Black History Month: NCO makes the most of military career
February 17, 2011
HUNTER ARMY AIRFIELD, Ga. - In 1992, Sgt. 1st Class Theresa Abraham was a single mother living in Arkansas, working two, sometimes three jobs to make ends meet. That fall she decided to make a change - she joined the Army.
"Being a single parent and working two jobs, sometimes three, to maintain a household, and then joining the military and making in one job what I was making in three jobs, it gave me a lot more time to spend with my son," said Sgt. 1st Class Abraham. "It gave me a lot more time to help him with his homework, and just to be around him."
In 1995, she met someone with whom she would spend her life, Sgt. 1st Class Kentus Abraham, who she married in 1997. Kentus is currently deployed to Iraq with the 512th Quartermaster Company.
More than 18 years after enlisting as a Petroleum Supply Specialist, Sgt. 1st Class Abraham is stationed at Hunter Army Airfield, assigned to the 260th Quartermaster Battalion, but attached to U.S. Army Garrison, Hunter Army Airfield as operations noncommissioned officer, a position she has been in for the past year. Previously, she was with 260th Quartermaster Battalion, Headquarters and Headquarters Company for a year. In the fall of 2004, Sgt. 1st Class Abraham arrived at Hunter for the first time, as an operations NCO with the 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade.
"I arrived here in September 2004, my husband and I bought a house, we closed on it in November and in January we handed our keys over to our neighbors who we'd just met - who are retired Marines - and deployed to Iraq for 12 months," she said.
It was her second deployment, the first coming while she was still a single parent, when she deployed on a peacekeeping mission to Bosnia with her unit in Germany, from 1995-1996. Her son was with her in Germany for about five months before it was decided that her unit would deploy.
"It was really hard to put my son on a plane and send him back to the United States," she said. "I looked at him, and I said 'Baby, Mommy has to deploy. But if you tell me you don't want me to go, I won't go.' Then he asked, 'Well then mommy, where are we gonna stay if you get out'' Then he said 'I'll be ok, I'll stay with grandma.' Being able to talk to my son, and knowing that he was ok and knowing that he was being taken care of, that's what got me through that deployment."
With her husband deployed and her son grown, Sgt. 1st Class Abraham now spends a majority of her time with someone else.
"The most important thing to me right now, when I get off work, I have to spend two hours with my baby," she said. "Now my baby is a bichon frise, his name is Happy. He is absolutely adorable."
She said that the first two hours she gets home from work belong to Happy, and the next two- to-three hours are spent on the computer, where she works towards her master's degree from Excelsior University. While in the Army, Sgt. 1st Class Abraham has made the most of the educational opportunities offered by the military.
"Since I've been in the military, I've had the opportunity to go to college," she said. "I've earned two associates degrees, a bachelor's degree, and now I'm currently working on my master's degree in environmental management. So being in the military has really been a great success for me."
For those Soldiers she supervises, they see how she has achieved success.
"She's fair but she's stern and tough," said Sgt. Craig Kandar, assigned to the 260th Quartermaster Battalion, but serving garrison as community liaison noncommissioned officer in charge of the mayor's program. "She allows other Soldiers and other NCOs to grow. She's a great coach and mentor when it comes to teaching Soldiers. She's always in a good mood; she's always open-minded about every idea that comes from anybody. She likes to get things done, and done quick and right."
When Sgt. 1st Class Abraham joined the Army in a male-dominated MOS, she said female NCOs were rare. For female Soldiers who now serve beneath her, she is a role model.
"I look up to her in pretty much all aspects" said Sgt. Donna Campbell, USAG Hunter Army Airfield. "Her being a female, it makes me want to strive more to become her rank, and to get it as quickly as I possibly can. Not just to become her rank, but also to wear the leadership that she does in that rank. I definitely admire her leadership skills ... her interaction with different people and just the way she goes about things is very professional. I definitely admire that and I hope to mirror that."
In her post-Army life, Sgt. 1st Class Abraham hopes to work with under privileged children, who she thinks she can help through her life experiences.
"I came from a single Family home - my father died when I was in the third grade so my mother raised us by herself," she said. "We didn't have a lot, we shared clothes, we shared food, we shared everything. But, we had plenty of love for each other, for my mother and for my grandparents. And I just saw that there were a lot of children who grew up right around me who didn't make it out and I just feel like they didn't make it because they didn't have the love that we had."
Sergeant First Class Abraham said that growing up in Arkansas wasn't what people imagine, and, in fact, it helped her have an easier transition into the Army.
"People have a misconception of Arkansas being a prejudiced state and Arkansas being diverse and divided ... I didn't see that growing up," she said. "I didn't experience racism, I didn't experience hatred, hate crimes, I didn't experience any of that. We all lived together - black, white, everybody. So when I came into the Army, I saw nothing different."
She entered the Army as a single mother scraping to make ends meet, and now she is a role model to young Soldiers. She said she has the military to thank for her growth.
"I have definitely become a more subtle, disciplined person by joining the military," she said. "I'll be the first to tell you I was a wild one when I came in. And coming into the military, having order and discipline ... it's just been a wonderful thing for me. I think the most important thing that I've learned is to be yourself. Be yourself, take pride in yourself, take pride in what you do, and respect those around you and they'll respect you."