Segment Synopsis: Kristin Cruikshank was born in 1981 in Newark, Ohio. Cruikshank enlisted in the United States Army in high school because it offered opportunities to do and see new things. She talks about growing up in Columbus and Portsmouth, OH, her life working and going to school at Fort Irwin, and what it is like being a garrison and field cook. Cruikshank details her memories of 9/11, her time at Giessen Depot in Germany, and her younger brother's enlistment in the Army.
Keywords: Columbus (Ohio); Cooks; Fort Irwin (Calif.); Giessen Army Depot; Hesse (Germany); Newark (Ohio); Portsmouth (Ohio); United States. Army. Armored Engineer Battalion, 16th; United States. Army. Armored Engineer Battalion, 58th
Subjects: Childhood; Cooking in the Army; Deployment to Germany; Military heritage
Map Coordinates: 50.596389, 8.728056
Segment Synopsis: Cruikshank was deployed to Iraq via Kuwait in 2003 being stationed at Baghdad Island. She talks about what it is like to be in a mortar attack. She explains how she had family ties to Iraqis living in Baghdad, how they became part of her life while stationed there, and her perception of how the Iraqis felt about the Army's deployment. Cruikshank tells of participating in raids, being a part of convoys, and being a logistics coordinator. She reviews her travels during her time in Germany and the trips around the world she took after she left the Army.
Keywords: Australia; Baghdad Island; England; Greece; Guard Duty; Iraq; Kuwait; Logistics coordination; Nepal; Scotland; Singapore; South Africa; Weapons sweeps
Subjects: Aspects of deployment to Iraq; Family in Iraq; Traveling
Map Coordinates: 33442857,44344364
Segment Synopsis: Cruikshank missed her life in the Army and after some searching found a new home in the Ohio National Guard. She speaks of her civilian life after the Army and why she decided to join the Ohio National Guard. Cruikshank explains the various jobs she has held, what it has been like to be a woman in the Army, questions she has had about 9/11 and her service, and how she feels about her service in the Armed Forces.
Keywords: Avenger weapons system; Fahrenheit 9/11 (Motion picture); Human resources; September 11 Terrorist Attacks, 2001.; Training officer; Washington Air Defense
Subjects: Duties in the Guard; Ohio National Guard; Reflecting on 9/11; What it's like being a woman in the Army
TP: Today is Saturday, October 17th, 2015. My name is Ty Pierce. I'm here withKristin Cruikshank to talk about her service in the Ohio National Guard and the United States Armed Forces. For the record, would you please say and spell your full name?
KC: Kristin Cruikshank, K-R-I-S-T-I-N C-R-U-I-K-S-H-A-N-K.
TP: Can you tell us when were you born and where were you born?
KC: August 10th, 1981, Newark, Ohio.
TP: Where did you grow up?
KC: I grew up mostly in Columbus, on the West Side Hilltop or the South Side.
TP: Can you describe your childhood experience, your school experience?
KC: Like I said, I grew up in, I think, I call it Inner City Columbus, movedaround a lot. I've been to several different schools. We never stayed in one house for a long period of time. I've also spent 3-1/2 years of my high school years down in Portsmouth, Ohio. I was very active as a kid. I rode my bike, played basketball in the alley. I used to deliver newspapers for The Columbus Dispatch when I was 13 years old. I was on a softball team growing up. I was very active.
TP: Any siblings?
KC: I have a younger brother, 11 months younger than me, and a younger sister.
TP: What did your parents do for a living?
KC: My mother was a school teacher for a small period of my childhood. They both00:02:00have done several things. My dad has never really had one job for a long period of time. He goes from job to job. Yeah, nothing very significant.
TP: You said you moved around quite a bit. It sounds like your parents both were... Neither of them had one career that they were in for 20 years. How did that affect you or your siblings growing up? Was that something you thought about or, looking back, do you feel that that had an impact on you?
KC: Yeah, it definitely had an impact on me and my siblings and the fact that wewanted to do more with our lives. We've all gone to college. We all have careers. I guess to say we're all doing pretty well in life rather than skipping from job to job and place to place. We're paying our bills, things of that nature.
TP: This was something ... At what point in your life did you feel like you wereaware of that?
KC: My entire life. Like I said, I worked for The Columbus Dispatch at 13 yearsold. My brother did, too. We've always wanted more. We've always wanted to earn money to have nicer clothes, to be able to do things in life. We've always been aware and we've always had goals, rather than just being stagnant and being stuck in the cycle of how we were brought up, wanting to do more.
TP: Interesting. As you were growing up, has there been a tradition of militaryservice in your family? Is that something that either you were aware of or affected you growing up?
KC: My grandfather was in for 30 years actually. Yes, my brother has served00:04:00also. We were very aware of it. My mom is very proud of the fact that he was in the service. Unfortunately, he passed away when I was young so I don't know him very well, but, visiting his gravestone, every time I go see his gravestone, you'll see that he was a Korean war vet and World War II vet. That's something that we're very proud of.
TP: Did you talk with your grandfather about the service? Was this somethingthat was talked about, or was it just something that you knew?
KC: No. He passed away when I was 6 years old, so I didn't have that conversation.
TP: It clearly impressed you and affected you somehow.
KC: I think so, yeah.
TP: You said both you and your brother served?
KC: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
TP: Just to know, was that something that you and he talked about when you wereyounger, or was that as you got [to the enlistment 05:13] age? Was that something you guys had a conversation about or it just happened that way?
KC: I knew a couple of years, I knew in my junior and high school that I wasgoing to join the service. I enlisted first. I think he just saw what I was doing in the service. I could be wrong. I don't know. We haven't had a direct conversation about it, but I didn't know of his interest until after I was already in.
TP: Where did you go to high school? Can you describe that experience a littlebit? You already mentioned that you knew in your junior year, but where did you go and what was high school like?
KC: My first high school was Northland High School in Columbus. I was there formy freshman year. I actually got removed from the home for a little bit, so I went to live with my grandparents during the summer of freshman and sophomore year down in Portsmouth, Ohio. I returned to Northland for half of a my 00:06:00sophomore year before I got returned to my grandparents to finish out my high school year at Minford High School in Southern Ohio.
TP: You finished in Minford.
KC: Minford, mm-hmm (affirmative).
TP: How did that affect you? Because you said you got removed from the home forbit. How did that affect you and did it have an impact on your decision to join the military?
KC: Yes. I'll tell that whole story. When I was removed freshman and sophomoreyear, I had a lot of friends in high school. I was very depressed at the time because I didn't have any friends down there. I hang out with my grandparents a lot, but it wasn't the same. I was, I guess, just very bitter, too. The reason why I was removed from the home was there was friction between me and my mother's new husband at the time. Between my junior and senior year ... Part of that, there were recruiters that came in to the high school that spoke about the marines. The marines is what initially impressed me, so I thought about joining the marines.
Between my junior and senior year, I stayed with my mother. She was living inKentucky at that time. I got a summer job working at Kings Island. She had a convenience store down there that she would have me work at. I remember being very frustrated with her at this time. I went across the street to go to the library after she had came to the store to relieve me. There were brochures for the army. I picked up the brochures and I remember coming back and telling my mom and her husband at the time that I was going to join the army. 00:08:00
I did it out of spite. He was not American, so I was throwing the American pridein his face, as mean as that is, but I was a very bitter high school age student at the time. That's what started it. I just got set on joining the army from there on out. I actually enlisted in December - there's a late entry program - and left for basic training in June, a week after I graduated high school.
TP: Enlisted December of?
KC: Of '98.
TP: That was your junior year.
KC: No, my senior year.
TP: You enlisted your senior?
KC: Yeah. I had began getting the thoughts about joining the military in myjunior year.
TP: Other than the really interesting moment of you grabbing this brochure, itwasn't just a flippant thing that you said. What was it about that idea that attracted you to it and then eventually led to you enlisting? Why did you enlist?
KC: As clich as it is, it's pride for my country, wanting to serve.
TP: You enlisted into the army. At that time, did you have thoughts, as you weregraduating high school ... How did finishing high school go for you knowing what you were going to be doing in June? Then did you have any idea of what you thought you might like to do before you got into basic and actually on the ground?
KC: There was nothing in particular that I wanted to do prior to leaving forbasic. I was pretty excited about starting a new life and being on my own. I 00:10:00remember just having a lot of pride. The recruiters gave me some army shirts. I remember wearing those army shirts my senior year. Senior year was just all about having fun with my friends and celebrating being seniors and getting ready to graduate and be on our own. There wasn't really any thought of accomplishing anything prior to leaving for the army, because I was very excited to go ahead and get that started.
TP: This is at Minford High School you're graduating. You had transcriptsestablished then and things going well. What did your family say about your enlistment?
KC: My grandparents, because I enlisted when I was 17, so tey had to sign offon me joining, were very proud that I was doing something with my life right after high school. That and they're pro-military and about serving your country.
TP: This is, obviously, not the grandfather who had served.
KC: No, the grandfather that had served, that's my mother's father. I stayedwith my father's parents.
TP: How did your parents react, or how did your mom react?
KC: I think she didn't want me to at first. Then she just accepted it. I thinkat that time 9/11 hadn't happened yet. She was scared maybe at first, but there really wasn't anything going on for her to think that there was a threat of anything happening to me.
TP: You graduated high school and then you said, in June, you were off to basic.Can you describe that, describe getting ready to go to basic? How are you feeling on the way? How are you feeling when you get there?
KC: I think leaving for basic, I was just excited about being on my own, doing00:12:00something for myself. Yeah, I was nervous. My first flight was flying to basic training. Everyone warned you that it's nothing but a mind game, that you're going to have people yelling at you. I was not surprised by that, and I think I handled it very well. I had a lot of fun in basic. Nothing really significant to say about that experience because I don't really remember too much, but I remember just being very excited and not letting the drill sergeant's yelling at me or anything like that get to me.
TP: At one point you would have taken the [open 13:07] service. How did you feelat that moment? Maybe even looking back, did it-
TP: [crosstalk 13:15] hit you for what it was or could have been? How did youfeel then?
KC: Very proud that I was going to be part of something there, being part of the military.
TP: As you were enlisting and coming into this, it sounds like, growing up, yousaid you and your brother especially had an eye that you wanted to do better, you wanted to ... Did you see that in the army?
KC: Yeah, definitely.
TP: You finished out basic. What ended up being your MOS? Did you receive anyadvanced training after boot camp?
KC: I ended up being a food service specialist, a cook. I went to AIT in FortLee, Virginia.
TP: How did that come about?
KC: My recruiter told me to pick two MOSs that I wanted to do prior to go to theMEP station. I said I wanted to be an MP and my number two was cook. I don't 00:14:00know why ... I chose those two because they're popular, because those are jobs that you already know of. I didn't really take the time to research what other jobs were in the military. When I went to the MEP station, they told me that they weren't accepting any MPs right now, but I could get in as a cook. I said, "Okay," so I enlisted as a cook. I wish I would have not ... I shouldn't have any regrets, but I just wish I would have researched some of the other jobs instead of just accepting something so simple as a cook.
TP: At the time did you even think about researching more or was it you justknew about those?
KC: Yeah. My cousin's uncle was a cook at Vietnam. He told me the good thingabout being a cook is you never go hungry and you're always warm. I took that and I thought, "Okay. I don't like the cold and I don't like going hungry, so that'll be fine."
TP: What was AIT like for that? I've never met anybody who's had that MOS. Whatwas that AIT like to train up for that?
KC: Oh, just basic cooking classes. You go into the kitchen and you have certainprojects, whether you're cutting up a chicken that day or if you're making stock for a soup that you're going to make. It's just the basics of cooking that you're learning how to properly dice up vegetables. I remember the drill sergeants in AIT yelled more than the ones in basic training. They were actually harder, I thought, in AIT. I had fun in basic, but not so much in AIT because I 00:16:00just ... You expect at that point to be treated a little bit differently because you are through basic training, but we got smoked, I think, a lot more than basic training. When I say smoked, I meant push-ups and just doing exercises.
TP: You might have been one of the few who actually ended up in better shapeafter AIT.
KC: Oh, I did. Yeah. I remember my last PT test, I did 69 push-ups. I came homeand my brother's friend wanted to have a competition with me to see who can do the most push-ups. I smoked him. It was because we were always doing push-ups. People couldn't believe that I had done that many. That's all we do, was push-ups.
TP: Do you have any idea why or was there anything later in your service thatmade you realize why it was that the drill sergeants in AIT were harder than the ones in basic?
KC: I think it was just the personalities were a little bit different.
TP: That makes sense. After that, you received your MOS, you got your training.Then what? What's next for you then?
KC: Then I go to Fort Irwin in California, where I spend about a year ingarrison cooking. Fort Irwin is where the OPFOR is. They go to the field quite ... Operational Forces. Other installations, other units come to Fort Irwin to train, to play war games. The OPFOR is the opposing team they're going against. We wore different uniforms there. I spent a year on the field crew. The field crew is the people who go out to the field to do the ... For me, as a cook, I'm not actually war-gaming or anything. I'm just cooking for the individuals who were part of the operations out there, but I was part of the field crew for 00:18:00probably actually over a year.
Then, after that, I came back to garrison for a couple of months before goingoff to Germany. I got promoted to corporal at my first duty station and then on to sergeant before leaving to go to Giessen, Germany.
TP: Can you spell ... Germany?
KC: Giessen, G-I-E-S-S-E-N.
TP: You were promoted to corporal then?
KC: Then on to sergeant.
KC: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
TP: How did your duties change? I guess let's back up a little bit. Can youdescribe what your daily life is like cooking for the army?
KC: In garrison, you usually go to PT at 6:00 in the morning. You do PT for anhour. There's two different shifts for a cook. There is a shift that starts at 10:30 and there's another shift that starts typically at 5, depending on the dining facility that you work for's hours. It could be earlier or later. If you go to PT that morning, you usually go to work at 10:30. However, on Mondays, you go to the motor pool to do PMCS, the preventive maintenance checks and services, on your vehicles. That's the only day that you have something to do in between PT and your shift starting at 10:30.
You work from 10:30 until about 1900. If you work in the evening shift that day,the one I just described, the next day you work the morning shift. You're at work at 5:00 in the morning. Sometimes it'd be earlier on Thursdays, it's sergeant's time, which the DFAC is open earlier. You can be at the DFAC at 3:30, 4:00 in the morning. It's quite tough. That's why I had a little bit of regrets about choosing that particular MOS. Then you do that every week. On the weekends, you work two shifts so the other shift can get a weekend off. When you 00:20:00finally get a weekend off, you don't want to do anything. It's a little different than what the typical soldier gets. We didn't get the holidays.
However, when I was on the field crew, I did get the holidays, I did get the 9to 5. With PT, it's more like 6 to 5, when I was on the field crew and we were on the rear and working in the motor pool, because you fall in just like every other soldier because you're only cooking when you're out in the field. Now when you're out in the field, it's the same as far as the evening and the morning shift, going back and forth.
At Fort Irwin, we would cook up for up to 2,000 soldiers, a lot of soldiers. Outthere, it gets really cold in winter time, because it's the desert, and it gets really hot in the summer time. I remember at Fort Irwin, there was a situation where some soldiers had got killed from carbon monoxide poisoning, the heaters being left on in the tents for a whatever reason, so they took away our heaters. This was like at the beginning of winter. I remember when I was on the field crew, that winter was really bad. It was really tough because you're just constantly cold. Thankfully, I was a cook. Once we start cooking, I got to warm up.
TP: How do you cook for 2,000 people?
KC: You cook on a mobile kitchen trailer. However, now they have containerizedkitchens, which are much more modern, which some units still have MKTs. We had 4 MKTs and we would put them back to back. You're grilling, whether it's steak, pork chops, just whatever, you're usually grilling something. Then the cans ... The vegetables are always in cans. You just open the can, you put it in a huge pot over a burner. Then you usually just do something easy like rice or mashed 00:22:00potatoes. You're not cooking very difficult things when you're out in the field.
TP: Was there ever a switch up to that routine? Did you have certain thingseither, I don't know, I guess around a holiday? When did that routine break and didn't?
KC: I got two answers for that. During the holidays, there's something calledblock leaves. That's when most soldiers go home on leaves, so you don't have that many soldiers to cook for and there's no field exercises. However, when I was in garrison, every Thanksgiving, there's a huge dinner that's being done and there's also a contest as far as making ... We had projects as far as decorating cakes, ice sculptures, or whatever you wanted to create at Thanksgiving for display. We'd do our displays. Everyone had to do a project. We just would cook a huge Thanksgiving meal for everyone because everyone's still there at Thanksgiving and they go home for Christmas, so you have more people coming in.
TP: Can you describe that experience of having this enormous Thanksgiving?
KC: It's exhausting because there's a lot of prep, because you have your projectin addition to the days leading up doing all the prep work for the bigger meals. Then you're also cooking a lot earlier because you're cooking things that are a little bit more time-consuming than the typical meal that you would cook every day.
TP: What was your project? Do you remember?
KC: I always chose cakes. They were easy. I wasn't that creative. I would findpictures of things and then do sheet cakes, double-layer sheet cakes, and just cut it to the shape of whatever picture I'm going to decorate. I would just do the spot icing, where I'm decorating it with dots with different colors. I did a Jack and Jill pilgrim one year. Then a couple of years, I just did double-layered cakes with the unit I was in, insignia in the middle of it with 00:24:00whether a 16th engineer or [inaudible 24:50] engineers, the two units I had been in.
TP: Both engineering units.
KC: Yes, when I was on active duty.
TP: Then you said you were in the field for about a year with the Operational Forces?
KC: OPFOR, yeah.
KC: It's a rotation that you go. Every month you're in the field probably about10 days, 10 to 14 days. Then you come home and you get 2 or 3-week break from the field before you're back in there again. You do this every month.
TP: In that course of that, you advanced rank a couple of times. How did yourduties change? Was there a change in the duties or scope when you went to corporal and then the sergeant?
KC: I got promoted to corporal when I was on the field crew. I actually startedtaking on a leadership role with the rank of PFC, which is private first class, a very low rank. At the time we didn't have very many NCOs and I was working with a couple specialists who didn't care to really take the lead. I was what was called a shift leader for a little while before I made specialist. I only was a specialist for a couple of months before they promoted me to corporal. That's the first NCO rank that you could get.
The reason I was promoted to corporal and not sergeant was because I didn't haveenough time and grade, time in service to make sergeant. As soon as I had hit 00:26:00that mark, I made sergeant. Typically, when you make a new rank, they try to move you on to a new assignment. That's when I got moved back to the garrison, which it was time for me anyway because usually you only do a year of the field crew, if that. I was there for over a year.
TP: How did that feel? Because that's pretty quick [crosstalk 26:42].
KC: Yeah. I felt that a lot of people were jealous, a lot of people gave me ahard time because I made rank extremely quick. The people who knew me on the field crew showed me a lot of respect. However, when I got to garrison, I think I had a lot of people giving me a hard time because, one, I had been doing field crew cooking for a while, which was off the MKT rather than making things in garrison, which was more from scratch, so I didn't have that experience. They didn't really know my background and what I brought to the table. They just knew that I was a sergeant who had only been in a couple of years.
TP: What were you bringing to the table?
KC: The thing in the military is a lot of the people who are bitter about notmaking rank on time or making it late are the people who don't show up on time, people who can't pass the PT test, they're overweight, they get in trouble. I do all those things. That and I have leadership skills and I take initiative and I'm a hard worker. Those are things that I bring to the table.
TP: When you say that some people gave you a hard time, this was among cookdetail, not necessarily among the general soldiery, or both?
KC: No, just the cooks.
TP: Can you describe a little bit the difference between ... You mentioned it,but what's the difference, in just operation or whatever, between cooking on an MKT and then you said in garrison, which is much more from scratch?
KC: The things on MKT are already ... They are things that you can cook quickly.00:28:00They're boxed items. Steak is very easy. You just throw it on the grill. Something that's not time-consuming and don't involve a lot of ingredients. When you're in garrison, when you're making gravy, you've got to make the roux.
This all seems petty to me now because I know how to cook from scratch, but atthat time I was 18, 19 years old, and I never cooked until joined the army, so it was all very difficult and I wasn't quick at it. I had to follow the recipe card versus the guys who had been in garrison. They knew the recipes by heart because you make the same thing every 14 days. I didn't have the speed that they did. That held me back. You had to be very quick because everything's on a schedule in the dining facility.
TP: It sounds like it wasn't maybe as easy for you going back because you havetrouble getting back into that ... Did you get into any of that type of cooking or is that something [crosstalk 29:23]?
KC: I did have trouble because, like I said, my timing was off and I wasn't asquick as everyone else. Maybe I couldn't cook as many items at the same time as everyone else. When I say everyone else, the other E5s, the other sergeants, the people at my level. I'm not saying I was not a horrible cook by no means. I just was not cooking quick and I needed to take the time to read the recipe card.
TP: At this point, you're in for a little over a year. You're on active for alittle over a year. What comes next? What's after that?
KC: I just want to mention one thing about Fort Irwin because this is unique.While I'm working in the dining facility and doing the field crew, I'm also going to college at Barstow Community College, which is on Fort Irwin. The 00:30:00interesting thing about that college is that their classes stop when the field starts. You don't have to worry about not going to school because you have to go to the field, because it picks right back up when you come back from the field. That got me started with getting my college done.
TP: What prompted that? Because that sounds like you were taking something thatyou already ... It's not like you weren't busy and adding that on. What prompted you to do so? What were you studying? What was your intent?
KC: The leadership, my leadership was always pushing. The army is really goodabout pushing people into ... Encouraging people to take college classes to better themselves. We always had our leaders telling us, "Hey, Barstow is doing this. It's really easy to go to college here." I was constantly being told that it's too easy to get your college done while you're stationed at Fort Irwin because it's a little bit more difficult when you go to other duty stations.
When I went to Germany, I had issues scheduling classes because you're in thefield. There's always something going ... In Germany, you go to the field twice a year to Hohenfels and Grafenwohr. Really, it's like 3 times a year. I didn't get that many college courses down when I was in Germany.
That and there was just a large population of people who were doing it at FortIrwin. You just get on board and participate. I didn't know what I wanted to get a degree in. I just wanted to get a degree. I was just taking the basic classes at that point.
TP: Can you describe that experience of going to college while you're enlisted,but not in the field? You still had cooking duties going on.
KC: I still worked, yeah.
TP: What's that day look like?
KC: When I was on the field crew, it was go to PT, go to the motor pool, do your00:32:00work. Then in the evening ... For the most part, I didn't have a car. I did get a car later on, but I would walk to class. It really wasn't that long of a walk. Then you'd get out of class at 8:30, 9:00 at night, maybe not ... Yeah, that's about right. Then I would walk home and then just do that all over again. There are night classes, just like any other person who would work during the day and take night classes.
TP: Then at some point you received orders to go to Germany.
TP: About when are we talking about?
KC: This was November 2011, which, by the way, I was in PLDC during 9/11. Can Ijust mention that real quick?
TP: As soon as you said it, I wanted to double-back. Let's just talk about that.Describe the experience of being enlisted during 9/11 for me. Where were you?
KC: I was in PLDC, which is Primary Leadership Development Course, the schoolthat you need to go to for sergeant. I had made sergeant and I was going to this school to fulfill the schooling requirements. I remember, after PT, we were taking the bus to go get [CHAL 33:41]. We heard it over the radio. No, I'm sorry. I take that back. I first found out about it, it was word of mouth because somebody heard it on the radio somewhere, somehow after PT, when we were in our rooms changing to go to CHAL.
Then when we got on the bus, they were talking about it on the radio. We got toCHAL. I felt like the army was a little bit more strict then than it is now, but they wouldn't let us watch the TV at all. We get to see what was going on if we were peeking over in an area, because the area that the trainees were at didn't have a television. I remember walking out and I was wanting to know what was 00:34:00going on. We knew that airplanes had hit the World Trade Center, and nobody knew what was going on. Our drill instructors told us that we were going to attack somehow.
I remember them shooing us out of the dining facility. I really didn't get thatexperience of being able to see it on television when it was happening. I'm a little bitter about that because maybe it's a good thing that we were sheltered from the information that was going on, but our instructors would just tell us every once in a while what the updates were, why we're in class, why we're continuing on.
I remember the airplanes on base ... I don't know why they were practicing, thepilots, they were practicing flying on base, but I remember that freaking everyone out because it's like we know this is going on, we don't have all the information, and we're sitting here in class and we keep hearing airplanes above us. That's my 9/11 story.
TP: As it was being communicated to you, it sounds like there's a little bit ofdisconnect. In looking back, was it fairly accurate? Was it just small updates about what was happening? Was it [crosstalk 35:40] idea that you guys are going to be doing something-
KC: It was accurate.
TP: Or that something else was happening? Because, like you said, there werepilots and airplanes on base.
KC: For me, I was like, "What does mean? Are we going to be doing what we're inthe military to do? Is this going to happen for us?" I think they were giving us accurate information as they knew it right then and there.
TP: What was the talk among the soldiers? Were you guys talking about this?What's the mood at that point?
KC: Everyone was just wanting to know what was going on and what it meant.00:36:00
TP: How did you feel about what was happening and what that might mean for you?
KC: I think I felt fired up wanting to do something about it. Everyone else atthat time period was feeling ... Being in the service, we were, "Let's go take care of this guys."
TP: Ultimately, not. At that point, you're in PDC.
TP: PLDC, sorry. Then not that long after, that's when you received orders to goto Germany.
KC: Yes. I already knew that I was going to Germany because I re-enlisted to goto Germany, or maybe I had a goal at that point to re-enlist for Germany. I might have re-enlisted right after I got home. Either/or, I knew that I was going to Germany. I got to Germany in November 2001, heightened security at military installations at that time.
TP: You volunteered to go. On that detail, or was that assigned to you?
KC: To Germany?
TP: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
KC: I volunteered. I re-enlisted. I had a 3-year term. Then I re-enlisted 4 moreyears. I have 6 years altogether.
TP: What prompted you to do that? What prompted you to re-enlist? What wasinteresting about detail in Germany?
KC: I wanted to go to Germany. Everyone said that Germany is the place to go.It's the best duty station. I wanted to go to Germany so I could see Europe and to travel.
TP: Interesting. Then you arrive. How did you transfer over on ... I'm assuming00:38:00[crosstalk 38:28]?
KC: I flew over, yes. Somebody from my unit picked me up from the airport andtook me back to Giessen.
TP: You didn't go over as a unit. You went over individually.
KC: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
TP: Can you describe that landing in Germany and starting this new life there?
KC: The only thing I really remember was my sponsor was bringing me back toGiessen, which is true. It's a very clean country, but I thought there was a lot of graffiti. That's what I noticed, a lot of graffiti in Frankfurt. I didn't understand what the deal was with all the graffiti. We have a lot of graffiti ourselves, but I don't think our streets and our buildings are as clean-looking as theirs aside from the graffiti.
TP: What did you do when you got there?
KC: When you get to Germany, you have in-processing. I remember there was a weekof the language training, the German language training. You also study for your driver's license. You take that test. You do all these before you start working. At that point I didn't have a car. I was walking back and forth. Then, shortly after, I got a car, got my license and stared working in the DFAC the same type of schedule that I told you about - PT, motor pool, shifts.
TP: DFAC is?
KC: Oh, dining facility.
TP: What was different?
KC: In Germany? When I got there, it rains a lot and it's cloudy. I had comefrom California, where it's always sunny. This was a little bit gloomier. The 00:40:00driving is different, the signs are different, the people are different. I guess everything you expect to be different was different.
TP: As far as detail goes and the job? Was that [different 40:33]?
KC: The good thing was people didn't know me as an enlisted soldier prior tomaking sergeant, so I had a little bit more respect. The difficulties that I was having with my peers back in Fort Irwin, I didn't run into there. I actually had soldiers for the first time.
I had soldiers at Fort Irwin, but it was more like they were peers because Igrew up with them and I just passed them, so they didn't really seem as soldiers. I had some soldiers at Fort Irwin that I felt like they were my subordinates, but a lot of them were peers to me. Anyway, Fort Irwin, the difference is the fact that everyone knew me only as a sergeant, not me as a private PFC and so on.
TP: Can you describe the difference in that? What does that feel like to nowhave ... Feel like you are in a leadership role and they see you as that leader?
KC: I felt like I was finally getting the respect that I deserved for my rankand the work that I had done and the leadership qualities that I had.
TP: How long were you in Germany?
KC: Altogether, I was stationed there for 3-1/2 years. However, I was deployedfor 15 months of it.
TP: Did you take German high school or were you coming in to the country withany prior knowledge of the language or you just came in cold?
KC: No, came in cold. No prior knowledge.00:42:00
TP: Can you describe what it's like living on a base in a foreign country?
KC: When you are living on base, it still feels like you're in the United Statesbecause everything is slightly German, but still American. I ventured off quite a bit. I did a lot of traveling in Germany. I guess you're always observing and noticing the differences. People smile more. Americans smile more. I typically smile at somebody when I pass them. In Germany, they probably think you're crazy if you accidentally smiled at them while you're passing because it's just different for them, the culture is different.
TP: What's next after that?
KC: After I get to Germany?
TP: As you're going through Germany. Was there anything that stood out aboutyour service? You said you traveled. Was that something that ... Did it end up being the best duty station as you had been led to believe it was?
KC: Yeah, it was. I just didn't like going to the field because it's cold, butthat's just part of being in the military. I'm still in. 12 years, and I still go to the field and it's cold.
I traveled some before I went to Iraq. However, I did most of my traveling whenI got back from Iraq. That's mainly because of the shift work that I spoke of earlier. Just when you get a weekend off, you're so exhausted that you don't want to do anything. Then if you go somewhere, you've got two more weeks. It's just really hard. When I came back from Iraq, we had Germans working in the kitchen with us, so I had more weekends off to be able to travel more.
Prior to going to Iraq, I went to ... My very first trip was ... It was $99, anMWR trip. One night in Paris. I spent a weekend in Paris. It was a bus trip and 00:44:00they drive the bus around the country at different military installations and pick up ... Usually there are families that go on this trips, not usually people who are single. I went to Paris and then I drove to Amsterdam, saw Anne Frank's house. I wanted to see the Van Gogh Museum, but the line was really long.
For whatever reason, when I first got to Germany, I only went to militaryinstallations. Giessen's military PX, the store. It's like a Walmart. It's very small. Hanau had the larger one. I would drive to Hanau to go shopping. I think it's just because I was so fresh and I wasn't as open-minded as when I came back from Iraq. I was a little bit more open-minded and willing to just go do things on the economy.
I went out to eat a lot on the economy, though. There was this restaurant calledMr. Jones', which is next to the train station. A lot of us American soldiers like going there. The people are friendly and it was a hip place. They had some American food, too. There's a lot of Italian restaurants in Germany, and I liked visiting the Italian restaurants. They're very close, so I guess Germans really like Italian food, too.
TP: What's Mr. Jones' like?
KC: It's a 2-storey place. They play current music, there's a bar downstairs. Iwould order their mozzarella sticks. That's very American, but they taste better at that particular place. Their marinara was not as ... I guess it was thinner. It was just tastier. For whatever reason, I really like the mozzarella sticks. 00:46:00Then they came with a salad, and the dressing was good. That was what I was ordering. I think I like to go in there just because of the vibe. It was a younger crowd of people there. At the time I was 20 years old or 21.
TP: What's it like going out to eat when you spend all day cooking for thousandsof people?
KC: Oh, I will say that you are a critic. Everyone would think that. I probablyate out a lot because I didn't want to cook when I got home because you're cooking all day. Working in the DFAC, I often just brought food home instead of cooking at the house. I'm still like that today. I like to go out to eat.
TP: I can't blame you for that. While you were in Germany, as you were stationedin Germany, this was post-9/11 and things are happening. Eventually it results in you being deployed to Iraq. What are you hearing what's going on at that time knowing that after 9/11 things started moving, there's military moves in action, and you're in Europe. You're more than halfway there.
KC: We know that we're getting ready to go at some point, we just don't knowwhen. Not that our leadership had told us, it's just you have that feeling that you're going to be going somewhere; you just don't know when. My brother actually deployed before I did. He was stationed at Fort Bragg. He went to Afghanistan. As he's coming home from Afghanistan - I want to say he was coming home in May of 2003 - I was leaving for Iraq. I was in Iraq.
TP: He enlisted at that point, or at some point in there. [crosstalk 48:31]?00:48:00
KC: He enlisted after ... I'm sorry?
TP: How frequently were you guys communicating? How did it feel when yourbrother enlisted?
KC: I was very proud of him. It made him grow up. He waited about a year afterhigh school and didn't really do much other than ... He was working as a cook at a restaurant. It got him going with something, a career. He actually got married and had a kid young. He had a kid before he went to Afghanistan. I didn't really communicate to him other than through letters because you get to call home and he was only calling home to his wife because it's different than it is now. You get to call once a month, and it's very short period.
TP: Had you and he spoken about your service before he enlisted?
KC: Yeah, definitely. He knew about base. I was writing home, communicating withhim when I was base and in AIT. I would come home to visit. He knew all about the service through me initially.
TP: He gets deployed to Afghanistan. How did you feel when you found out he wasgoing to Afghanistan as part of his initial move?
KC: Yeah, I was very proud of him. I knew I was going soon. I wasn't jealous oranything like that because I knew that my time was coming. Yeah, I think my whole family was proud of him, because at that time period everyone had the American flags on the car and everyone had the American pride.
TP: What branch was he in? What was his MOS, if I may ask?
KC: Army and he was a mechanic, a light-wheel mechanic. He was airborne. Heactually got hurt, so he's no longer in the army, from jumping out of planes. I 00:50:00wanted to jump out of planes, but after he got hurt, no. I won't do it.
TP: At some point you said you guys assumed that you were going. You receivedorders to go, that you're deploying to Iraq.
KC: We didn't receive official orders, I don't think. At that point in time, Iwas only a sergeant, which, yeah, it's a high rank, but it's not that high of a rank to really be in the know of what's going on. I only remember actually knowing for sure that we were going to Iraq at a certain date. It was probably a month or two in advance.
We got word that we were probably going somewhere before Christmas. Then theylet us take block leave on ... Let me make sure I'm getting this timing right. Yeah, they let us go home for Christmas. When we returned, probably January, February, we weren't allowed to go out of country. I think that's when we knew for sure, February probably, that we were going somewhere. We just didn't know when exactly. Then end of April, we were in Kuwait, beginning of May in Iraq, a week or two later.
TP: May of 2000 and-
TP: 3. What's it like going from Germany to Iraq by way of Kuwait?
KC: It's a convoy. In Kuwait, I remember there were a lot of dust storms and wewore goggles. We have what's called a gaiter neck that you'd wear over your mouth. We left either late at night or early in the morning. It was definitely dark. It was probably just really late at night. All the vehicles had 3 people or 4. It was me, my soldier, and my E5. Going into Iraq, I was the highest 00:52:00ranking E5, so I was in charge of the whole section of cooks from my battalion going to Iraq.
We would all shift driving. It was supposed to be evenly divided, but onesoldier - Parsons - he fell asleep while driving, so none of us trusted him. The whole point is one person was supposed to be driving, one person was the lookout, and one person's sleeping. Parsons got the most sleep because me and Sergeant [Sole 53:09] did most of the driving and looking out.
Prior to going to Iraq, they gave us this device for females if you have to goto the restroom, to pee in this plastic container that you put underneath your [water 53:23] and it's got a bag to it. Anyway, I had this if I needed to go to the bathroom, but I held myself. A couple of my girl friends actually used it on the convoy going in. We did have a couple of stops to go to the bathroom in the middle of nowhere, desert in Iraq, just driving this road going into Baghdad.
Then when we first got to Baghdad, we went to the crossed swords. I had adisposable camera with me and I have a picture I took with a guy from my section and a guy from another section at the crossed swords. We all lined up there. We were there for several hours. I think all the leadership ... I think this is where everybody ... I don't know if the whole division was there or the brigade or what. There were just a lot of convoys that met there. I think they were trying to figure out where we were going to go to sleep and stay.
We ended up going initially to this big garage. We slept on cots. We were therefor a couple of weeks. No showers, no bathrooms, nothing like that. We had the water buffaloes. Females, your hair gets ... for me, the issue was my hair. We'd 00:54:00go to the water buffalo to wash our hair.
TP: Water buffalo?
KC: Oh, I'm sorry. It's a trailer than contains water. That's all we had to usebecause there were no showers or anything like that. You're eating MREs. There's no real food. From there, I guess our leadership were doing convoys around Baghdad to find a place for us to live. They found Baghdad Island, which was an old resort. It had an amusement park on it. They brought us there. Initially, we were sleeping in tents. However, the buildings between the soldiers and contractors ... Contractor is not the right word. Iraqi locals that we paid helped clean out the buildings.
TP: They're probably nationals. I've heard them sometimes refer to those.
KC: Nationals, yeah. They hooked up electricity for us. We just made thebuilding livable. Throughout out time there, we were making it more livable. We eventually moved into the building, which was perfect timing because at that point in time we were getting hit more often with mortar rounds, and we're all sleeping in tents. It was very scary at night. You're just in a tent. Nobody got hurt, though.
We stayed at Baghdad Island for a year. We thought we were going back in Maytime frame. Our ADVON had got back to Germany. We found out we had been extended to 15 months. Our ADVON actually had to come back from Germany, back in-country. At that point, we were already making the transition to turn Baghdad Island to the locals. We moved to the BIAP, Baghdad International Airport, to finish out 00:56:00our time.
TP: Describe to me arriving at an amusement park that was not an army base. Youdidn't immediately deploy to something like BIAP. They find somewhere and then it's, "Okay. Let's turn this into ... "
KC: It was abandoned. Actually I had looked up ... Frank Lloyd Wright hadoriginally done up the plans for that resort. This was towards the end of his life. For whatever reason, no contract was put in place, but his plans and what they created looked very similar. It's got a huge tower. I don't know how long it had been since they had used the facility, but it had been ridded of everything that was once nice in the place. It was a disaster.
TP: What do you do when you show up and they tell you that this was home? Whatdoes that feel like? What do you start doing? Because in you're in charge of your crew.
KC: We setup our MKT. We have to take convoys out to pick up rations. TheOlympics Stadium is where we all met to get water and to get rations. Initially, we were cooking B-rations, which is dehydrated food. You just add water to it. I don't know if I was thinking of anything in particular other than just going with the flow, because you know you're in Iraq and you know that you're at war now.
Going on to another interesting point. My mother's third husband ... Actuallyher second husband was Iraqi and her third husband was Iraqi. When I knew that I was going over to Baghdad ... He's from Baghdad, and he gave me contact 00:58:00information for his relatives. Shortly after getting to Baghdad Island, interpreters, the unit started working with interpreters. I asked an interpreter if he could contact this [Sadun 58:52] - [Latif's 58:54] my mom's husband - his family. I gave him the phone number. They contacted them.
The guys just showed up at the front gate one day. I had no idea. I met them.They would come every day. I'm trying to work and I'm trying to be very nice to them, but they're just so happy to have this connection with an American, I think. They see me as family even though it's definitely ... Eventually, Latif's family started helping out my unit because this was at the very initial stages of the war, so they were building a relationship to bring ... They opened up a general store on Baghdad Island and they would bring in soda and cigarettes and dip, whatever soldiers wanted to buy. That relationship begun.
TP: Interesting, because of this connection that you had through yourstepfather. How does that feel? I'm interested in how that feels when you're there in a leadership role with your soldiers and you have some camaraderie built there. Then you also have this very interesting connection to the local population. It wasn't really something you had planned on certainly. You hadn't met them before. What's that like?
KC: It was interesting, but it did wear on me a little just because they wantedso much of my time, and I couldn't give them that time because I needed to focus 01:00:00on my job. Then it felt awkward at the same time because I'm like here I am with a connection to Iraqis and we're at war with them. I'm worrying about perception. Everyone treated them great. Everyone liked them. Everyone was okay with the situation.
Towards the end of me being at the BIAP, I remember somebody telling me thatthere's a rumor that I speak Arabic. They thought I was a spy or something. I'm like, "Really?" I actually got accused when I was talking to another Iraqi, because I had Iraqis work for me in the kitchen, of speaking Iraqi to them. I'm like, "I just said this. I'm speaking English. Do you not know Arabic?" I keep saying Iraqi, but I don't know Arabic. That was weird. I was just wondering what were people's perception of me.
I remember I had an Iraqi gentleman approach me. He said he was from somenewspaper and he wanted to interview me. My chain of command, thankfully, cut it off. I did interview with The Stars and Stripes, which is the military newspaper. I think I got a couple other requests to just ... Because my story's interesting at that point in time. This was while I'm in Iraq. I didn't want the attention. I was just like, "I don't want to do it. I'm sorry."
TP: You didn't interview with [crosstalk 01:02:11]?
KC: I did do Stars and Stripes, but after that I didn't want to do anymoreinterviews because I didn't want any negativity. I felt like people ... When I heard rumors that people thought I was writing and speaking in Arabic and that I was a spy, I was like, "I don't need this kind of attention." There's a lot of hatred sometimes because we are at war with certain Iraqis, not the whole 01:02:00country and the population, but there was a lot of hatred from some individuals. I didn't want to be any part of that.
TP: Describe that a little bit, that there's this animosity towards the localpopulation even at that point in the war.
KC: This was towards the end.
TP: [crosstalk 01:02:55].
KC: At the beginning, everyone was very friendly and cool with it and acceptedthe fact that these gentlemen had this connection with me. This was towards the end, and I can understand their frustration because, at that point, we get attacked on a regular basis. There's people you know that get killed. You're at war. Of course, you have a lot of anger.
TP: There are two things I want to go back on. One was, with this connectionthat you have with the local population, how do you think they felt about us being there?
KC: They were happy, at least that's what they told me. They acted very happyfor us to be there. I feel like when I was in Iraq, it was a different time period than when most soldiers now serving went to Iraq. You're on the street and you just feel like everyone's so happy that you're there.
Towards the end, you started to feel like they were unhappy that you were there.You would get the thumbs up, which I'm told means something else. I assumed when kids were doing thumbs up and smiling and following our vehicles that they were very happy. We do thumbs up to them, so maybe they were catching on to what we were doing. Yeah, very happy.
TP: Even in that amount of time ... What's going on in Baghdad while you werethere? Describe the 15 months, you said, approximately, in-country. What's going 01:04:00on while you were there? Because you said there was a marked difference between when you arrived and when you left. Can you describe that?
KC: I think people just got tired of us being there. While we're there, we weredoing raids in houses. I got to go on a couple of them. The ones that I went on, I went on one with an infantry unit. I didn't get to go inside. Basically, females went in case you needed to search the local females. However, I've never had to search a female. I've never been asked to.
I went inside houses on one of them. All the men were away at work. It was justthe women. We were looking for weapons. I felt like we were invading their space. We're looking in their drawers, we're looking under rugs. I can't even imagine if I had to deal with another group of people coming in to my home, looking through my stuff. They're frantic, they're scared because we've got guns. We're being very demanding and we're banging on the door. If they don't open it up, we kick it in. I just can't imagine if that was me, but that's what we had to do.
Yes, my unit collected a lot of weapons and picked up a lot of people. I wasn'ton those missions where they picked up the people. I was just on the one where they were picking up weapons. There's a reason why we were doing it. I just wouldn't want to be living there dealing with that. I think it gets frustrating after a long period of time.
Then we have checkpoints. I've done the checkpoints. You're just searchingvehicles. Who wants their vehicle searched constantly? We give them a curfew. 01:06:00We've got these big guns in their face. Then we're driving all over the roads, on their sidewalks, or driving in the medians. We're just doing whatever we want. I'm not driving the vehicles and doing whatever I want, but I can't even imagine if I was on the other side. I can understand their frustration.
TP: You said you went on some raids. It wasn't like, "Hey, would you like toride along?" You went because they wanted a female there.
KC: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Every mission had a female. At the beginning, when Iwas in '03. I didn't get picked that often because I was in the leadership role. I went from being a cook to being ... When a contractor came in to do the cooking for us, I came in to the role of the company operation sergeant, which it was just planning operations for a headquarters battery. I did a lot of logistics convoys going to the BIAP, taking people to the airport, or picking up things for the PX, or taking people to the Green Zone, just being part of convoys.
With my role, I didn't go on as many missions as the lower enlisted soldiersdid, because the cooks, they really didn't have a job after that. The females cooks that were specialists and below, they went on these missions on an everyday occurrence. Every mission had a female.
TP: That's a really, really interesting point, because I wanted to ask how you,with an MOS as a cook, end up, essentially, in combat scenarios doing raids. It sounds like it's because [crosstalk 01:08:24].
KC: Mine weren't that aggressive, but, yeah.
TP: Cooking duties were sub-contracted to KBR?
TP: Can you describe that process? Because you go there for one thing and then01:08:00they bring in this outside entity to do that thing. Can you tell us about how that goes and about when in the deployment is this?
KC: I believe KBR came rather quick. We were probably cooking for 3 months andthen KBR was established. For the most parts, cooks do other duties instead of cooking over there. Cooks are the ones ... They go on missions, go on logistic convoys, do other things because you're not cooking over there. Some places nowadays you are cooking, but I think probably between 2003 to maybe 2008, the cooks were doing mission stuff outside the [war 01:09:23].
TP: I wanted to [inaudible 01:09:28] you said when you initially arrived at the island-
KC: Baghdad Island.
TP: You were intense and you were being fired upon with mortars. Can youdescribe what that feels like? Because your MOS doesn't have you ... You are trained to be in combat.
KC: Yeah, everyone is.
TP: Then all of a sudden, you're in-country and you're being fired upon.
KC: It's scary. It's very scary. I've had a couple close calls. On top ofeverything else that's going on, you also have to do guard duty. The line battery's line, meaning I was in an engineer unit, so the engineer soldiers usually do the front gate. Then the headquarters soldiers, we did what were called ... There was OP1 and OP2, observation points.
One night, I was on guard duty. It was probably shift 3 to 4. It was time for01:10:00changing of the guards. The person that was coming up to relieve me and this sergeant of the guard, which the sergeant of the guard doesn't usually come out during the shift change, but, for whatever reason, at this point in time, there were three of us on top of this roof, of this OP. I could see the mortar rounds coming out of the tube from across where we are. They started coming towards us. None of us shot back. We didn't know what to do, so we ran.
I just remember my heart pounding because we did have some rounds at the roofwhere we were at. There was this room on top of the roof, and me, Sergeant Brown, and Sergeant [Toll 01:11:18], we went into the room and we just waited for it to stop before we went back, before things died down, because we have QRF, Quick Reaction Force. When stuff like that happens, we do send soldiers out to try get the person investigated or whatever, and we had radios. It was called in. It's not like they didn't know because they could hear it, too. That was just interesting because I could literally see the fire of it coming out of the tube.
Then another incident was when I was walking out from the shower trailer back tomy room. We were getting hit with mortar rounds. I could see one hit the ground and I saw it explode. I didn't get hit with any shrap metal, but the guy that was running beside me did get hit with shrap metal. He's fine, he has a burn on his neck, but I got dirty from everything else that was tossed up. I couldn't get in the door. I ripped the wood that was over the door. I ripped it off to crawl in. I've had my heart pounding and like, "Oh, my gosh." 01:12:00
I don't think my stories are as interesting as people who are like shooting atactual ... But mortar rounds. I've only had mortar rounds experience.
TP: I think coming into this, I had no idea that someone with a cook MOS ends updoing guard duty and observation points and these sorts of things. When KBR comes in and starts doing cooking duties, that becomes your job, or do you receive additional training? What's the transition between you ... You're no longer cooking; here's what you're doing now. How does that transition happen?
KC: The person that I took over for was retiring. At that point, there was ashort window when they ... There was a stop-loss, so people couldn't leave when we were getting ready to go to Iraq. Then there was a short window where people were allowed to retire or go to another duty station a few months ... This was probably 4 months in. He was there and he basically showed me what I needed to know. Then when we left, the first sergeant ... Because I worked basically for the first sergeant. He was always guiding me and telling me what he needed me to do.
It was easy because we were doing convoys. I had to do convoys to go pick upfood and water. I know that all you do is travel to the one destination to pick up things, or to drop people off or to do whatever we were doing. Sometimes we take people to the Green Zone because there was a hospital there. People who needed to see a doctor or there was a meeting going on, we would be part of a convoy that was dropping somebody off for a meeting, things like that.
TP: At this point, you're mostly in and around Baghdad. Are you running intoproblems on those convoys?
KC: There was one convoy that ... I'll tell you a few of them. There was one01:14:00convoy when we came on Iraqi-Iraqi fighting with ... They were shooting each other. We arrived, stopped. The guy who had killed the other person where we had stopped, I remember looking over the vehicle and there was a guy who had been shot to the head, and the other guy who had shot the guy had ran off. He was shooting towards us, but I think it was he was scared. He was just doing whatever. He was running away. We stopped, called it in. Our battalion told us to just move on, we were going to the BIAP.
We were actually taking KBR guys to the BIAP. I remember the KBR guys were soscared. Who wouldn't? But it's just different because, as soldiers, we're used to it, so we're not as scared. To see the reaction of how a civilian would act, I got to see that, like, "Wow! This is pretty intense." That wasn't that guy trying to shoot us directly. He was just shooting to keep us away from him while he runs away.
Another incident was I'm pretty sure we rode up on an IED. My first sergeant wasin charge of the convoy then. He actually was in the lead vehicle. We stopped and we called it in. EOD came. Then after EOD came, we left.
There was another convoy where I didn't hear the sniper fire, but apparentlythere was sniper fire. We were all dismounted, walking our convoy through an area that was heavily populated. The person in charge of the convoy freaked out and the convoy started moving while some of us were dismounted. I didn't hear 01:16:00the sniper fire, but I remember just being scared because everyone was freaking out, and I didn't know what was going on. I'm like running to catch up with the convoy. Then it slows down and they, obviously, pick us up and we speed off. I remember that being, "Really? You're going to leave us? Not all of us are in the vehicle."
TP: Describe this process, on a convoy when you say you're dismounting. Whathappens to precipitate a stop? Because the last thing a convoy wants to do is to stop, from my understanding. Then you're asked to dismount. What does that mean?
KC: Usually just anytime we're ... I don't know what the procedures are now.This was 2003 and 2004, and I haven't been back to Iraq since, but anytime you're in an area that's very congested, protocol was to walk your vehicles through. We're walking, we're looking around, we've got our weapons, the driver is carrying the vehicle through rather than staying in the vehicle. Then once you're through the congested area, you hop back in, you move on.
TP: That's not necessarily because it was being fired on; that's just theprotocol for-
KC: That's the protocol.
TP: In heavily populated areas.
KC: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
TP: I'm interested in asking you about the KBR cooking thing because, at thispoint, that's what you've done, cooking is what you've done in the service. Then they're bringing in people from this company who, apparently, based on what you said their reaction was to being involved in fire were not military training.
KC: No. They were British guys. The actual cooks were, I believe, from India,some Asian country. I didn't really speak to them, so I don't know. We also had 01:18:00Filipinos on BIAP. I don't know exactly what nationality they all were, but the guys running KBR were from Britain. No, they didn't have any background. A little overweight, typical civilian, not somebody in the military.
TP: You were in Iraq for about 15 months. You said at one point there was astop-loss. You said you were extended, correct?
KC: The stop-loss, what I mean by that is before the deployment, people who weresupposed to go get out of the army or go to another duty station, they weren't allowed to leave. They had to go to Iraq with us and they stayed at Iraq. For whatever reason, after a few months there, they let people retire and PCS.
KC: Change of duty station. We were only supposed to be deployed for 365, andthey weren't ready for us to leave because they felt that we needed to do more of a, call it, left seat, right seat ride, training of the other incoming units to make sure that they're good before we leave.
TP: At one point, what's life like in Iraq and Baghdad when you're not on duty?What did you do? Were you still mostly stationed with your unit? Were your soldiers still your soldiers or were you guys reassigned?
KC: No, I had different soldiers. The cooks were still in a section. I stillsleep in the same area with the cooks. Most of my job, we would get orders from 01:20:00the battalion telling us what missions we needed to do, in addition to our regular, everyday missions. If they said we needed to go to the Green Zone to pick up some stuff or go to the BIAP and pick up some new equipment or whatever, we would put together a convoy and I would say I need two people from your section, which could be the cooks. I need two people from your section. It could be maintenance. I would just get people from different areas within the headquarters company to go on the convoy with me to do whatever mission is given to us.
Sometimes the mission would be something that we would task just for themaintenance guys to take care or just for the cooks. It's just whatever battalion gives us to do, we just break it up. Headquarters platoon, we call ourselves. Primarily, we would do it. The only reason why we would give it to a different platoon to take care of is because we couldn't, but usually we got our resources from the other platoons. We would just divvy it up.
TP: Your role in this was that logistic coordination, for the most part?
KC: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
TP: Did you like that?
KC: Yes, I liked it a lot.
TP: What did you like about it?
KC: It was a true leadership role. I was in charge of something. I was in chargeof the cooks when we were cooking, but, after KBR came, it gave me something else to be in charge of.
TP: Did you ever think about ... I know you said initially the two MOSs you wereinterested in were MP and cook. It sounds like ... I don't know the specifics of MP duty, but it sounds like, based on some of what you ended up doing, it wasn't 01:22:00... It might not have been completely in the MP realm, but when you're doing observation points at some point [crosstalk 01:22:40].
KC: Yeah, not too far off. MPs, typically, are on the road a lot more doing thepatrols. For me, most of my job was just driving places, just taking convoys to locations.
TP: It sounds as though, at that point, based on your experience - and maybe itwas the routes you were running - it very quickly became the IEDs became very much a household acronym because of how quickly that ramped out. It sounds like, in your experience, you were lucky to not have too many run-ins with it.
KC: No, I was very, very fortunate because it's not like we didn't know it wasgoing on and it's not like we didn't hear about other units around us having incidents. Guardian angels over there, definitely.
TP: Now going back to your step-family that's there, were they ... I assume bythe time you went back to Germany, they were still all safe? How have their lives changed here? What was their perception of that?
KC: Sadun was the oldest brother that I met, the leader of their tribe, theycall it, which is the family. He got killed. He was shot in the head in his vehicle. I heard that it was because he was working with the Americans, and certain individuals knew this, but I don't know for a fact the story behind who ... They don't know who did it and why. After that happened ... This was towards the end of us being at ... It's like halfway in to us being there at Baghdad Island.
Rod, who would be the next in line to be the head of the tribe, he was running01:24:00the store for a while, but I know that they moved outside of the city. Then they had a lot of threats and they were very intimidated. Once we left Baghdad Island, they just completely ... The whole family moved outside of Baghdad and just kept to themselves. They're still living outside of Baghdad today. I don't really talk to them too much anymore. My mom communicates with them.
TP: How did you feel finding out this news about-
KC: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
TP: How did you feel about that?
KC: Angry, I guess, to just know somebody that that had happened to, but thenagain I wasn't surprised because death is an everyday occurrence. It's no surprise when you hear about it, but because I personally knew him and it was Latif's older brother, very mad.
TP: It sounds like you wouldn't have much contact with them after that, sincethey started moving out. They [moved out 01:25:57] until you left.
KC: Yeah, until we left. They were at the general store and I still visited. Ivisited every few days. Every time I would see them, they're like, "Why don't we see you more often?" It's like this is often. To them, they thought I should be there every single day, but they were very sweet to me.
TP: That didn't diminish even with him being killed potentially for working with Americans?
KC: Not at first. They got really scared towards the end. I don't know. I thinkjust more people that they knew were getting killed.
TP: How did it make you feel knowing that he may have been killed because of his01:26:00[crosstalk 01:26:43]?
KC: Relationship? The thing is it's a very common story. We had an interpreterthat actually a similar incident happened, where what we were told was he was murdered because he was working with the Americans. It's very common for us to hear that.
Then we actually had a barber that quit because he didn't want to get killed,because these things have been happening. He was a really good barber. Everyone loved him. He was a really, really nice guy, and we lost him. We were willing to take him. I remember a leadership was trying to negotiate him coming to the BIAP with us and staying on the BIAP. He just wanted out completely.
There is an Iraqi guy that ran the internet caf, [Hani 01:27:33]. He went tothe BIAP with us. He lived at the BIAP with us soldiers. He now is up in the Detroit area. He actually is an American citizen. He got an Associate's degree. He's got a child. Good news story right there. That could have been the barber. I don't know what his reasons are, but he just got scared and had to just cut us off, working with the Americans.
TP: I find this interesting. You have this relationship, not even just with yourstepfather's family-
KC: Yeah, I had Iraqis that worked for me, too.
TP: How did you feel about that? You said towards the end, there was someanimosity with other soldiers, other people in the army towards-
KC: When I talk about the soldiers, it is a very small group of people. It's thepeople who are just very angry. All the soldiers, we all had relationships with these Iraqis because we got to know them and we worked with them. 01:28:00
TP: What were those relationships for you? What was your view on that as you gotto know these people?
KC: I sympathized for them. My heart still goes out to them today. Some of themhad Facebook-friended me, and I was friends with them for a while, but I chose to ... I know this is so mean, but I chose to block them all because of the mentality of some people ... Because I'm still in the military.
If I am seen as having a relationship with Iraqis, people might think thatthere's some espionage going on or I might be giving them information. I might be posting something on my Facebook page that they can use against me. There's a lot of mistrust out there. That's why I don't really know how a lot of them are ... Other than Hani, who's in the United States now. That's why I chose to cut off the relationship, and I don't know how they're doing.
TP: At some point you received orders to go back ... You received orders thatyou're going back to Germany. How did you find out about that? How much time did you do on the other end of it? You said there was an extension on time for about 3 months to do left seat, right seat. What was that process like? When did you guys know you were going to go back to Germany? How did that transition?
KC: We knew that we were going to be there for 15 months, once we found out wewere extended. I don't know who is doing the left seat, right seat ride because it's not like we were directly working ... I think it was more of a leadership thing, the colonels and on up, the higher ups doing that kind of stuff. At that 01:30:00point in time, we still had missions going on. The line units would leave the BIAP to go do important missions that were going on at the time.
Then I returned to Germany and I had about 8 months before I got out. I ended upgetting out of the army ... How many months early? A few months early. I got chaptered out to go to college because the 1st Armored Division knew that they were going back to Iraq and I knew there was a chance that I'd be stop-lossed, and I didn't want to go back to Iraq because my psyche was not ready for it yet.
At that point in time, after spending 15 months there, I'm like, "I've got toget out. I'm not going to spend my life at war all the time." There's nothing that gets the people who choose to do that, but I wanted to go to college. I got out early to go to college. I ended up at Hocking College. While I'm still in between Iraq and getting out of the army, I did a lot of traveling all over Europe. I went to Athens, I went to Scotland, London. I did as much traveling as I could before I got out.
TP: Was it different traveling knowing that you weren't ... At that point, didyou know you were getting ...
TP: Was it different traveling then than it was before? Because I knew you said,a lot of times, you were mostly with the military [crosstalk 01:32:18].
KC: After being in Iraq, I was very open-minded coming back from Iraq. I feltfreer and I wasn't as nervous to travel by myself, since I did all these traveling on my own. There was one incident where a couple of my guy friends 01:32:00were supposed to go to London with me. A lot of the guys liked to party and hook up with German girls or whatever, and they were out with some girls. We were supposed to leave early in the morning, and they didn't get back in time.
I left in the ... No. This was actually an evening. We were supposed to fly out.I waited until the last minute. I didn't how to get to the Rheine Airport, and they did. I eventually just left without them. They said they were paying me back for the plane ticket. When I finally got to the airport, I got there late because I got lost, so I missed my flight. I had to spend the night at the airport. I flew to London the next day. I lost the cost of a hotel room that night.
Ever since then, I'm like, "Never again," so I did all the traveling on my own.People were always like, "Why would yu travel on your own?" I'm like, "It's just easier." There was so much coronation that went into that trip and then I got burnt, so never again.
TP: You've just been traveling alone. What kind of friends or connections didyou have in the service? Were you back with the soldiers you had served in Iraq with? Were you back with some of the soldiers you previously had-
KC: When we got back, there were new soldiers who hadn't been to Iraq yet. They,of course, deployed after I got out because the unit went back. My friends were from my deployment. A lot of us are still close today, thanks to Facebook. We have a reunion page. There's one soldier, [Holtz 01:34:10], he's always trying to plan to get together. He's planning one for June in Las Vegas. I don't know if I'll get to go. The last time they had it, I couldn't go because I'm in the guards, so I had annual training at that point in time.
I found that we all have a very close connection because of that time periodbecause we went to war together and it was so new. People who've been on multiple deployments say that that was the most important one, was the one that 01:34:00we were on.
KC: I think it was because it was the first for us. I was 21 when I went. I grewup fast. I gained a lot of confidence. I'm very fearful now. I've traveled all over the world by myself. I've been in Nepal. Not that Nepal's a dangerous place, but a lot of people are like, "Wow! You went there by yourself?" My family freaked out. I'm like, "They're the nicest ... " I've never felt so safe than in Nepal. I've been to South Africa by myself. I've literally traveled around the world by myself just because I have some fear, but I'm a little bit more fearless because of being in Iraq and spending that time there at the age of 21. I grew up quick.
TP: When you say that that deployment was the most important, you meant for youor for the overall conflict?
KC: Oh, for us, personally.
TP: Personally, that first one.
TP: At some point, when you were in Germany, you've been traveling and thenyou're out. What's that process like? Where do you go? What are you doing?
KC: At that point in time, I thought that I wanted to be a restaurant manager. Ifound out that Hocking College had a hotel and restaurant management program, so I went there for college. Then I decided to get my bachelor's degree, so I went on to Franklin University because they have a relationship with Hocking. I continued taking classes at Hocking that transferred over to Franklin. I started working as a manager at TGI Fridays.
Then once I finished my bachelor's degree, this whole time period, I am missingthe military. I keep telling my family and friends, I'm like, "I want to go back in. I miss it so much." I had people tell me, "You don't need it." I'm like, "It's not about what I need, it's about I miss it. It's just part of who I am." 01:36:00I think that's because I enlisted at 17, I went to war at 21. I carried myself like a soldier.
Every job, every time somebody met me and they found out that I was a soldier, Ithink they just always refer to me as somebody who had been in the service and been overseas I think because of the way I carried myself. In the restaurant industry, I would always hear my cooks or waitresses refer to the fact that I was once in the service just because of my demeanor and how I act.
Anyway, after I got done with my bachelor's degree, I took a trip around theworld. I finished in '07. I quit TGI Fridays as a manager because I got fed up with the hours. It's a really hard job and it's a thankless job. I had the savings, so I just spent my savings traveling around the world. Then while I'm traveling, I'm still missing the military.
I thought I was going to join active duty. I went to a recruiter and I'm like,"I'm going to go back in as a staff sergeant, but I don't want to be a cook." They basically said, "We can't make that happen for you," because they said, "We could take you to MEPs. If it doesn't happen for you," the recruiter told me, "you're going to go in. I'm not going to waste my time taking you there. You're going to go in as a cook." I'm like, "I'm out of here."
Somehow I Googled, I was looking up online and I looked up the National Guard. Iemailed a recruiter on the website and they referred me to Sergeant [Mack 01:38:24], [which is Chief Mack 01:38:25] now, who recruited me into the National Guard. I told him again I want a different job. I want to remain staff sergeant because I got staff sergeant when I was in Iraq, by the way. Again, at 01:38:00a very young age. I still had the issue with some people being upset because of how early I made it, but it's okay.
Anyway, he told me that ... I said I wanted to do human resources. He said,"There's no slots open. I'm sorry." At that point I was like, "I just want in." I came in as a cook. I did that for a couple of years. My leadership, on occasion, would talk to me about becoming an officer. I was in inter-defense unit. "You have a bachelor's degree. You should become an officer. You have a lot of good leadership qualities."
After a while I decided that it was time for me to crossover to the commissionedofficer side. I'm a first lieutenant. I should be promoted soon to captain. I'm just waiting on my fed recommendation. I work full time for the Ohio Army National Guard. I work out of McConnelsville, Ohio. I'm in the 2-174 Air Defense Battalion. I'm the training officer right now.
Yes, we are training up to do a mission over in EUCOM, Euro Command, which isjust shooting our missiles in September. Then in March the 17, we're looking to roll out to do a CRAM mission in Afghanistan, the counter rocket artillery mortar mission.
To back up a little bit, I did do a year in the NCR. There is a [shured01:40:15] mission out there in the National Capital Region. I was part of the joint air defense operation center out there for a year. Our mission, basically, is just to keep an eye on the skies and protect the capital.
TP: There's a couple of things on there that are really interesting. Your trip01:40:00around the world, though - let's talk about that for a second - you said that was in 2007?
KC: I finished college in December of '07. I quit my job at Fridays in the endof January 2008. I went to Nepal at the end of February. I got this book from the library about taking trips while you're ... Vacations that you can do and you're volunteering on vacation. It's called Volunteers for Peace. First, I wanted to go to Bangladesh, but they weren't accepting females. I was like, "Okay, Nepal, nearby. I want to go to that region."
You pay a certain amount of money and you pay for your way over there. Our jobwas to paint a school. It's very simple. It's not like I was teaching English or anything like that, but I spent 2 weeks with people from other countries. There was a couple of people from Korea, a couple of ladies from The Netherlands, the Japanese lady. Who else was there? That was it. That was our group. We painted a school.
The girls from Holland were taking a trip around the world, and they told meabout this ticket that I could get, because my plan after Nepal was to go home. The guy I was seeing at the time, he was working on his masters and had spring break and we wanted to go to Cancun to do spring break. That was my plan, to do Cancun spring break and then take a cross-country trip driving across the United States. I didn't have any plans to go around the world at that point.
They told me about this ticket. It's called The Great Escapade. You start andfinish in London. You have to literally go around the world. It's for a few thousand dollars, which I don't know how much it is today, but that was how much it was.
I'll go back and talk about my trip overall, but that particular ticket took mefrom London to 3 cities in New Zealand to Australia over to Singapore. From 01:42:00Singapore, I took a bus up into Malaysia. Then from Malaysia, I flew over to South Africa. I took a separate flight from Johannesburg to Cape Town. I also got to go to Kruger National Park and go on a safari. From there I went back to London and now at home, back up. You just start over with the whole trip. That's what I used that ticket for, because I did other things in addition to that ticket.
After Nepal, I went to Cancun. Then I wanted to ... This was the winter time. Iwanted to see Mount Rushmore and I wanted to see Yellowstone. In Yellowstone, it's limited on what you can see, but it's still very beautiful. I had a westie at the time. My dog went with me. We went to Mount Rushmore, we went to Badlands, and we went to Yellowstone.
My mother, she met me in Portland. We hang out in Portland, went down RedwoodForest to San Francisco. I hang out with some girl friends in San Francisco with my mom. My mom flew back. My stepfather ended up joining the military actually as an interpreter. She flew back to Fort Hood, where he was stationed, and I continued on home.
Prior to taking this trip cross-country, I had already booked my flight to takethe trip around the world. I had always wanted to go to Portugal. I'm like, "I'm going to get to London through Portugal." I took a flight to Portugal. Ryanair is a popular airline in Europe, so I believe I took a Ryanair plane. I might not have taken a ... Now that I'm thinking about it, I didn't take a Ryanair plane. Anyway, I took a cheap budget flight after seeing a couple of cities in Portugal 01:44:00to London. Then I started that trip around the world, like I just spoke to you about.
When I got back from the trip around the world, I went and took ... I bought arail pass to see a lot of Great Britain, and I took it up to Scotland [going down 01:44:52]. Now while I was doing this, I also couchsurfed, which I don't know if you're familiar with that. It's where you stay with other people. I either met with locals or I stayed with locals.
I stayed with locals in Malaysia. That was a really cool experience. They wereMuslim, and it was Mohammad's birthday. I got to go to a huge celebration and hang out in this kitchen with all these women preparing the meal, see the experience from their aspect, while the guys are outside smoking and joking, having fun. I don't know. To me, it was pretty cool to see that in action.
Anyway, I stayed with a family in Malaysia. I stayed with a lady in Wellington,New Zealand. I met up with another lady when I was in Auckland, stayed in a hostel in Christ Church, stayed in a hostel when I was over in Australia. Singapore, I couchsurfed.
When I got to South Africa, for whatever reason, I was scared to couchsurf inJohannesburg, just because I read so many things about it. I got a hotel. That was the only place I got a hotel room. I stayed in hostels or I couchsurfed everywhere else. When I went to Cape Town, I couchsurfed, though. It was actually a German family. The mom was German and the father had passed away or whatever, but it was a German family that was in South Africa. I thought it was pretty cool.
When I went up to Scotland, I couchsurfed. My couchsurfing started a couple ofyears prior to that, when I did a backpacking trip through Eastern Europe. 01:46:00That's my around the world trip.
TP: Fascinating. You said this whole time you were missing the military.
KC: Yeah, I did a lot of reflection.
TP: What were you missing?
KC: The culture, the people. The biggest thing, I think, why people stay in isbecause of the people that you're with. You really are like brothers and sisters. You look after one another. It's just a group of good people, people that have the same interest as you.
TP: You get back from this trip and you said at that point you went to speakwith an army recruiter. They couldn't get you in as not a cook. They said they wouldn't do that. You went to the National Guard. Ultimately, they said they couldn't get you what you wanted and you just said, "That's fine." What prompted you to go that route instead of saying, "If I'm going to be a cook either way," what prompted you to go to the National Guard over army?
KC: Honestly, the recruiter that spoke to me, the active duty recruiter was sonasty with me, it made me mad. The National Guard recruiter was so friendly. I just thought that was a better way of going. Now I am living the civilian life and the military life. It was the better choice.
TP: What was your understanding of the Guard at the time? Then describe yourre-enlistment, or your enlistment with the Guard, your enlistment in the army.
KC: My understanding of the Guard was that the requirement was the one week in a01:48:00month, two weeks a year. I knew it was a part time job. At that point I was okay with that because it allowed me to still stay home, be with my family and friends, and continue on with the life that I had created here in Columbus while still serving.
TP: What was that like?
KC: When I got back around the world, I decided to take an easy ... I call it aneasy job - I was a baker - because my mentality at that point, and it still is, to just enjoy life. I worked the third shift. I lived close to German Village. Before I would go to sleep, I would just do a lot of walks, a lot of runs, just hang out at coffee shops. I was really enjoying life. I was okay with being a baker and then doing the military part time.
Eventually, I knew that it was time to do something else because my brother saidsomething. He said, "You have a bachelor's degree and you're not even using it." I'm like, "I need to do something else." I saw opportunities to work full time for the Guard. I worked hard to do whatever I could to get into that system, which can be very challenging at first. I would volunteer to do extra training, to go to school, to do whatever I could to just focus on doing guard stuff all the time.
Then, eventually, I got a temporary guard job one after another. Then at onepoint, I had lost my temporary position, because there's a lot of temporary jobs in the government in general. I went back to restaurant management. I worked at Lonestar. This was right before I went to the National Capital Region mission. I only worked at Lonestar for a few months. 01:50:00
I actually ended up quitting and went back to temporary guard. I know that foodservice is not for me. I've tried it too many times. I can't do it. Unless I go back and retire, I may become a baker, because I loved that job actually. When I came back from the National Capital Region, I went and got another temporary job in the Guard until I got pulled on. I finally landed a full time employment job.
TP: Describe that National Capital Region mission-
TP: If you can. What were your duties? How did you get activated to do that,that sort of thing?
KC: It is a mission that is reoccurring for the National Guard. There are 5states that participate in the mission. They're the avenger units. It is a secret mission. Avenger is the weapon system. It's a Humvee with short-range missiles that it carries and shoots. It is a secret mission, so some details cannot be disclosed, but there are just avengers and there are NASAMS systems, which are medium-range systems in the capital region. If anything, like another 9/11, was to happen or any other threats out there that would want to come after our nation, our missiles could intercept them.
TP: That was for how long?
KC: A year.
TP: How did you like that?
KC: I loved it. You definitely have a sense of pride. It's a mission whereyou're constantly on watch and you do exercises in case something were to happen, but just the pride that you have knowing that you're there to protect. It's very fulfilling.
TP: What does an average day look like? What's that duty and detail look like?01:52:00
KC: My job in particular out there was different than the people who worked onthe floor. I did get trained up to do shifts on the floor, if they needed me to. My job was to do [site 01:52:51] improvement projects and give operations briefs to VIPs, to high ranking officials. We've had some congressmen come in and some high ranking generals come in to get briefs on the mission. I did that. I was also in charge of safety for the soldiers while I was out there.
The soldiers who work on the floor, they work 12-hour shifts. They work a fewdays on, a few days off. Then you have soldiers out at the sites, the 12-hour shifts again; a few hours on, a few hours off.
TP: Interesting. I had no idea, which is probably a good thing. [inaudible01:53:32]. Then you come back after a year of that and then you said that's when you got to do a temporary job.
KC: I had a temporary job at first. Then, yes, I got a full time job.
TP: What was that job?
KC: There are a couple of ways that you can get on full time with the NationalGuard. One is as a GS employee. It's called a technician, which is just a regular government employee. The other way is through active guard reserves. Active guard reserves is where I am now. When I first got permanent, I was a government employee. I worked as a safety specialist. I did that for over a year, a year and a half.
Then I went on to a human resources job. I always wanted to do human resourcesand I got it. It was a higher paying job, so that's why I went and looked for a job elsewhere. That and I really wanted human resources forever.
The funny thing is I only did that job for a few months before I got brought on01:54:00active guard reserve. I had a really tough time making that decision because I really liked the job; however, there were more benefits and more opportunities for career advancement than just retirement and stuff as an active guard reserves soldier. I am now a training officer at McConnelsville.
TP: What does a training officer do?
KC: A training officer plans the training for the battalion. Right now we havethis missions going on. We are mapping out the things that we need to train on to be ready for the mission overseas, in addition to the mission that we have in Europe next fall. Then there are regular requirements that are ongoing for soldiers, like weapons qualification. We plan that training. It's me on the training officer and then I have a training NCO, staff sergeant that works in the office with me, and an operations sergeant. There's three of us doing this planning, basically.
TP: How are you liking that?
KC: I love it. It's a lot of fun. You're really doing army stuff. It's the jobwhere you're doing ... Being in the military is all about training. I'm the person who gets to plan the training. It's a very exciting job. It's challenging because there's a lot of work to do. I'm new at the job right now, and there's a lot of requirements that need to be met soon, but I really like it and I'm very happy.
TP: Cool. I wanted to ask ... You came back and you were doing part time work.You're working and then you're also in the guard. Do you feel like you had any 01:56:00trouble getting back into civilian life to the extent that you did? Did you have trouble with that coming back into that or balancing that out? Was that easy for you?
KC: I didn't have any problem ... I had more of an issue when I got off ofactive duty and when I was in college and I worked as a waitress and I also worked as a front desk agent. I had a little bit of issues with the transition then because I'm very type A, I was used to being surrounded by type A people rather than people who are very laid back. College students are typically very laid back, and that's who I was working with, that's who I was surrounded with all the time. I found myself frustrated with them sometimes. They were probably frustrated with me in return.
As far as balancing with the National Guard and having a civilian life, it canbe challenging because, for instance, in the food service industry, even as baking, they want you to work the weekends, and I have these requirements and I'm just so apologetic all the time, like, "I'm sorry, but I have drill this weekend." The managers would ... Even though I tell them my drill dates, they would forget and they would still schedule me. It was a hustle for them to find someone to work those shifts. It was challenging in that aspect.
TP: I wanted to ask one thing about whether active duty ... Your active dutywith the army or with the Ohio National Guard, particularly, though, I think in the combat zone of either Germany or particularly in Iraq. What has been your 01:58:00experience being a woman in the military?
KC: My experience being a woman. I definitely feel like it's gotten easier. Idon't have any issues now. I think being on active duty was more challenging. I remember actually before I joined the military, when I was at the MEP station and we were playing pool, all of us individuals waiting to enlist into the army with some guys. They were talking about how they had issues with females in the military, and we weren't even in yet.
I've never had anyone directly tell me that they had issues with me because Iwas a female or to call me to make an appearance, but I have definitely felt certain individuals give me maybe a hard time because I am a female in a leadership role, or I did feel like some of my peers, when I got promoted early, gave me an extra hard time because I was a female. I definitely had people say that I was promoted quick because I was a female. Meanwhile, these individuals were always in trouble and not showing up on time, but the reason why I got promoted ahead of them was because I was a female in their mind. I've had to deal with that.
TP: How do you deal with that?
KC: I definitely let it get to me. I guess, for me, I've always tried to provemyself. That's another thing, too. Working in the motor pool, yeah, I had the guys making comments about the females not doing this and that because they're not strong enough. I found myself always trying to prove myself, because females 02:00:00do have a stigma in the military, the stigma that there are some that are lazy, there are some that are promiscuous, and that is a bad representation of females in the military, but it carries us sometimes.
I've always tried to fight that and always jumped in there and worked ... Ithink I worked harder than a lot of the guys just to prove myself. I've definitely hurt myself lifting things that I shouldn't be lifting to try to prove myself. Then, as far as the promiscuous part, I've always, for the most part, tried to stay away from guys. I've had guys like, "You're not friendly. You don't want to ever hang out." I'm like I just tried to shut myself off from that because I don't want that reputation. I've tried to do things to fight the typical military woman perception that is out there.
TP: You feel that there definitely is a stigma, but, in your experience, is that[crosstalk 02:01:54]?
KC: There are females who give us a bad rep. There are, yes, and they make mevery mad. I don't like being around them. When I call them out, it's a big mess. Some people want to ignore the fact that they're acting a certain way. For me, it's the promiscuous part, because on deployments, there are people who are up to no good.
Going to balls, for instance, and I meet wives, they don't want to even look atme or get to know me because they think I'm one of those females that go and sleep with married men on deployments or field [problems 02:02:34] and stuff. That's what I think. This is all in my mind, but I'm pretty sure that they're 02:02:00acting a certain way towards me because of the reputation that some military women have, because it happens overseas. It makes me very mad. It happens when I was on the NCR mission. It was making me very mad. It does happen and the perception is there and they're valid, but not all military females are like that.
TP: It seems to me that there doesn't seem to be ... Is there a reciprocalperception of-
TP: Males that are ... Because, clearly, there's two people involved in this.
TP: Is that a perception that's as prevalent?
KC: On the male aspect of it? I guess, yeah. I guess so. I've seen so much stuffI don't trust anyone, just because of my experiences. Going to a school for a couple of weeks, you've got a married woman and a married man getting together. It's just all wrong, but, yeah. I always blame the woman because I am a woman. There's the thing that military woman are harder on their own sex, and that is true because I just want them to be the difference. You and I are alike. Stop doing that. We've got to prove ... It's all about proving ourselves.
TP: You said it's gotten better, but you really do feel that there was apalpable sense that you needed to prove yourself for your gender.
KC: Yeah, for my gender, as far as the laziness and my capabilities go. I thinkwhen I first joined women ... Maybe because there's so much talk about women in 02:04:00combat nowadays. It's more accepted for females to be in leadership roles rather than being judged that you're not capable of doing it. I definitely had that experience when I was first starting out in the military. I think it's just the mentality of today's culture has changed.
TP: Not inside or outside of the military or both?
KC: Both. I think what happens on the outside, it penetrates to the cultureinside the military, and vice-versa.
TP: Did you see the stigma that you would feel as far as ... You mentioned acouple of times, leadership roles. Did you sense that there were people who didn't think that women should be in the military at all, or was it a leadership role thing, or is it all of that mixed in? I'm trying to-
KC: All of that mixed in, but mostly leadership roles. I don't think the femaleswho had desk jobs, maybe the HR people, the job that I wanted to do later on, had to deal with guys not giving them the respect that they deserved.
Most of my issues, which is doing labor-intensive work in the motor pool, were Iwas being judged. Like I said before, I would do things and hurt myself because I was trying to do too much or trying to lift things that were extremely heavy, and I probably shouldn't have been doing it. Luckily, I've never permanently injured myself from doing that stuff. Then just being in leadership roles, having soldiers who you can tell that they don't treat you the same as they would any of the other male leaders because you're a woman. 02:06:00
TP: You said you feel as though that's gotten better.
TP: Now you're full time in the Guard.
KC: I don't have any issues now. Occasionally, you might come across somebodywho doesn't know you, that you might get those vibes, but, no, not really any issues. I think also, too, there's a difference in the Guard than on active duty. On active duty, you find more close-minded people rather than in the Guard, because the Guard is ... We live with the civilians. We live amongst people who are different than us rather than on a military installation, where there's nothing but military people and their families.
TP: In looking back, how has your military experience affected you?
KC: It has made me a more independent person, a strong person. It has made meadventurous. I wouldn't have been around the world if it wasn't for the military.
TP: Are there certain values or aspects of the service that continue to havestrong meaning in your life?
KC: In the military, we have the army values - loyalty, duty, and respect. Wealways keep those in mind, I think, when you're encountering challenging things just in every aspect of your life, like, "Okay, I have to remind myself even though I want to do this or that, this is the right thing to do because I have integrity." Not that everyone doesn't think that way, but I think when you have 02:08:00that forced upon you constantly, it's more in your forefront. I could be wrong, but I do fall back on integrity and the things that the military has taught me and the values that its taught me.
TP: How do you feel about your experience in the military, active or in Guard?How has your opinion of that experience changed over the years?
KC: How do I feel? I'm definitely making a career out of it. I love being asoldier. That's who I am. My opinion has changed in that when I left active duty, I thought that I just wanted to be a civilian. At that point in time I thought that I just wanted to drop the military completely.
Then I found that I couldn't live without the military. I think if I had to getout today, I would somehow be involved in the military, whether that's volunteering for military services or just, I don't know, trying to be at military events to show respect. I forget where I'm going with this other than the fact that the military means a lot to me. My life will always be about the military.
TP: I'm interested to know, since you were deployed to Iraq, really, in theearly stages of the conflict, how do you think of that service now, looking back on it, and what are your thoughts on how it's transpired since?
KC: I'm very grateful for the time period that I was over there because I got to02:10:00see what it initially looked like at the beginning stages of us occupying, us being there. I'm bummed that I've only deployed once because I wish I could see ... Now everything is closed down. I wish I would have gotten the chance to see Iraq while there was a heavy presence to see the changes, because I don't know the changes. I know that I was there when the Iraqis were very happy to have us there and I know that changed over time. I'm very grateful for that time period. What was the other part of that question?
TP: Just the conflict overall because you were involved at the very early stagesof it and then were either traveling around the world or in civilian life or getting back into the Guard as things progressed.
KC: When you asked me that question, something popped to my head. Towards theend of Iraq, and a lot of people are not going to want to admit this, but a lot of us soldiers were frustrated because we didn't know why we're there. When we were getting to leave country - we were actually in Kuwait before we left to go to the United States - we were all in a room, and Fahrenheit 9/11 had come out, Michael Moore's documentary, all of us were glued to the screen. Every single one of us were glued to the screen and all of us, there were people crying. You look around and everyone's crying. I'm talking about tough guys.
That, I think, is the difference from when I went rather than ... Because youdid have stop-loss people that were part of that deployment. A lot of us were frustrated. Nobody wants to admit that because everyone wants to be tough and be 02:12:00onboard with ... You're in the military, you were supposed to follow the orders of your chief in command and stuff, but we were very frustrated.
I know, part of me getting out, was frustration because I learned that death isvery real. I can't even talk. Nobody really understood why we were there. As a soldier, my heart is in it because to defend our way of life, to do this for future generations. Even though I have questions, I have to remind myself ... In the military, we were supposed to stay apolitical. I have to remind myself to just stay out of it, to just pray that whoever the decision makers are that they're making the right decision.
I chose to join. I'm okay. Like I said, I regret not getting the chance to seeIraq again. I'm looking forward to going to Afghanistan. If something happens to me, I'm okay with that, I've accepted that. Like I said, I pray that whoever's making the decisions for us are making the right decisions. That's how I feel about it.
TP: You're right. This is something that's not often talked about, and I'm gladyou came around to it, was that there was a lot of very, very, very loud opinions on both sides of what was going on with the Iraq invasion of 2003 and subsequent years, Fahrenheit 9/11 being one of those big flash point moments in-
KC: Nobody wants to admit that they watched it after we got back from Iraq, but02:14:00every single one of us, before we got home and we're with our families, we're glued to the screen bawling because we felt it.
TP: What did you feel?
KC: I'm sorry. Just the questions [without having 02:15:13] any answers. All ofus had questions and we didn't have the answers. All of us had just spent 15 months ... Because the difference is people who went after us had already knew what was present, had already ... They knew what they were coming in to. We didn't know what we were going in to at all. I had no idea that I was going to see a dead Iraqi on the side of the road. I had no idea that I was going to see a mortar round coming out of the tube.
For me, the guys in my unit saw more intense things, so I can't even imaginewhat they were thinking. If I'm feeling a certain way, I know they're feeling a certain way. I don't remember the documentary too much because I really haven't watched it since, but I think at the time, going home, all of us were very happy that it was finally over, to be out of that place, and to be with our family again. I remember the movie just asked a lot of questions and were very sympathetic to what we were going through and why were we there. Was the cost 02:16:00worth it? I think a lot of us were asking the same questions.
TP: In retrospect, as you sit here now, do you feel as though some of thosethings have become clear? Do you feel as though the cost was worth it? Is there [crosstalk 02:17:09]?
KC: I don't know. I don't think so. I think only history will tell. I hope thatit was worth it, but then again you hear about all the Iraqis that are fleeing with the Syrians to Europe. I don't think their life is any better, but I don't know if the life that was there before was better either. I don't know what the answer is.
TP: I wanted to ask you also, given that only around 1% of the US populationserves in the military-
KC: Half of that actually. I heard it's 0.5%.
TP: It's less than 1%. What do you think people should know about the militaryservice, about combat, about the people who served?
KC: Just to put a comment before answering your question, I think the reason whythe percentage is so low was I think people have lost the American pride and the will to fight for our way of life. I wish more people would serve at least one tour. I get why they choose not to, they don't want to live that life, even if 02:18:00it is for a short period. I just wish we'd get that American pride back.
The question is what do I want people to know about Americans who serve,soldiers? I think that they need to know that soldiers do it because of beliefs, because of love for their country and our way of life, because someone's got to fight for it.
TP: Is there anything else we've not talked about that you would like to add?Anything I've not asked you?
KC: Just to go back on the comment I was just making, sometimes I look at thosewho serve, and this is just what I call it ... I see it as God's warriors. I feel like we're all in it for a greater good. If something were to ... If I go to Afghanistan and something happens, I'm okay with it because I'm there as God's warrior, for what's meant for my life. I'm not even explaining this properly, but, yeah.
TP: You said you deploy in 2017?
KC: Yeah, it's still a while.
TP: What is that deployment?
KC: It's the CRAM mission. Like I said earlier, I'm an air defense officer. They02:20:00are rockets. When mortar rounds come in, we can counter them, intercept them.
TP: How do you feel about this deployment?
KC: I'm excited because it's been ... I've been back since 2004. It's the senseof service because I've been in so long and I've only deployed overseas once. I feel like it's my time to serve again. There's pride that goes along with that, knowing you'd come home ... My grandfather, on his gravestone, has World War II and Korea. I want to have two campaigns on mine gravestone later on.
TP: Are there things you're concerned about?
KC: That I'm concerned about? No, I'm not concerned about anything right now. Ithink we're all going to be fine.
TP: One thing I'd ask, just based on your comments about the Iraq War and howyou felt coming back and the questions, how do you feel ... Because Afghanistan pre-dated Iraq by year two-ish. You're deploying to a conflict that started before your original deployment did, really. Do you have thoughts/comments about that?
KC: I still see the importance of capturing and whether ... I don't know ifmitigate's the right term, but, really, that's what I think we're trying to do as far as mitigate the terrorists because there's no way to eliminate them 02:22:00completely, I don't think. Maybe in an effort to eliminate the threat that is over there because of ... It's just a matter of protecting not only the American way of life, but it becomes more about the region and the rest of the world.
TP: Would you say that you don't have the questions about the Afghanistanmission that you about the Iraq War?
KC: Mm-hmm (affirmative), yeah. A lot of it has to do with the fact that I'vehad years and years to just accept what is reality and come to terms with war itself, I guess, us being at war versus then I wasn't at terms with us being at war, because it's been so long. It's just life now. I've been in the military for 12 years now because I had that break in service. It's just everyday life going overseas and being in the military versus then it was so new and I was so young.
I guess some of the questions ... The questions aren't there because it's notthat I don't care, it's I'm not willing to fight in my mind what's actually 02:24:00happening, if that makes sense, as far as I don't have a fire inside of me to want to question my political leaders. That's diminished. I'm more in the mindset of just following what we're ordered to do, if that makes sense at all. I think that has something to do with being younger versus just being a little bit older and it wearing on you after a while.
TP: It sounds like maybe that sense of duty and your appreciation for theservice has ... Not necessarily [grown in 02:25:27] importance, but it covers a bit of-
TP: Is there anything else you'd like to say about your service?
KC: No, I think I've said it all. I'm proud to be serving. Like I said, it's mylife. I know I broke down about the questioning why we're at war, but, yeah, I'm very proud to be serving my country.