I started my active duty tour of duty in Kaiserslautern, Germany in February 1988. I was assigned to Delta Company, 11th Signal Battalion as a platoon leader. From day one, the United States Government entrusted me with the health, welfare, training and lives of 75 soldiers, as well as over $20,000,000 worth of equipment, weapons, and vehicles. It was daunting to say the least. I quickly learned that to succeed in a male-dominated Army, I would have to be twice as skilled and work three times as hard as my male counterparts to earn the respect of the largely male leadership. In addition to the excellent training I received to prepare me for this assignment, I was fortunate to have my husband, a retired career infantry soldier, to rely on for support and guidance. Still, I had challenges not faced by the men. Both of my children were born in Germany while I was on active duty. This means I served a good deal of time as a pregnant platoon leader, wearing maternity BDU’s (battle dress uniform) while still performing all of my duties.
The Army taught me so many things. Above all—I learned leadership. Unlike in many academic settings, the lessons taught in the Army were put into practice immediately and continuously. I learned to manage and lead a platoon of very diverse individuals. I worked with people from all walks of life, all ages from young 20’s to mid 40’s. I worked with people from all parts of the country and all ethnicities. It didn’t matter what color you were or what sexual orientation you were, or whether you came from a rich or poor background. Everyone worked together to perform a mission—and the only criterion for success was job performance and proficiency in your MOS (military occupational specialty). Growing up in Nebraska I had little experience with ethnicities other than my own. Although we had minorities in my schools in Omaha, I was too shy to interact with ANYONE—regardless of race or ethnicity.
I relished and embraced the opportunity to get to know people from various backgrounds, races, and ethnicities. It is truly a beautiful thing to experience the camaraderie and esprit de corps that develops between individuals in a military unit. I formed lifetime bonds of friendship with many of those with whom I served, and who have given their endorsement for my campaign.
In the Army, I pushed myself further than I thought possible. For instance, although terrified of heights, I flew in many helicopters and rappelled down buildings and towers. I learned the meaning of self-sacrifice. I was eight months pregnant with my son when Desert Storm broke out. Our unit immediately went on alert, which means that I went to the Commander’s office to await further orders as to our involvement, if any. Eventually several squads from my platoon were deployed. I remember standing with them in the motor pool as they finalized their preparations, wondering, hoping, praying that I had given them the proper training and guidance needed to survive. It was a very sobering thought. Thankfully, all of my troops returned unharmed. My son was born less than a month later. And, while I was never deployed, my husband and I had discussed the possibility, and we were both totally prepared that if that should happen, he would stay behind to take care of our newborn son and 1 year old daughter.
Everything I learned in the Army has stayed with me and has served me well in my 24 year career as a prosecutor. As an officer, I was required to have a working knowledge of the UCMJ (Uniform Code of Military Justice), and this sparked my interest in the law. And so, I decided to go to law school after my active duty assignment was finished. Thus, I traded my BDU’s for "civies" and headed to Nebraska and Law School to start my next journey of becoming an attorney.