Civilian volunteers for Iraq duty
September 18, 2008
CAMP VICTORY, Iraq -- Service members realize when they enlist the odds of deploying are very high - for some, even guaranteed. Civilians working on military installations don't have to worry about that; usually, they are secure in their surroundings.
For Michelle Holmes, the secretary to Brig. Gen. Jefforey Smith, deputy commanding general - support, the 10th Mountain Division's deployment to Iraq created a unique opportunity to share an experience that her husband, Roy, had already experienced five times - supporting military operations in a foreign land.
"I thought it would be exciting. It's a chance to see what my husband (a first sergeant with 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment) does first hand," said Holmes, a native of Fort Drum, N.Y.
The opportunity to volunteer for service here was first presented to Fort Drum civilian employees by Col. David Clark, division deputy commander who was the acting Fort Drum garrison commander at the time.
"Colonel Clark put it out in (early 2008). I had responded that I wanted to go. There was a big meeting for interested people, and after that, in May, he called me and said he wanted me to come," Holmes said.
Fort Drum's civilian population was asked if any might be interested in volunteering. Almost immediately, 65 volunteers stepped forward and said 'I'll go.'
"I am very proud of our civilian work force," Clark said. "For years, they have provided a great base of support for us at Fort Drum. Now, they continue that support serving right here in theater."
After talking it over with her husband and three children, twins Roy and Christopher, 18; and Cameo, 12, she decided to pursue the journey half-way around the world.
"They were excited, but a little iffy," she said. "They're proud of me for coming. It's hard being away from my family - I've never had to leave them before. It was always my husband leaving (for deployments)."
The experience thus far is not what she expected it would be.
"It's more built up over here than I realized," Holmes said. "It has changed my perspective. It also seems that everyone gets along better over here, working this closely together."
Holmes works for legal assistance when she is at Fort Drum. She is scheduled to redeploy in November, but Iraq may not have seen the last of her.
"I'm very happy I did this. I've already volunteered to come back, if they want me to," said Holmes, who arrived in Iraq June 14.
The sacrifices made by these volunteers provide tremendous assist to Multi-National Division - Center's mission.
"Every civilian volunteer takes on duties and responsibilities that reduce the burden on Soldiers and help us accomplish our mission," Clark added, noting that civilians also deployed with the division to Afghanistan.
(Spc. Josh LeCappelain works for Multi-National Division - Center, Baghdad, Iraq)