Marne Faces, Marne Places: Women's History Month - Safety specialist finds balance between work
March 30, 2011
HUNTER ARMY AIRFIELD, Ga. - By day, Kim Hill is a safety specialist at Hunter Army Airfield, ensuring that installation employees work in a safe environment.
But most evenings and weekends, you're likely to find Kim in another role - cheerleader for her children.
The mother of three spends most of her "free time" sitting in the stands at basketball games, watching one of five teams her two sons - Jeremiah, 15, and Isaiah, 13 - play on. She's usually sitting with her 10-year-old daughter, Savannah, while her sons are on the court and her husband, Sgt. 1st Class Tim Hill, a platoon leader at the Warrior Transition Battalion at Fort Stewart, is on the bench coaching.
Kim and Tim met in Germany while they were both in the Army in 1993 and married a year later. Despite very different upbringings - she was raised in metro Atlanta, he is from Perry, Ga., a town with a population of about 10,000 - they've been able to find common ground for the past 17 years.
"I think, in a relationship like ours, you have to learn how to be friends," Kim said. "You have to share some kind of common interests. And I think we've done that, and I think we've found a balance in that ... we come from different backgrounds and we were raised differently, but learning to find the commonality in the two raisings, I think that's made us what we are.
"And I have to truly say he's my best friend. When you live with your best friend it makes for a successful relationship."
In 2002, Kim decided to leave the Army after 12 years as an aviation operations specialist. After 9/11, the Hills saw that the future would bring constant deployments, and they wanted to ensure that one parent would always be home with their children.
After three years as a stay-at-home mom, Kim earned her college degree in professional aeronautics, with a minor in safety. She was accepted into the Army Safety and Occupational Heath internship, which began at Fort Bragg, N.C., and included a five-month course at Fort Rucker, Ala. At the time, Sgt. 1st Class Hill was on his second deployment to Iraq with the 3rd Infantry Division, so Kim took the children with her on the road trip.
"We went to Fort Bragg, they went to school for four months there, then we left there and went to Fort Rucker and they were in school for five months there, then we went back to Fort Bragg - they changed schools three times that year," Kim said. "I was the only one in the class (at Fort Rucker) who had my children with me.
Kim said students aren't usually allowed to take their children with them on temporary duty to the course, but an exception was made for her because her husband was deployed deployed.
"I was so thankful for that, because I wanted them with me," she said. "But the workload was intense ... I feel like I was a lot more stressed than the average person in my class."
Her husband said he admires the journey she took with their children.
"I was in awe; I don't think I would have done it. I don't think too many other women would have done it," Sgt. 1st Class Hill said. "I admired it, I thought it was like the best thing she could possibly do. And I love her for it, and she's the reason why we are what we are right now."
After the two-year internship, Kim accepted a job at Hunter, where she has been since 2008.
The Family lives in Richmond Hill, where the boys play on their school and Amateur Athletic Union basketball teams, and Savannah is involved in gymnastics.
"We stay very busy," Kim said. "I guess our most challenging part of it is running with the kids because their schedule is so busy and so packed. As soon as I leave work, I'm off to the races again."
But through their hectic everyday lives, through the stress of three deployments and all that comes along with it, Kim remains the rock of her Family.
"Well it kind of goes with how the Army says the NCO is the backbone of the Army; well, a good wife is the backbone for any Soldier," said Sgt. 1st Class Hill. "As long as you know that you have a woman who is at home doing all the right things, it makes your life easier. It makes your life as a Soldier a whole lot easier."
And somehow, in between driving the kids to their numerous sporting events, working full time, and running a household, Kim manages to find the time to help others.
"She's very helpful, she will go out of her way to help any and every body," her husband said. "Perfect example - I coach a 16-year-old AAU basketball team and a couple of my kids have some trouble in school; Kim will come to the gym, take her laptop hook up to Wi-Fi and help them with their reports."
Sergeant First Class Hill also said his wife has helped his WTB Soldiers.
"I've had Soldiers who have had financial problems and I've come home and told Kim I need some help," he said. "She will help set up a finance plan to help them get out of the troubles they're in."
All the while, Kim's professional life has flourished. According to her supervisor, she has progressed at a rapid rate that belies her less than three years of experience.
"She has progressed very well, in fact, she's probably far ahead of the other people she graduated the intern program with," said Ron Heath, Hunter Army Airfield safety manager. "Her strength is that she's self motivated - she can generally look at what's coming down the road and know what she needs to do and take on that project."
This is something that makes Heath's life a little easier.
"I don't have to ask or task her every day to do something," he said. "That makes my job that much easier, because it means it frees me up to do supervisory things and project planning and those kinds of things."
Kim has managed to find balance between her professional life and her life at home, and she is proof that it's possible to have a full-time job and be a full-time mom.
"She is the best mother in the world," said Sgt. 1st Class Hill. "I'm the luckiest man in the world. And I would tell anybody that."