Welding a stronger bond in Afghanistan
April 30, 2013
JALALABAD, Afghanistan - When U.S. Army Spc. April Harvey walked into the recruiting office near her hometown of Gallup, N.M., after graduating high school, she knew she wanted to take control of her life, and she wanted to do it her way.
As with any soldier that enlists into the Army, Harvey was offered several different jobs, or military occupational specialties. While at the recruiting station, Harvey was offered a series of jobs: 68W (Medic), 42A (Human Resources Specialist), 92Y (Logistics Specialist) and other jobs that just weren't the kind of thing that fit Harvey's personality.
"I grew up a 'tomboy', so I'm used to getting dirty and working hard," said Harvey, a member of Company B, 426th Brigade Support Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault).
Growing up on a cattle ranch in western New Mexico, Harvey spent a great deal of time working with her family on the farm.
Harvey's father, a welder, was a significant influence for her.
When Harvey told the recruiter that she wanted to be a welder, the recruiter was a little surprised.
"My recruiter asked if I was sure and I said 'Yeah, I'm positive.' I like doing it. It's fun," she said.
Harvey said that her parents had mixed emotions about her joining the Army, "Dad was supportive, but mom wasn't too happy. My uncle was a Marine in Vietnam. Mom worries because my uncle has severe PTSD."
Harvey says that her parents didn't like it, but they are proud of her regardless. They are proud that she is secure, stable and currently taking college courses.
Since becoming an Army metal worker, Harvey has spent her entire enlistment at Fort Campbell, Ky. Currently, Harvey is on her second deployment with 1BCT to Afghanistan.
During her first deployment, Harvey was a member of the base quick reaction force and served as security at the base entry control point.
"Last deployment I worked with the ANA [Afghan National Army] and AUP [Afghan Uniformed Police] a lot more than this deployment," she said.
Harvey currently spends most of her time plying her trade to improve conditions at Forward Operating Base Fenty.
"I build stuff to help with force protection," she said, "I've built a guard tower. I fix and maintain metal stuff around the FOB. Some people just need stuff to help them with their jobs and I like to help out anyone I can by building MWR or PT stuff."
When asked to reflect on the differences between the two deployments, Harvey points to a major change in the attitudes and outlooks of the Afghan people.
"They are a lot more independent now. The kids aren't afraid to come up and shake hands. They come up to us and talk to us. I also see a greater willingness to help each other out," she said.
Harvey hopes that the experiences and lessons learned in the Army will help prepare her for an eventual career in law enforcement following her military career.