Another new facility has sprung to life at Harmony Church, and Fort Benning dedicated it to a Soldier killed in Iraq more than seven years ago.
The Pfc. Jesse D. Mizener Wheel and Track Sustainment Complex officially opened Wednesday during a memorialization and ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by garrison and Directorate of Logistics leaders. His parents, Jim and Becky, flew in from the family’s hometown of Stockton, Calif., to unveil a plaque for their son that will sit on permanent display.
The $39 million, 42-acre compound consolidates Fort Benning’s maintenance, transportation, supply and services missions at one location. The staff had operated in temporary facilities, some dating to 1947, spread out over 20 separate sites on post.
“We’re excited, humbled and honored. Jesse would’ve been really jazzed about this,” Becky Mizener said. “When we got the letter that the Army wanted to name a building after him, I thought, ‘This must be a mistake.’ Then, we found out it was a whole complex. It’s huge, and it’s a beautiful place.
“It’s amazing this happened, because Jesse was just a lowly private — not a general or colonel. He was just doing his job like all the other Soldiers out there.”
Mizener joined the Army in September 2002. After finishing basic and advanced individual training, he was sent to Fort Lewis, Wash., and assigned to the 542nd Maintenance Company. Six weeks later, the 24-year-old heavy equipment mechanic deployed with the unit to Iraq.
On Jan. 7, 2004, six enemy mortars ripped through the mess hall at Logistics Base Seitz on the north end of Baghdad International Airport. Mizener was killed and 30 Soldiers were wounded. He left behind a wife and three small children, ages 3, 2 and 6 weeks when he died.
“I remember as if it was yesterday when the Army came to our door,” Becky Mizener said. “But he was doing what he wanted to do. He was doing an honorable job — he was a Soldier in the United States Army.”
Jim Mizener said they still keep in touch with his platoon mates, who have relayed all the stories about Jesse. “The guys told us he was the mother hen,” Jim said. “After the attack, Jesse went over to check on some of the others; he was just that kind of guy. He didn’t realize how bad he was hurt. Then, they said, he closed his eyes and died.”
Mizener always had a fascination with disassembling and putting back together anything he could get his hands on, according to his biography. In Iraq, the 542nd Maintenance Company provided field support for wheeled vehicles, weapons, communications equipment and generators.
“He made the ultimate sacrifice for our country and our freedoms,” said Fort Benning Director of Logistics David Shepherd. “He loved to fix things, and he took that love into the U.S. Army.”
Col. Jeffrey Fletcher, the garrison commander, called Mizener a “special Soldier and American” who served with honor and distinction.
“He had a very unique gift he brought into the Army,” Fletcher said. “This young man was a brave warrior and a brave Soldier we will never forget.”
Construction on the Mizener Wheel and Track Sustainment Complex began in February 2010 and was completed this past May, said Dave Jacob, installation materiel maintenance manager for the Directorate of Logistics. At full capacity, the facility will process more than 20,000 work orders annually. He said it was first identified as a requirement for Fort Benning in 1974, but funding issues persisted for decades.
In addition to servicing the installation, the complex also conducts an area support mission for more than 80 counties in West Georgia, East Alabama and the Florida Panhandle, Shepherd said. It handles requests from National Guard units, ROTC programs, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and other federal agencies.
“For years, we worked out of antiquated facilities across Fort Benning, any place we could find,” Shepherd said. “This is the newest state-of-the-art facility in the Army for maintenance. We have a great deal of capability here.”
After her son’s death, Becky Mizener founded a nonprofit charity called Packed With Pride, which sends about 100 care packages a month to U.S. troops abroad. She speaks regularly at schools, clubs and civic organizations in search of donations.
“Jesse didn’t know that when he signed up, he signed the whole family up,” his father said. Mizener’s cousin, Capt. James Gibbs, a student in the Maneuver Captains Career Course, attended Wednesday’s ceremony.
“It’s unfortunate when anyone makes the ultimate sacrifice. Some people deal with it better than others, and his parents started a great organization that’s helped tens of thousands of troops,” Gibbs said. “They didn’t just hang their heads and give up. In the long run, something good came out of it.”
For more information about Packed With Pride or to make a donation, visit www.packedwithpride.com.