'There's nothing like putting on this uniform and being proud of it'
Staff Sgt. Dianne Smith, an administrative Soldier in the 3rd Military Intelligence Battlion, talks about her return to the Army NCO Corps after a 15-year break in service with Sergeant Major of the Army Kenneth O. Preston and Eighth U.S. Army Command Sergeant Major Robert Winzenried at Humphreys Garrison recently.

HUMPHREYS GARRISON - Army opportunities, chock-full of enlistment and re-enlistment bonuses have paved the way for professional success for tens of thousands of Army recruits and Soldiers over the last several years.

For one noncommissioned officer who began her active-duty Army journey more than 30 years ago the Army offered another type of opportunity -- the chance to show her patriotism and sense of duty to her country during a troubled time.

Staff Sergeant Dianne Smith, an intelligence analyst with 3rd Military Intelligence Battalion, recently returned to active duty after a 15-year break to teach her experienced leadership skills to new enlisted Soldiers.

Smith completed basic training at Fort McClellan, Ala., (which was also the Women's Army Corps headquarters) in 1978.

Following advanced individual training and her initial assignments in 1984, she found herself stationed at Yongin, South Korea, where she met her husband of 25 years, Tim.

"I was a signal intelligence analyst during my first 13 years of active-duty service but the best job I had before I got out was platoon sergeant," said Smith.

"This is the job that epitomizes the Noncommissioned Officer position or me, and why I've come back." Smith said she wants to be a platoon sergeant again because they are the hands-on, direct contact with Soldiers.

"You are the first one to know if your Soldiers have problems, or if they've accomplished something, and I love being connected with troops, and next to sergeant major, I believe this is the best job in the Army," she said.

After training at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., in 2008, Smith rejoined the Army's military intelligence community. However, returning to the Republic of Korea for her first active-duty tour in 25 years is more than a typical overseas duty assignment.

"My husband and I met while serving here in 1984, and it's like a homecoming," she said. "Returning to active duty after all these years was a major commitment I could have never made without his unwavering support."

During her early years of Army service, Smith had mentors that are nearly gone from today's Army rolls - Vietnam Veterans.

"They taught me a lot of things about what I could actually do, what I could endure, and what I could accomplish and overcome," she said. "When I began my first Army enlistment, I was a scared kid from Kentucky and I was pushed beyond what I thought I could do, but found out I could do far more. To see Soldiers like I was who come in today and don't have confidence in what they can do or are not aware of what they do - my job as an NCO is to push them and encourage them because we can do so much more than we believe."

Smith recently met with another NCO at Humphreys Garrison who himself has served in the Army since 1975; Sergeant Major of the Army Kenneth O. Preston.

"SMA Preston asked me about why I came back in and he encouraged me and welcomed me back into the NCO Corps," she said. "I've met many successful people in my life, but I was as nervous as I could be because he is the Sergeant Major of the Army and the one who sets the bar for all of us and who we all strive to be. It was an honor for this old Soldier to have those few minutes with him. There was an understanding of all the things that are not needed to be said - because we were Army then and we are Army now and we're still hanging in there."

Smith said once you've been a Soldier, you have a connection with people and no matter where you go you share a bond because you have served.

"I've worn a lot of different clothes to work, but there's nothing like putting on this uniform, being proud of it ... it's the best job in the world and I will continue to do the job my Soldiers deserve up until the day I retire from the Army," she said.

Smith added that female Soldiers must respect themselves, treat everyone else with respect and take nothing less.

"Being a female in the military should never be used as an excuse to be less than absolutely all you can be. We're fellow Soldiers and we drive on," she said.

"In 2013, when I look in the review mirror at the service I've given, I want to know that without a shadow of a doubt that I took care of my Soldiers. I'm going to be that old veteran in the wheelchair at parades waving the American flag, proud of our Soldiers marching through."

Page last updated Wed April 1st, 2009 at 20:14