By Chrystal Smith (USAG Wiesbaden)February 13, 2009
WIESBADEN, Germany - A 40-year-old Selma, Ala., native looks back with pride and a sense of accomplishment after 15 months of duty in Iraq.
Sgt. Tracy Hill knew deployment was possible, but remained hopeful her unit would not have to deploy when she arrived in Wiesbaden in August 2005.
"I knew I had to accept the idea," said Hill. "I never thought I would have to deploy, but you have to, and it's not easy."
In the fall of 2007 Hill deployed for the first time in her 12-year career to the Middle East as an administrative noncommissioned officer with the 1st Armored Division's Inspector General, whose mission is to inquire into and periodically report to the division commander on the unit's discipline, efficiency, economy, morale, training and readiness.
While Hill described her job as maintaining the office and taking care of customers, her revelation of its impact was much larger. "Just doing my job everyday was helping to affect change in Iraq," said the business administrator who explained that generally Soldiers turned to the IG for questions about issues dealing with chain of command, promotion and finance.
"The individual Soldier had to be able to function in his or her specific duty, so we had to take the proper time to handle their cases so those people could relax and focus on their jobs and be effective for the military and their families," she said.
Even though she realized the impact of performing her duty on the overall mission, mentally and physically accomplishing it was more challenging than she had imagined, as she was new to the operational requirements of the IG.
"Occasionally after particularly stressful days and long hours at work, it was a battle just getting up to start my day," said Hill as she explained that her 12- to 16-hour days typically started with spiritual devotional time and included physical training, compiling daily status reports for higher headquarters review and management of client paperwork.
"You don't even know where your strength is coming from, you just keep going." In a sense, the sergeant was the IG front line. She said she was the first person people saw as they entered the office. "They needed us and they did not need to catch me with an attitude. I had to show compassion and respect in order to give the best customer service," she said.
Hill credits her successful completion of the mission to constant prayer and faith-filled confessions. "I read Ephesians chapter six often, because it was so real to me in this situation," said Hill as she explained the Bible passage specifically talked about putting on God's full armor for maximum protection in battle.
She also stayed motivated by drawing on the Army's core values. "I had to be selfless and perform my duty. I had to serve my country and my purpose over there." Because it was her first deployment, she said everything had significance.
Even things such as the plane touching down in Iraq, and putting on the official deployment patch. "We were legitimate 'deployees' ... a real family," she said, as she recounted memories of the mass reenlistment ceremony under Gen. David Petraeus, former Multi-National Force Iraq commander, in the former Saddam Hussein palace in Baghdad, and the cultural exchange experience with some Iraqi women.
And as she served, she grew, she said. "It will truly change you," said Hill who said she is even more disciplined, mature, stronger and wiser, having gone through it all.