OTF Soldier Story for March 16, 2011 - 1st Lt. Leslee O’Bryan
Current Unit: 58th Transportation Battalion, 3rd Chemical Brigade
Current Position: Company Commander
Component: Active Army
Current Location: Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.
Hometown: St. Louis, Mo., and Waynesville, Mo.
Years of Service: 3
Growing up, 1st Lt. Leslee O’Bryan never imagined herself as a leader in the military. But these days she marvels at where her education and Army training have taken her. Since receiving her commission through the Reserve Officer Training Command program, O’Bryan has not only served as a company commander stateside, but she’s also been deployed to Iraq and Kuwait.
“After joining the Army, I realized that I’m a lot stronger than I used to be. Being in the military made me realize that I’m a natural leader,” she said. “My Army service has given me that ‘take-charge’ attitude and enabled me to be more confident in myself.”
Her desire to travel internationally was one of the main reasons O’Bryan decided to join the Army, and just a few months after commissioning, she deployed to Iraq as a platoon leader with the 5th Engineer Battalion. While leading the platoon on personal security missions and convoy logistic patrols, she was able to travel throughout the country ensuring along the way that the necessary equipment and personnel were transported safely and efficiently. O’Bryan was even able to interact with both Iraqi civilians and local military officials through the aid of a local interpreter who accompanied her on every mission.
“I loved seeing the culture and the people over there, especially the kids. Everyone was extremely friendly; it was rewarding to see how much they really appreciate us being there to help them,” she said.
After six months of many successful missions, O’Bryan was selected to transfer to the 555th Engineer Brigade in Kuwait. Serving as the Brigade Liaison Officer in Charge, she was responsible for supervising both the deployment and redeployment operations for four battalions and multiple detachments. In particular, O’Bryan managed the housing, transportation and training requirements of more than 5,000 Soldiers in the brigade.
Although traveling throughout Iraq provided a great opportunity for O’Bryan to meet the local citizens her unit was aiding, as a female Soldier she had to work hard to gain their respect.
“The Army isn’t completely used to having females in the military, especially in a leadership role. In Iraq, the enemy does not respect women in charge,” she said. “Being in a leadership role had its ups and downs, but it was nothing that I couldn’t handle.”
Now back at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., she continues to serve with the 58th Transportation Battalion, 3rd Chemical Brigade. She is also pursuing a master’s degree in international relations and conflict management through American Military University, and hopes to one day serve the Army in a foreign affairs capacity.
Given her own experience in the Army, O’Bryan recommends military service to other young women.
“I’m a girly-girl, but at the same time, I can go out and camp and roll around in the dirt if I need to,” she said. “If you have a tougher side to you and can be a hard worker, think about joining the military.”