Twenty-five years ago, Command Sgt. Maj. Kristin Barrett joined the U.S. Army as a junior enlisted oboe player. Today, she holds the highest attainable enlisted grade of E-9 and serves as the senior enlisted advisor for the Special Troops Battalion, U.S. Army Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
“Truthfully, if you would have told me almost 24 years ago that this girl from, what was back then, the small town of Lee’s Summit, Missouri, would be standing in front of you today in this position, I would have thought you were delusional,” said Barrett in a ceremony last year marking her official appointment to the senior enlisted advisor position.
Barrett said she had a practical reason for joining. “I needed a job.”
Although, she was a professional musician with a Master’s degree in Music, she wanted to make a secure income while using her talents.
A friend told her the Army had jobs for musicians. Barrett connected with a recruiter to see for herself.
In October 1995, she enlisted, and later attended advanced individual training at the Army School of Music in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
Barrett said her family was not excited about her joining. “It took a while for them to really be supportive.”
She said her “stubbornness” kept her from being discouraged.
“It’s really my life. If I’m happy doing this and it fits with my goals, then this is the path I’ll choose to take,” Barrett said, reflecting on her decision.
“Now I think they realize it really was a good choice.”
Barrett said in the end, she gained more than just a secure income.
She said her career made her more team-oriented. “[In the Army], you think less about yourself, more about the team, what can I contribute to the team, and what’s best for it.”
“Any other community you're in, you can be as much, or as little, a part of the team as you want to be. In the Army, you have to be a team player.”
Barrett also said she values the diversity of the people she works with. “If you’re in any hometown and you don’t want to deal with diversity, you really don’t have to. You can hole up in your little microcosm.”
“In the military, you’re always working with people from different backgrounds and cultures. It really makes you open your eyes and be more aware and accepting.”
“You may not always agree with everyone on everything. But in the end, you depend on one another, and have to have each other’s back.”
Barrett also had practical reasons for maintaining her career. “I was having a lot of fun, so I kept reenlisting. I also kept getting promoted, which gave me more responsibility.”
She said she embraced the gradual transition from someone responsible only for themselves to someone responsible for the success of many others under her leadership.
Ultimately, Barrett’s journey began with her departure from the greater Kansas area decades ago. It has since led her back to the area with a successful career and family.
The Army is hoping to back-fill Soldiers like Barrett with young people looking for a path to an education, a career or similar self-fulfillment goals.
It recently launched its first virtual National Hiring Days campaign, June 30 to July 2, aiming to hire 10,000 Soldiers in short order. It’s a surge effort to overcome the challenges posed by the pandemic.
"We are adapting our recruiting efforts to the current environment to ensure we can continue to protect and support our nation in the future. We believe Army National Hiring Days will help us find the right people who are ready to 'Join Us,'" said, Maj. Gen. Frank Muth, commanding general for U.S. Army Recruiting Command.
He encouraged anyone who wants more information to find a local recruiter or visit goarmy.com.