By T. Anthony Bell, Fort Lee Public AffairsMay 21, 2009
FORT LEE, Va. (May 21, 2009) -- Her first Army uniform was cotton fatigues in the 1970s.
Then came permanent press fatigues a few years later.A,A
The innovative battle dress uniform followed in the early 1980s.
She'll end it all with the newfangled Army Combat Uniform.
Sgt. 1st Class Deborah Wesley will step into a new era of fashion when she retires next month after more than 35 years' service in the U.S. Army Reserve.A,A The 59-year-old will don her civvies on a full-time basis for the first time since the early 1970s.A,A
"It's time," she said.A,A "I can feel it."
Wesley is an automated supply specialist instructor assigned to the 7th Battalion, 100th Regiment, 1st Brigade, 94th Division.A,A She has taught quartermasters at Fort Lee and elsewhere since 1991 but stepped upon the teaching platform for the last time May 14.A,A She said although she enjoys impacting Soldiers, her instincts say it's time to go.
"I enjoy teaching," the Faribault, Minn., native said at Mifflin Hall during her last class.A,A "I've taught so long, that it's second nature, and I love putting knowledge into these students' heads, but it's time to pull the pin."
Wesley tried to "pull the pin" five years ago when she submitted a request for retirement.A,A It was turned down.
"They didn't have enough instructors," she said.A,A "After that, I just decided my goal would be to go five more years."
Wesley's journey in the Reserve started in 1973 when she enlisted as a member of the Women's Army Corps at Fort McClellan, Ala.A,A She began her teaching career at Wisconsin's Fort McCoy and has spent two to three weeks a year for the past 16 teaching quartermasters at Fort Lee.A,A The lure of teaching for her is to leave Soldiers better off than she found them.
"It has always been about the knowledge, to give my knowledge to them," she said, "especially now and in the last few years we've been at war.A,A These kids need to know that this is serious. That's what I try to prevail upon them, and the joy of it is that they learn."
To that end, Wesley said she knows she's made a difference when she encounters former students long after the classes have ended, "... and they tell me how much (of the instruction) they've used," she said.
Motivating Soldiers to learn, said Wesley, is a recognition that not all Soldiers learn at the same pace or are equally moved to learn.
"Each student we get is an individual, we have to train them as such, and we have to treat them as such," she said. "You have to make sure all students get the material you give, no matter the mind set when they start."
There are a myriad of other factors involved in making Soldiers successful in the classroom. So many, in fact, that it requires Wesley to give more of herself than the allotted time allows.A,A
"This job has never been part-time for me," she said.A,A "I get paid part-time, but I work full time on this job.A,A You have to."
Part of that work is staying in contact via e-mail and telephone with her fellow instructor, Master Sgt. Albert Thomas.A,A Thomas and Wesley have been teaching together for five years. He said her spot on the platform will be hard to fill.
"Sgt. Wesley is a good instructor," the 31-year Soldier said.A,A "She works hard, she's easy to work with, and she always comes prepared.A,A We kind of give and take with each other.A,A Overall, she's just a good person, always for the Soldier."
The relationships, like the one with Thomas, she's developed over the years is what Wesley will miss more than anything else.
"It's been a great run," she said.A,A "I've met thousands of people. I've enjoyed every minute of it."
Wesley said she will now concentrate on her job as a security supervisor at a casino and try to engage more in recreational activities.
"I'm going to go to the lake, read books; just enjoy life," she said.