Episode 005: Redleg Soldier – Iven Sugai

Lieutenant Colonel Iven Sugai as commander of 1st Battalion, 5th Field Artillery “Hamilton’s Own” in 2019. (Photo Credit: Iven Sugai)

Lieutenant Colonel Iven Sugai is an active duty Army officer who started his career as an enlisted soldier before earning an officer’s commission following graduation from college. He recently finished an assignment as the battalion commander of 1st Battalion, 5th Field Artillery at Fort Riley, Kansas leading his battalion through an operational deployment to Poland.

What You’ll Get From This Episode

Iven talks about his journey growing up in Hawaii on a former sugar plantation and the influence his father had on encouraging him to give back to the country through public service.

Iven shares the influence other family’s members’ military service had on his decision to join the Army National Guard, especially an uncle who served with the famed 442nd Regimental Combat Team in World War II.

Iven and Gabriel dig a little deeper into the history of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team discussing the differences between the Japanese-American soldiers who came from Hawaii versus those who came from the mainland United States.

We learn why Iven volunteered for his particular Army career field Branch after earning his officer’s commission.

Iven shares some of his experiences as a junior officer as part of the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

With the 101st Airborne Division deployed to Iraq for Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003, Iven rejoins the Division after completing Ranger School and is transferred to a new unit in Mosul.

Iven discusses some of the dangers he and his fellow soldiers faced during the early days of the insurgency that developed after the conclusion of the ground invasion.

With his wife Courtney also deployed with the 101st Airborne Division, Iven shares some of his feelings of being separated from her for such a long period of time.

Learning early about the importance of seeking out mentors, Iven is able to leverage their advice for how to chart his career path to seek quality follow on assignments.

Iven talks about his assignment with the 4th Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Bliss, Texas and the various lessons he learned being on staff before transitioning to battery command.

In Iraq again, Iven shares some of experiences from this second deployment to Mosul, including describing a special mission for the dual military members of his unit.

Moving into the middle period of his career as a major, Iven weighs the demands of Army life versus prioritizing more time for his family. His follow on assignments provide that balance, allowing him and his wife to start their own family while still being competitive within their career fields.

Reaching one of the pinnacles of a successful Army career, Iven takes battalion command where he tries to impart many of the important lessons he’s learned through years of service, including an appreciation for the historical legacy of his unit.

At the conclusion of the interview Gabriel asks Iven to reflect on how he sees the new generation of artillerymen and women carrying the torch of the Fires branch forward into the future.

Resources for Topics Discussed in the Episode

Go For Broke National Education Center (GFBNEC). A non-profit organization that educates the public on the valor of Japanese American veterans of World War II and their contributions to our nation. Founded in 1989, GFBNEC maintains the Go For Broke Monument and the interactive “GFBNEC’s Defining Courage Exhibition” in downtown Los Angeles, as well as extensive oral histories and archives, education and training programs, and other initiatives.

History of 1st Battalion, 5th Field Artillery Regiment “Hamilton’s Own.” This is an informative article published by America’s Battlefield Trust on the history of 1/5FA.

Modern Artillery and the Future. A video published by the United States Field Artillery Association as part of its series on the history of the field artillery.

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