CAMP HUMPHREYS, Republic of Korea — “I know this sounds silly, but the other day, my husband and I actually drove past the headquarters and he asked me ‘How do you feel when you drive by,’” said U.S. Army Col. W. Maria Bochat, the Chief of Staff of the 2nd Infantry Division/ROK-U.S. Combined Division. “I said, ‘I’m proud.’”
Bochat started her new job with the unit on the Army’s birthday. She is the first woman to serve as the chief of staff in the division’s 104-year history, and she is fully aware of the weight of her position.
“I’m very honored, I don't take this lightly and this is not lost on me,” said Bochat.
Bochat shared that she initially felt that receiving special attention for her position was not necessary.
“I don't really feel good about a spotlight being focused on me for being the first of anything,” said Bochat. “But when I reframed it and I realized that other women, seeing me in this position kind of shows them there's other options available, then that reframe kind of helped me feel a little bit more comfortable.”
Bochat also shared that even though she is now in a position to motivate other female Soldiers, she is equally as inspired by them.
“Yes, I'm the first female chief of staff for the 2nd Infantry Division, and I won't be the last, I'm sure,” said Bochat. “But there's some reverse role modeling going on too. As I walk around in the Army now and I see young females with ranger tabs, or tankers and infantry women, you know, I can't help myself, I walk up to them and pick my head up and tap them and say ‘Good work.’”
Bochat served as the brigade commander for the 48th Chemical Brigade at Fort Hood, Texas before coming to Camp Humphreys. Despite all of her experience, Bochat never saw herself being where she is today.
“I'm prior enlisted and I came in as an E-1, and not in a million years would I have thought that I would be where I am today,” said Bochat. “So no, I did not think that I would be a colonel in the Army with over 20 years when I first joined, absolutely not, but it's been a really good ride.”
U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Steven Gilland, the previous Commanding General of 2ID, offered her the job. Bochat said she was shocked and equally excited.
“My initial reaction was I just wanted to blurt out, ‘Yes!’” said Bochat. “I had to kind of pull back a little bit.”
Bochat was thrilled not only to start in her new role, but to be stationed in the Republic of Korea as well.
“We were super excited,” said Bochat. “This is not my first time in Korea. I've spent a lot of my adult life here, and I even met my husband here on my second assignment in the Army. So I've got really good memories here.”
After having a few months to settle into the job, Bochat shared that she has nothing but pride in her new unit.
“I'm excited every single day I come into work,” said Bochat. “I am in an organization where my input matters, and I continue to see that every day.”
The aspect of unit that Bochat especially admires is the variety of people in the division and the culture that diversity creates.
“This division is very diverse, which means lots of different branches, people from different cultures and different stages in their life,” said Bochat. “I’m very proud of the team, and it’s a very exciting environment to be in no matter who you are.”