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Command sergeant major, Army reservist since 1977Occupation:
Resource management officer for the 80th Division Reserves
I work [for the Reserve full time now], so I kind of had the inside track about deployment. My name was on the list, and I was asked, are you sure this is what you want to do? And my only question to that was, can you guarantee that I will never be deployed the remainder of my career? They couldn't. I said, well, you need to let me go with my unit, and that was the end of the conversation.
I'm the baby of nine kids. One brother was in Vietnam with the Army. My husband was going to go in, but because of an old football injury he couldn't go in, so I said, well, what about me?
Back in 1977 I was the only female in my company of just over 100 people. Women were the typists and those kinds of duties. I can remember having done all that I was required to do, but because men didn't know how to type, they would bring their work to me. In Iraq, I was the senior noncommissioned officer and had about 160 soldiers that worked for me. Our job over there was to equip and sustain the Iraqi army and national security, the police. We gave them all their equipment, clothing, ammunition, vehicles. It was all managed through our office.
We had to duck and cover quite a few times in the international zone with mortars and [rocket-propelled grenades] coming in. You hear blasts and shooting all the time there. One evening we worked late, and when we got out of the vehicle where we lived, we heard something go off and hit. We found out the next day that it was a [rocket-propelled grenade] that had gone right overhead.
Everybody thinks of the front line like "Gettysburg," with troops marching, getting shot down, and that's just not the way it is. The front line's everywhere nowadays. It's all around you. There are women who are part of the security convoy teams that go out. When I was flying around in Black Hawks, there were women [who] were gunners. Every day when we left the international zone and were out in the red zone, you're definitely in combat.
I would ask all the soldiers, regardless of rank or age, when was the last time they made contact with home? If they gave me any indication that it had been more than a week, I would tell them then and there to call home. When my brother was in Vietnam, we would sometimes go a month or more and not hear from him, and I can tell you as the baby sister, it was just terrible.
Over there, I would get a box from home two weeks after they mailed it. With my brother in Vietnam, it would take 30 days or more to get our packages. I typed him letters on toilet paper so he would have enough.
It wasn't hard to adjust coming back, but people around [me] say I'm quieter. I know when I first came back, noises bothered me because you were on guard all the time, but I think I'm over that. I'm back to pretty much normal. Back to the cover storyClick here for more Cover Stories