82nd loses a leader in Iraq 27-year veteran wins high praise Watts was 'the greatest paratrooper,' Lt. Col. Scott Harris says. Jay Price, Staff Writer A key leader with the 82nd Airborne Division brigade in Iraq was killed last week, the Pentagon announced Monday. Command Sgt. Maj. Donovan E. Watts, 46, died Nov. 21 in a land mine blast while on patrol near Bayji, about 150 miles north of Baghdad, according to a news release from the 82nd Airborne. Watts was the top noncommissioned officer of one of four combat battalions in the brigade combat team. A command sergeant major's duties include overseeing the performance -- and looking out for the welfare -- of all the enlisted men in their unit, which was several hundred in Watts' case. The job is so crucial that the 82nd is flying in a replacement, Sgt. Maj. King Parks, said Maj. Tom Earnhardt, a spokesman for the division. A senior noncommissioned officer in the unit is temporarily filling the command gap, he said. Sergeants major are among the most experienced troops, and Watts was no exception. He was a 27-year veteran of the Army and had served as rifleman, machine gunner, team leader, squad leader, platoon sergeant, first sergeant, battalion operations sergeant major and battalion command sergeant major, Earnhardt said. He also was an instructor at the Basic Airborne School at Fort Benning, Ga. He had been stationed in Panama, Korea, Louisiana and Georgia as well as three assignments at Bragg. He also was deployed for Operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield. Watts was remembered in the unit as its father figure and as a man who often spoke softly but commanded respect by his force of personality. A dog enthusiast, he often divided the world between the "porch dogs" who sat and talked and the "yard dogs" who got things done. His last commander was effusive. "Command Sgt. Maj. Donovan Watts was the greatest paratrooper I have ever known," said Lt. Col. Scott Harris, commander, 1st Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, in a prepared statement. "Not only was he my battalion command sergeant major, he was my friend and confidant. He was the standard bearer for the battalion, and set the example for everyone -- subordinate, peer and superior alike. He was kind, fair and treated everyone with dignity. His care for his men was unparalleled." Once, at a social function, someone asked Watts whether he was married, Harris said. "Yes, I'm married to the 82nd Airborne Division," came the reply. "CSM Watts was a phenomenal man -- a father figure for the battalion. He loved being a paratrooper and, consequently, loved paratroopers," said Maj. Curtis Buzzard, second in command of the battalion. "He gave his heart and soul to this battalion, and it reflected his philosophy -- train hard, treat one another with dignity and respect, and set and enforce high standards. ... "He will be sorely missed but not forgotten. He would want us to move on -- in his words, 'like a Doberman, ears up.' " The awards and decorations for Watts, an Atlanta native, include the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal with oak leaf cluster, Purple Heart, Meritorious Service Medal with two oak leaf clusters, Army Commendation Medal with two oak leaf clusters, Army Achievement Medal with silver and bronze oak leaf cluster, Army Good Conduct Medal with two silver clasps, National Defense Service Medal with bronze star, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Korean Defense Service Medal, Armed Forces Service Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal, Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon with numeral 4 device, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, Kuwait Liberation Medal (Saudi Arabia), Kuwait Liberation Medal (Kuwait), Army Meritorious Unit Commendation, Army Superior Unit Award, Combat Infantryman Badge with second award, Expert Infantryman Badge, Master Parachutist Badge, Ranger Tab and Driver's Badge. His survivors include his daughter, Charlee; and his sister, Bridget.