team.

“The things that I’ve been able to accomplish here — this has been the best move for me,” he said.

Since 2009, the Alaska District has built schools, medical clinics and cyclone shelters for the U.S. Pacific Command, which is responsible for providing humanitarian assistance to 36 countries across Southeast Asia.

“Parker has really been the backbone in contracting for the district’s humanitarian assistance program,” said Maj. Ryan Zachry, commander of the Military Contingency Contracting Team. “With the personnel changes and deployments from the team, he has provided the continuity and daily efforts needed to make the program a success, while it has tripled in size over the last five years.”

The humanitarian assistance program mirrors what the Army’s contracting teams train for — entering theaters of war, natural disasters or other dire situations with minimal access and resources.

“What they do is a fantastic mission to train on,” said Chris Tew, chief of the Alaska District Contracting Division. “It translates very well into common requirements in a contingency environment like Afghanistan.”

While this father of three continues to procure the needs of the Army, has taken time to consider what he might do in retirement. His ambitions are to remain in the contracting field, open his own barbershop and to coach or counsel young adolescents.

What might be his first lesson to those youth? Drive the speed limit.