By Pfc. Jesus J. Aranda, Task Force Lightning Public AffairsJuly 28, 2009
The image of the Army's past glory is a storied and remarkable portrait of heroes from all walks of life. From Soldiers storming the beaches of the German-fortified Normandy, to the final stages of the Tet Offensive's hopeful plans to end the conflict in Vietnam, U.S. military history has clearly shown the results of what can happen when men stand tall and fight against the unjust.
Equally as important to the U.S. military's lineage, and today's modern conflicts, are dedicated women who serve in positions and working environments which were, long ago, typically open only to men.
Sgt. Dawn Cloukey, a signal support specialist serving with the Brigade Troop Battalion, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team "Arctic Wolves", 25th Infantry Division and the U.S. Army in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, at Forward Operating Base Warhorse.
An integral part of the operational activity for the brigade, Cloukey's main role with her unit is to keep the communication efforts, while out on ground movements, running efficiently for the vehicles in her unit.
"My job is to keep the communication lines open from the field to FOB Warhorse," Cloukey said.
Cloukey's duty to keep the Soldiers participating in her convoys safe and informed of pertinent information and possible threats is a duty which she found herself being prepared for during a previous deployment.
"Sergeant Cloukey is responsible for maintaining all the communications equipment which allows our Brigade leadership to exercise command and control anywhere in Diyala Province," said 1st Lt. Matthew Delvaux, Cloukey's platoon leader. "She anticipates mission needs and is always ready to repair parts or reload comsec, even mid-mission."
Spending no more than three weeks at Fort Wainwright, Alaska, before deploying with the 1st SBCT, 25th Inf. Div., Cloukey received a near-immediate session of job training through immersion during her first tour through Iraq.
Looking back, Cloukey realizes that the daily duties she would perform while in a combat environment are vastly different than when she was not deployed, and perhaps the best way to learn her job was to learn as she worked.
"Hands-on-training is the best kind of training," said Cloukey. "The work you can do in the rear does did not prepare me for what I do here. I just got in there and learned as I went."
Though Cloukey traveled often while setting up communication technology on various bases during her previous deployment, it wasn't until her current deployment with the "Arctic Wolves" that Cloukey began to leave the walls of her home-away-from-home in Iraq.
As part of a team which leaves the wire regularly to support local Iraqi leaders and Iraqi Security Forces, Cloukey has found herself a welcomed and important member of the nearly all-male team she works alongside.
"I just became one of the guys and part of the team," Cloukey said. "Sure, maybe they tease me a bit more, but there is a real cohesion in this platoon. It's one of the best platoons I have ever seen."
Traveling through the "Arctic Wolves" area of operation since the beginning of their current deployment, Cloukey has witnessed an Iraq which she did not know existed.
"I realized during my first deployment that you don't really know how much you have until it's taken away," Cloukey said. "It can really hit home."
Despite the seemingly irreversible economic harm the insurgency and decades of dictatorship have done to Iraq, Cloukey marvels over the progress the people of Iraq, alongside their government and Coalition Forces, have made since.
"I've definitely seen a different side of Iraq this deployment," Cloukey said, weighing the progress Iraq has made since her prior deployment. "Everybody working together has really made a difference in Iraq, it's a lot safer now."
Cloukey has noticed the steady growth which the country of Iraq has displayed, seems similar to her own growth as a person and as a Soldier.
"The Army gave me a lot of discipline. It made me grow as a person, and it gave me the responsibility to take care of not only myself but other people, too," Cloukey said. "The Army has totally changed my life."
Without a doubt, the gender lines which clearly divided the roles males and females shared, particularly in the U.S. military, have become far less defined, as many female Soldiers like Cloukey have taken on more than their fair share of tasks.
"She goes out on every mission, pulls security alongside our Infantry Soldiers, trains them in basic commo tasks, spends countless hours in the motor pool working on our equipment," said Delvaux.
Like many women serving in the U.S. military, Cloukey embraces the chance to actively serve in aiding the Iraqi peoples' continuous progress toward independence.
"I would rather go out of the wire than sit on the FOB any day," said Cloukey. "I love this job for being able to do that."
Keeping Soldiers safe and promoting the highest of Army values continues to be a duty which all Soldiers- regardless of gender, strive to accomplish. The diverse roles which female Soldiers, such as Cloukey, have made daily continue to add to the success and strength of the U.S. military at home and abroad.