FOB Danger, Tikrit, Iraq — In May 2001, Maj. Jeff Stewart walked into Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Dentistry to meet Todd Pillion, a young dental student who had expressed interest in joining the Virginia Army National Guard.
Pillion's brother, a Soldier with the Virginia Guard, had given Stewart, a medical recruiter, his younger brother's contact information. The meeting went well and was successful. Soon the younger Pillion was a member of the Virginia Army National Guard.
Since then, Stewart and Capt. Pillion have chosen separate paths in both their military and personal careers. But now they find themselves serving together, thousands of miles away, in the deserts of Iraq. At Forward Operating Base Danger, Pillion is serving with Stewart as part of the medical team with the 42nd Infantry Division.
Stewart, a former Virginia Guard deputy state surgeon, became the deputy division surgeon for the 42nd I.D. in June 2004. He assisted the unit in preparing for their deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
On Jan. 1, 2005, Stewart rolled into Tikrit and found himself working in Saddam Hussein’s Presidential Palace for the 42nd I.D.'s division surgeon.
Pillion, recently enrolled in a dental pediatric residency in Buffalo, N.Y. While there, he still reports monthly to the Virginia Army National Guard's Medical Command at Fort Pickett.
But when Stewart recruited him to join the deployment to Iraq, Pillion accepted the request and came to work in the FOB Danger Consolidated Aid Station as a dentist. Now, both Soldiers are preparing to return home in the coming months.
“The experiences I have gained from practicing dentistry and battlefield medicine here at FOB Danger have been incredible,” Pillion said. “Maj. Stewart continues to be a great military mentor and I thank him for this opportunity.”