Van Heest departs ACC
September 26, 2012
One thing was certain, Deborah Van Heest's passion to see the world could not be contained in small-town America.
Growing up in Chapin, Ill., with a population of a little more than 400 citizens, the Army Contracting Command executive assistant to the commanding general initially pursued a college
education in biology from Graceland University at Lamoni, Iowa.
Two years into her studies, however, the then 19-year-old could no longer resist the urge to spread her wings and she enlisted into the Army as a military police officer.
Her objective, she said, was to travel and see the world. And for the next five years, the Army fulfilled that dream and sent Van Heest to assignments in Korea, Germany and Bosnia-Herzegovina before she settled stateside at Fort Stewart, Ga., married and became a mother of two.
"My parents (retired Army Sgt. 1st Class Ray and Darlene Sills) have always been an inspiration to me," Van Heest said. "They are happily married, actively engaged in our church -- world travelers. When I was growing up, they would show slides of all the places they had traveled. It was probably this seed that planted my ambition and drive to go out and do the things I've done."
After a succession of life-changing events… marriage then divorce, a three-year custody battle and the constant coming to terms with her roots, her adoption and being raised by non-Native
Americans, Van Heest fought back and renewed her quest to travel.
"Out of four kids, I'm the only one that has left the state," she said. "My other siblings are still in the area with my parents. I always loved to travel."
Her quest took her to Florida, Texas and Michigan where she even worked at an equestrian center before settling at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., where she entered civil service as a secretary with the 58th Transportation Battalion. A temporary duty assignment to support a subordinate unit introduced her to Fort Belvoir, Va., where she immediately fell in love with the area and its proximity to Washington, D.C.
Van Heest accepted an assignment with ACC headquarters, Redstone Arsenal, Ala., to be nearer to her children during the custody battle, but she admits her desire was always to return to Virginia. Finally, after two years with ACC, her dreams were realized.
"I set my sights on Virginia and now I get my chance," she said. "I will work for a three-star at Headquarters, Department of the Army, G1."
Maj. Gen. Camille Nichols, ACC commanding general, admitted that it is difficult to see good employees leave, but that she nonetheless is happy that Van Heest is pursuing her dream of traveling.
Van Heest adds that though this next move takes her farther away from home, it will bring her one step closer to realizing her dream and maybe the success her parents achieved through their hard work, faith and dedication.