U.S. Army Capt. Sean Patton has accomplished plenty in his eight years away from Lawrence.
After graduating from Lawrence High School in 2001, he enrolled at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, graduating in 2005. He’s completed officer basic training, Ranger training and jump school — as in jumping out of airplanes — before being assigned to his first platoon with the 101st Airborne Division. He was 23.
“I had a platoon of 35 soldiers, over half of which were older than me,” Patton said. “My second-in-command was 35 years old and had over 15 years in the Army. The learning curve is pretty sharp.”
During his six-week vacation, before he heads to more training in November, Patton wanted to share his experiences and memories with high school students in his hometown. He spent time Free State High School on Tuesday and returned to Mike Ortmann’s class at LHS on Thursday.
“I could just imagine him sitting in Ortmann’s class the way I was,” junior Zoey Hearn Feldman said. “I thought that brought a new level of reality to it.”
Patton spent time in Iraq with the 101st Airborne Division and was handpicked to become a scout platoon leader, in charge of three sniper teams and three reconnaissance teams outside of Baghdad.
“Almost the entire country’s being secured and run by the Iraqis and we’re more of an advisory role,” Patton said of the progress being made in Iraq. “We got there during the time period that I was there because that was part of the surge.”
During a visit, Patton was able to ease the fears of Scott Dunlap, a junior whose brother, Mark, is about to be deployed to Iraq.
“It made me feel really good knowing that I’ll still have communication with my brother, still have a close bond with him even though he’s overseas,” Dunlap said. “It was good to hear that.”
While Patton eventually wants to get his master’s degree or MBA and return to West Point to teach, his next mission is at Fort Bragg in North Carolina next month. The training lasts 14 months and for the first six, he’ll be learning Arabic.
“I did a little too well on my language aptitude test, unfortunately,” Patton said. “I should’ve bombed that thing and ended up with Spanish, but I ended up with Arabic.”
All of the training and stories of sleepless nights and 10 day long missions in mountains, wooded areas and Florida swamps impressed the students.
“The training sounded really brutal. Seven-and-a-half-hours of sleep in 10 days?” Hearn Feldman said. “I just can’t imagine what that would be like.”
Dunlap found inspiration in Patton’s accomplishments.
“It shows that even someone here can do great things, stick it out throughout all the hard times,” Dunlap said. “It was just a good feeling.”