Dreaming of action and adventure, Frederic Drummond Jr. was ready to jump out of airplanes in service to his country when he enlisted in the military out of high school.
Drummond had gone to a career fair at Hastings High School and saw sharply dressed individuals from the Army, Navy and Marines.
Then he spotted a soldier wearing a maroon beret and asked about his occupation. The man explained he was a paratrooper and that he jumped out of airplanes with the infantry.
“Jump out of airplanes? That sounds pretty interesting,” Drummond said. “Low and behold, I ended up joining the military and going to Italy, with one of the premier airborne units in the country, the 1/509th Airborne Battalion Combat Team.”
Drummond had some experience with aviation as part of Hastings’ Civil Air Patrol youth program, which teaches youth about flying. He was mostly interested in the aviation side, but was also interested in the military.
Although he had been planning to go to college after high school, Drummond said the military seemed like an adventure awaiting him and he decided to enlist.
The day after his high school graduation in 1980, Drummond hopped a bus leaving Hastings and headed to Fort Leonard Wood for basic training.
Nearly four decades later, Drummond retired in May as a colonel in the United States Central Command and is proud of his time in service.
“Reflecting back, it was absolutely the right call,” he said. “It gave me world experience, a wonderful wife and kids, and the ability to help people in need.”
He encourages all young kids to look at some level of service to the community or nation.
“Servitude to the nation is critically important,” he said. “(When you’re) serving your country, you’re serving something much bigger than yourself. It’s for the greater good of all.”
Aside from serving his country, he was able to travel around the world, obtain multiple degrees and various professional skills during his time in the military.
Drummond served with the 1/509th Airborne Battalion Combat Team in Italy and the 618th Engineer Company, 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, N.C. He participated in Operation Urgent Fury in Grenada as a squad leader.
After his initial four-year commitment, Drummond returned to Nebraska and attended Kearney State College where he earned a degree in industrial and construction management.
That’s also where he met his wife, Chris, who he married in 1986.
Drummond was commissioned as an infantry officer in the Nebraska National Guard while in college and commissioned to the Army Corps of Engineers in 1989.
For most of his career, he was a combat engineer who served alongside, and in front of, the infantry in many cases.
He served with the 307th Engineer Battalion, 82nd Airborne Division during Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm in Iraq. He commanded Alpha Company, 16th Engineer Battalion nicknamed the “Outlaws” in Bosnia-Herzegovina during Operation Enduring Freedom.
In 2001, he was assigned to the 20th Engineer Brigade, then back to the 82nd Airborne Division. He deployed to Afghanistan to support the International Security Assistance Force and established Provisional Reconstruction Teams and Army Special Operations Forces base camps.
Drummond commanded the First Brigade Combat Team Special Troops Battalion, 82nd Airborne Division and deployed to southern Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom. He then served as the director of operations for the XVIII Airborne Corps. He was assigned to U.S. Special Operations Command where he was engineering director.
He commanded the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Chicago District, and then was the engineering director for Combined Security Transition Command Afghanistan with oversight of the infrastructure construction program for the Afghan National Security Forces.
Drummond has been awarded a variety of medals during his career, including the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Joint Service Commendation Medal, and Army Commendation Medal.
Through every deployment, Drummond said his wife’s support was crucial. While he was away, she had to handle any problems with vehicles or house, as well as care for their five children, Aaron, Jessica, Matthew, Joshua and Nicholas.
Drummond said he was able to rest easy knowing Chris could manage the homefront.
“I just couldn’t ask for a better partner,” he said. “I didn’t worry about my family situation. She allowed me to focus 100 percent on bringing my soldiers back home to their own family members.”
Although Drummond had reached the limit of his military service and neared mandatory retirement, he said he doesn’t plan to give up working. He said he is transitioning to another career, though he’s not sure what that will be yet.
He is planning to spend some time with his family vacationing in Europe and the Caribbean before finding a new job, though he’s already had offers.
For the time being, he and Chris have a five-year plan that will keep them in Tampa for now.
During Drummond’s retirement ceremony in Florida on May 31, Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite said Drummond excelled at building camaraderie with his teams and went out of his way to enhance the quality of life for soldiers under his command.
“The best legacy is the spark you inspired in all who have served with you,” Semonite said.
He said he was impressed with the way Drummond could guide construction projects as well as build relationships between the people involved in those projects, generally in foreign countries.
“Regardless of how tough things are, Fred always steps up to get things done,” Semonite said.
As he worked to build infrastructure in Bosnia, Iraq and then Afghanistan, Drummond said the key is making sure the local leaders and citizens understood he was there to help.
“The first step in partnership is extending a hand in peace,” he said. “You’re showing them you’re much more than a warrior, that you are a human being and you can partner with them to make their lives better. I believe the engineers are the ideal war fighting force to do that kind of stuff because we come in and build long-term, usable facilities that help more than the just the military. It helps the local citizens.”
Drummond said he was able to get things done using the skills he learned as he worked for his father’s construction company in high school. He said every day presented new challenges and he had to work with local citizens and government.
“To a large degree, my upbringing here in Hastings did a lot for me,” he said.
His father told him to never leave a hammer sitting idle as he worked for his company and that work ethic served Drummond well in the military.
“He said ‘If you walk by that hammer, you’re not making me any money because it’s just sitting there,’” Drummond said. “You’ve got to pick it up and swing it. I’ve used that mantra my entire time in the military. A hammer siting idle is not a hammer getting something done.”
Drummond takes most pride in helping to build a mudhif near a combat outpost in Iraq.
The domed thatch huts had been traditional meeting places for the Iraqi sheikhs. A contractor was brought in to adapt the traditional buildings for modern use.
“We’re taking a little bit of their culture and morphing it into our democratic type of culture,” Drummond said. “We built that and we invited them all together and they all started to talk. They all started to participate and we started to build other facilities for them.”