By Ms. Vanessa Villarreal (3rd ID)June 17, 2015
Capt. Velerie Petersen's mother, Sung Cha Ko-Petersen (deceased), was rescued by an American soldier during the Korean War. And, according to Petersen, her mother always felt deeply indebted to the Soldier who reunited her with her mother when the Koreans were forced to move south at the start of the war.
"I joined the Army because of my parents," Petersen said. "They both felt that their children would repay American society by serving for the country that allowed us our freedoms."
Petersen enlisted in the U.S. Army in September of 2000 after serving six years on active duty as a medical specialist. She's been at Bagram Air Field since 2014, serving as a battalion S4 officer in charge of logistics.
And it's because she demonstrates duty, honor, and country -- the same ideals for which Gen. MacArthur stood -- that she was one of several Army reservists who won the Army's 2015 Gen. MacArthur leadership award. She traveled to Washington, D.C., last month to accept the award from Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno.
And she said many people have prepared her for it.
"Though the training started young with my parents and siblings, my family has always supported my endeavors with a lot of tough love," Petersen said. "The Army family invigorated me to be a great leader, allowing me to take on big challenges, and providing growth stress projects. As an enlisted NCO, I was fortunate to have a great NCO, Staff Sgt. Yissell Austin, who guided me the most as a sergeant to handle zealous personalities. While I was a staff sergeant, I befriended Sgt. 1st Class Adriana Galvan who always provided me a counter perspective in decision making."
She deployed to Afghanistan for the first time in 2009, at Kandahar Air Field where she was an accountable officer for the medical logistics warehouse supporting Regional Command South and Regional Command East.
"The Kandahar team was laced with numerous influences in listening to subordinates and implementing diplomatic skills as a first lieutenant," she said. "When I commanded, my first sergeant, Master Sgt. Christopher DeCosta at 971st Medical Logistics Company, mentored me on how to bring out the best in Soldiers. Lt. Col. Jeffrey Duncan was my biggest influence as a captain, also a MacArthur recipient, who took me under his wing soon after I pinned on captain. He emulated all that the MacArthur Award stood for, mentoring me on strategic perspective and seeking the implied tasks of a project. Lastly, I was very fortunate to have strong and trusting commanders, Col. Vincent Valinotti prior to deploying, and Lt. Col. Todd Traver my current commander, who nominated me for the award. Lt. Col. Traver advises me with wisdom, patience, humor, and clarifies his intent in fairness. He genuinely cares to hear my perspective and explains why he disagrees. This allows me to grow."
Her current assignment at BAF requires her to serve nine months.
"A bit of a déjà vu since I knew some of the previous G4s, now transitioned to a S4 position with a smaller footprint," she said.
The position requires that she and her NCOIC provide all logistical support for the multifunctional medical battalion and eight down trace units that she directly supports in eight locations throughout theater. This support encompasses safety, physical security, medical maintenance, battalion contracting officer representative, logistical support/advisory for all classes of supply, command supply and command maintenance discipline programs, property book officer, and duties as the J4 deputy for TF-Medical A.
She said she's enjoyed the medical field since she was 13 years old. And it was in high school where she began dabbling in sports medicine as a student athletic trainer.
"It has always been my preference," she said.
She received a bachelor's degree in science from the Benedictine College in 1998 and a master's degree in sport psychology from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2006. She received a direct commission as a Medical Service Corps officer in March of 2008.
Her future plans are to apply for the Congressional Fellowship when she returns to her duty station in Jacksonville, Fla. She's also hoping that opportunities to work as a medical planner for a major COCOM such as SOCOM, EUCOM, NORTHCOM, or SOUTHCOM will come available should she get picked up for major. She'd also like more opportunity for a joint assignment with NATO or a sister service. And, in the next 10 years, she hopes to be a commander of a medical brigade.
"I want to thank all that I have served with yesterday, today, and tomorrow," she said. "There are many who assist me on my journey, no matter their position or rank, all have been assets. I am indebted to each for opportunities to flourish. I am supported with a wonderful family and boyfriend, for when a perfect storm occurs they are true pillars of strength I can always lean on. Without them I could not be the leader I am."