One of my greatest benefits, as I see it, that I received from serving in the U.S. Army was getting to meet so many wonderful people from all over the country and the world. I find myself looking back on random times and events from my days in service, and every now and then the thought of ‘I wonder where they are now?’ will pop into my mind.
Recently, I’ve reconnected with a beautiful young lady I served with in Iraq in 2008-09. We’ve been chatting a bit about our lives, post war, and I decided to interview her for this month’s ‘Ladies of Liberty’ piece. Ladies and gentlemen, it is an extreme honor of mine to introduce you to Iraq War veteran, Miss Ashley Jacobsen. Ashley is twenty five years old, single, and is currently working in Afghanistan as a civilian contractor with Academi, the company formerly known as Black Water. Below is the text of our interview:
KL- When and why did you join the military?
AJ- In 2007 I decided to either stay in my small town or to branch off and do something a little bit different than the others from my area. I grew up in a tiny, one stop light town where the majority of the 800 citizens had all come from the k-12 school located in the center of our town. Mossyrock, WA wasn’t known for much, so when my best friend at the time asked me if I wanted to be a small town hero or a small town zero, I ended up taking the road straight to my local WA Army National Guard (WAANG) recruiting station to do something about my future. If I enlisted in the active WAANG, I could choose to be close enough to my family to still take care of them, and not so far away that I’d have to spend holiday seasons alone.
KL- What do you consider to be your greatest military accomplishment? AJ- When a drill weekend comes around most weekend warriors are usually preparing for some kind of Physical training, or some remedial training in their specific military specialty. This one particular drill weekend was different. We were doing “pre-deployment” screening, which caused a few hairs to rise, but being in a non-deployable position I thought that I should have been fine. That Sunday, at the end of the day, right before getting ready to load the buses back to our home stations, we were informed that we all had deployment orders with our names on them and that we were going to war.
The fact that I am now a veteran like my other brothers and sisters in arms still gives me chills to this day. I was one of few that answered the call. I fulfilled my duty as a soldier and a battle buddy, and I helped bring my friends and co-workers home safe from a war zone. That is the greatest feeling in the world. KL- What is your fondest/least fond memory of serving?
AJ- In the 4 years I was in the Army National Guard, I think I have plenty of memories to choose from, but one of the best memories I can recall was meeting a fellow Army National Guard member that since the day I met her been my best friend. We’ve stayed not only in contact, but we’re more like sisters than friends. We know each other’s family and friends as well as we know our own. If it wasn’t for the deployment in ‘08 I would not have crossed paths with the closest and fondest friend I have to this day.
On that same note there are some not so fond memories while being in the guard. My worst memory is that of looking into my father’s eyes before leaving for Iraq. My father is the strongest man I know, but seeing the utter fear in his eyes while I was loading the bus to leave scared me to my soul. That’s a memory I’ll never forget, because when thinking about what my dad had feared and was feeling, and imagining what a father or mother or wife would have to go through if they actually lost their son or daughter, is horrific. I hoped I wouldn’t ever have to put my father through that pain.
KL- When and why did I ETS.
AJ- I decided to ETS in 2010. The WAANG was seeing a lot of budget cuts, and as an active duty guard member, we were the ones hurting from those cuts. Jobs that helped keep our bills paid were being taken right from under us. We either had to find new jobs or continue with the struggle of on again off again jobs. I signed my out processing paperwork and continued looking for another job in the civilian sector.
KL- What would I have done differently while in service, if anything?
AJ- There is only one thing thinking back on my time in the service that I would to have done differently. I would have maximized my military training and gone to as many Army sponsored courses as possible. Getting certificates and other training would have helped my chances of getting a civilian job.
KL- Recently, women have been given the green light on entering combat arms MOS’s. What are your thoughts on this and what might you say to those who feel women have no place in combat arms?
AJ- In recent years, sexual equality in the military ranks have caused very heated debates. I have always hoped this would happen (women being allowed in combat arms) since I usually ended up in male populated units or companies where there were 10 men for every woman. Through witnessing my hard work and determination, I hoped the macho men would see that I wasn’t a waste of time as a female. Did that work? Sometimes yes, sometimes no.
Men and women are so very different in every aspect. Do I believe that every female could make it in a combat MOS? No, I don’t. I do believe; however, that some women could actually show men that they are the real deal. Just like in any organization, you will have those few people who are afraid of change, so they shut their minds to the possibilities and fill it with ignorance.
The advice I would give to another female looking into a combat MOS or any male dominated work, is that you just need to push through the ignorance and persevere. The only way anyone will change the way they feel is to see that it is possible. Show the men you can work just as hard if not harder than they do. Be the best you can be at what you do. Show the ignorant people with your actions that you are just as strong and worth the same respect the others deserve.
*Kevin E Lake is an author and an Iraq War veteran. He is co-founder of the humanitarian aid group ‘Give a Kid a Smile.’
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