Soldier turns challenges into motivation
March 26, 2013
JOINT BASE LEWIS MCCHORD, Wash. - Staff Sgt. Catherine Long works hard, there is no doubt about that. As the only geospatial intelligence analyst soldier in Headquarters Support Company, 7th Infantry Division, she is charged with establishing and leading the geospatial intelligence curriculum for the new 7th Inf. Div. Intelligence Academy. Long also provides mentorship and guidance to soldiers in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Teams, 2nd Infantry Division, manages information requests from numerous redeploying units and is helping to build the 7th Inf. Div. Security Management (G2) internal collaborative webpage.
For these accomplishments, Long, a Leesville, La., native, was one of 13 soldiers recognized by I Corps commanding general, Lt. Gen. Robert Brown, and I Corps command sergeant major, Command Sgt. Maj. John Wayne Troxell, March 22, during the quarterly Team Courage Recognition Awards. Long received the I Corps' commanders coin in front of more than 60 Joint Base Lewis-McChord senior leaders.
But there is more to this soldier's drive and purpose than most would know by simply looking at her or talking to her.
Long's daughter, Catarina, was diagnosed with autism. Although she turned 11 just a few weeks ago, Catarina requires special assistance from Army Community Services and the Exceptional Family Member Program.
"She is severely autistic but she is amazing. Even though she is nonverbal, we have different ways of communicating," Long explained. "She's about as tall as me and she looks a lot like me. She has a lot of [my] characteristics, so you definitely can tell when she's not happy. You definitely can tell when she gives you a little bit of attitude; she likes to stomp her feet."
After her birth, Long began to notice there may be a problem when Catarina was not reaching age-appropriate milestones.
"Since she was a baby, I noticed that she hadn't been hitting a lot of her milestones," Long said. "When she was a year old, [doctors] found she had a chromosome abnormality... they found it was an extra duplication on [the] number 7 [chromosome]. They don't have lot of studies on it so she has a lot of characteristics of a severely autistic child."
Long, a single parent, joined the Army as a way to support herself and her daughter. She said her daughter continues to inspire her every day.
"She's my motivation to, one, stay in the Army and, two, better myself as I excel in the ranks. She pushes me to a do a lot more than I would have done if I hadn't had her," said Long.
"My daughter is just such an awesome kid."
Long has been with the division since August, before it officially reactivated in October 2012. Starting a division-level geospatial intelligence analysis plan for subordinate brigades to follow, as well as developing a SharePoint portal online - an internal communication tool for division sections to publish and share content within the division headquarters all the way down to the company-levels in the brigades - was something Long took head-on.
"It's been an interesting challenge, especially being the only... geospatial intelligence analyst in the division [headquarters]," Long said. "Overall, the experience has been, I would say, very educational for me. I haven't been at a division level yet. I'm learning a lot and I have a lot of reach-back support from I Corps and a couple of warrant officers from different divisions...as well as [people] at Fort Huachuca."
Fort Huachuca is home to the U.S. Army Intelligence Center and located in Cochise County, in southeast Arizona, about 15 miles north of the border with Mexico. Long attended Advanced Individual Training at Fort Huachuca following her graduation from Basic Combat Training at Fort Leonardwood, Mo., in October 2006.
Despite her work's challenges, Long continues to look to her daughter for daily encouragement and a reminder of why it is she works so hard.
In addition to her daily duties, Long is looking to apply to the geospatial masters program offered by Penn State University. She obtained her bachelor's degree in Psychology prior to enlisting in the Army. She has also set a goal to attend the Sgt. Audie Murphy board next year.
In her off time, Long said she loves spending time with Catarina, and volunteers with programs geared toward autism education and support. She recently signed up to participate in a 5K autism walk in Seattle, and hopes to participate in more events in the future.