By Pvt. Josue PatricioSeptember 30, 2019
Fort Drum, N.Y. -- Rachel Evans left the Army in 2012, only to return to the same brigade six years later as a civilian.
Her first-hand experience as a former active duty commissioned officer has allowed Evans to personally identify with the patients she now helps as a social worker for the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division Embedded Behavioral Health Clinic.
Part of the "Commando" brigade again, Evans is taking care of Soldiers in her former unit by providing resources and care to treat any issues they may have with their mental well-being.
"I have always been interested in people and what's going on with them, how I can help," Evans said. "I think that set me up pretty well for my path as a social worker."
Evans began her Army career in November 2007 as a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear officer at Fort Drum. Before she was a "Commando" Soldier, then 2nd Lt. Evans was assigned to the 59th Chemical Company, 548th Combat Sustainment Battalion.
A year later she moved to the 210th Brigade Support Battalion, 2BCT, and eventually deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
During the deployment, Evans said one of her Soldiers exhibited a need for support, but later took his own life.
The incident was devastating for the unit, she said. The situation brought attention to Soldiers' behavioral health and the importance of discussing it among each other as comrades.
"It was pretty eye-opening," Evans said. "Behavioral health was very different when I was in, as opposed to now. I remember being up for 48 hours straight, with the day and night shift, making sure that everybody was okay."
During the grieving process, Evans said she became her Soldiers' preferred counselor and motivator. Her loss ultimately steered her to become a social worker and help others with their psychological health.
Following her deployment, the newly promoted Capt. Evans was assigned to the Active Duty Reserve Component in her home state of Utah. Upon completion of her service, Evans was honorably discharged in July 2012.
Evans continued her education at the University of Utah after departing the Army and earned a degree in social work. She also discovered her desire to work with current and retired military members during an internship, she said.
After six years, Evans applied for a social-worker position at Fort Drum. However, she was unaware she would be interviewing for her "dream job," and a second opportunity to be a part of the Commando Brigade.
During the hiring process, Evans met Zachary Collins, a clinical psychologist and the team leader of 2BCT's Embedded Behavioral Health Clinic. He was impressed by her qualifications, he said.
"When we talked about this [partnership] I was getting very excited (and) Rachel was getting very excited," Collins said. "You can just sense that this was an excellent fit."
Since she started working with the Commandos again at Fort Drum, Evans has continued to be the motivator her Soldiers once turned to for guidance.
"We're seeing that fit every day when the Soldiers are coming in and talking to her," Collins said. "This is someone who understands their problems and is here to help them. It's great that she's a veteran, but it's who she is as a person."
Evans is glad to once again be a Commando and looks forward to a new beginning and journey as a behavioral counselor for the brigade. Her new position is a fulfilling reunion for Evans and she has a bright outlook for her return to the military.
"It feels more like coming home being back in the Army world, and working with active-duty personnel," Evans said. "It feels like I'm where I'm supposed to be."