Stephan Levacy-Sabin

Stephan Levacy-Sabin

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“I grew up in the military, and my entire life I wanted to join and be a part of it,” Stephan Levacy-Sabin said. “I love the structure and the camaraderie of those who have taken upon themselves that choice to serve their country.”

His parents met while they were both serving in the Air Force. His father was working on a car but hurt his back. Somehow he slid under the seat and became stuck, and his mother laughed at him. They married and had nine children. Stephan was number six and born at the Air Force base in Alaska.

So, when Levacy-Sabin returned from a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to Tallahassee, Florida in 2009, he was ready to join the military. He joined the {span}Reserve Officers’ Training Corps{/span} at Dixie State College. At the end of the semester, he received multiple achievement awards, including Cadet of the Year.

He joined the Army National Guard in Cedar City, Utah, and left for basic training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, where he became a 13-Delta. That military occupational specialty is a field artillery specialist. He would calculate by computer or by hand the formula for shooting weapons. Depending on the round, they could hit a target up to 27 miles away.

“With accuracy, we could land a round within a few meters of where we wanted to hit it. I really did enjoy that job,” he said.

After nine months of basic training, he returned to Utah. At the ceremony welcoming them back, they were told they would be shipping out to Iraq in a month and a half.

“My poor wife was not happy about that,” he said.

At first, Iraq was a culture shock, but then he enjoyed getting to know the people and working with some great people in the Iraqi Army and police.

“I went to defend our country and defend those people. I did both of those things,” he said.

Levacy-Sabin was there in December 2011 at the end of Enduring Freedom, when troops pulled out of Iraq. He is proud of what they accomplished there and how they helped the people.

“I’ll never forget when we left Iraq, there were tears in the people’s eyes. They knew their lives were in danger,” he said.

A normal day in Iraq started at 5 a.m. with getting gear cleaned and ready and then his vehicle. Next was breakfast followed by a shave and haircut. Then he would hit the gym for two hours. Then they would drive their route back and forth with a 30-minute break for lunch. Each route would take about an hour and a half. In the late afternoon, they would do laundry, Skype their families and have time to watch movies, play poker or read. Then he would work out for another two or three hours. Next would do a quick response job, getting their trucks up and ready and waiting to head out.

“My day would end roughly around midnight, but if the alarm went off we’d have to be ready,” he said.

They could go from bed to truck in four and a half minutes, he said.

Levacy-Sabin and a few other men were selected as personal security detail. They drove a route from the Air Force landing zone to the Army base in Bagdad and carried high-ranking officials and dignitaries. They drove enormous vehicles. They were in two groups, Rhinos or PSDs. He drove PSDs and transported colonels on up — generals or others who came over. The real high-ups would travel by Apache helicopter, and the security detail would drive the route underneath, he said. That way, if the helicopter needed to land, they could immediately be picked up in the vehicles. He did transport two colonels and an Air Force command sergeant who somehow got replaced in the Rhino by a lieutenant.

“So, we got a random call to do a night mission to go get him,” Levacy-Sabin said. “We loaded up and picked him up — no big deal.”

But the man put in paperwork and Levacy-Sabin later received one of his medals for that.

“So, that’s kind of funny,” he said, “I got a couple of achievement medals, an Army achievement medal, a command level achievement medal and the one for joint service with the Air Force.”

When they drove their truck route, there were checkpoints along the way, but the military vehicles had their own lane to bypass the checkpoints. The vehicles were enormous, about the size of a school bus, and visibility in the rear was poor. One time one of the drivers misjudged when to get over and took out two checkpoint buildings.

“It was a little cinderblock building, and he demolished it,” he said. “We had a saying — ‘Complacency kills.’ He got too complacent.”

Although he was never involved in combat and didn’t fire the machine gun that he carried around, he was often in danger from random mortar fire and roadside bombs. While doing shifts in the guard towers around base, some Iraqis took some potshots at the towers.

One time Iraqis were rioting in the streets after a soccer game, but the soldiers were told not to engage. They were commanded to wait it out.

“None of us were hurt, but it could have gone the other way,” Levacy-Sabin said.

Mortars were fired nightly, and he heard the anti-missile system fire up. They were supposed to stay far from the mortar holes, but one evening a sergeant got curious.

“The sand gave way and he fell backwards in the hole. He was an idiot,and it was comical,” he said.

After eight or nine months in Iraq they pulled out, and Levacy-Sabin served the rest of his deployment in Kuwait. He returned home with the intention of going to officer school and becoming a chaplain in the Army.

But his parents were struggling to care for his sister Emerald, who is mentally handicapped. He and his wife chose to take over her care, so Levacy-Sabin got out of the military in 2016. His wife Kaylee had just graduated from Brigham Young University-Idaho as a medical assistant.

“So, that worked out well,” he said. “My wife is an angel. Kaylee is absolutely amazing.”

They have two children: Stephan, 8; and Melody, 6. They live in Rexburg and Levacy-Sabin works as the store director at Ace Hardware in Idaho Falls.

“I loved my time in the military. I miss it all the time,” he said.

Every day he uses the structure and order he learned from the military in the way he runs the store. Everyone knows what the employee above them does, so if anyone is unable to come because of the pandemic, the jobs will always be covered.

“So, one thing I enjoyed the most was the structure, and I still use that today. I love the military. I love my country,” he said.