That’s the one word Gretchen Abbott used to describe the time she served her country in uniform.
Though she’s only been with the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command for seven years, Abbott has worked for the Department of Defense for 17 years.
Now the lead for AMCOM G-2 Aviation Threat Team, her service began in the Air Force. She’s married to another Air Force veteran, her father is a retired Air Force mechanic and her brother served in the Navy.
Now, she’s supporting the Army.
Like many, part of the draw for Abbott was the educational benefits. In addition to her desire to develop a trade and pay for college, she said she had “a call to serve my country.”
“I planned on only doing four years but I served for 10,” said Abbott, who was an operational intelligence/all-source analyst while she served in uniform.
Originally from Somerset, Kentucky, Abbott’s time in the military took her to South Dakota, Virginia and Germany, with deployments to Qatar and Iraq.
“My joint deployment to Iraq was definitely a highlight,” Abbott recalled. “It was a high-stress, high-[operational] tempo position that allowed me to grow professionally.”
Training Iraqis and developing processes and structure for their government made an impression on her.
“I was able to train Iraqi military members on basic intelligence analysis procedures and help them implement those skills in their everyday routines,” she said.
An assignment with U.S. Africa Command also was a high point in her career.
“I worked with some of the smartest, most accomplished intelligence professionals I’ve ever been around,” she said.” They constantly challenged me and pushed me to be a better analyst.”
As much as she enjoyed her time in the Air Force, Abbott said she made a decision to leave once she became a mother. That decision led her to AMCOM.
“I was interested in staying in the intelligence career field, but we also wanted to be somewhere we could raise our children and continue progressing professionally,” the veteran said. “Huntsville seemed like the perfect fit. Luckily, my leadership took a chance on me and allowed me to develop as an Army acquisition intelligence analyst.”
Though she works for a different service and different field, Abbott still impacts the warfighter by assisting weapon developers to ensure the durability of weapons fielded to military personnel. “We have a direct hand in keeping our service members down range as safe as possible.”
Fortunately, Abbott had great help along the way from mentors and leaders as she gained her footing in this new field.
“I am well aware that I have made it to where I am professionally because of folks that were willing to help me along the way,” Abbott said, adding that paying it forward is important for just that reason. “I’ve been working for the Department of Defense since I was 19 years old and I’ve had mentors, colleagues and leaders willing to provide insight and guidance when I need it. I try to repay that now and develop junior analysts throughout their careers and give them the same leadership and mentorship that I’ve been shown throughout the past 17 years of my career.”
Though she knows it’s a cliché, Abbott said what she misses most about serving in the military is the people. “We had so much support from our peers and superiors. They always made sure our family was a priority and taken care of.”
She said being on Redstone Arsenal among so many veterans certainly eased the transition from active duty.
“While I don’t think you can ever replicate the camaraderie and family structure that occurs in the military, I believe we found the next best thing,” she said. “Government civilians – especially veterans – tend to still look out for each other and make sure everybody has support and nobody feels neglected.