A trip to the mall changed the trajectory of Renae Hoyle’s life.
“It was actually very spontaneous,” said Hoyle, who is now an administrative assistant to the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command’s chief counsel. “I was at the mall with three of my friends and we walked by the recruiters’ office and decided, ‘What the heck?’”
After talking to the recruiters, the friends went home. “[We] watched ‘Private Benjamin’ and we were all in,” she said.
Or so she thought.
“Well, out of the four of us, I was the only one that actually went through with it,” she said.
The Kingsley, Iowa, native followed her father’s footsteps and joined the Army as a motor transport operator.
“My father had served in the Korean War as a motor transport operator, so when I joined, that is exactly what I wanted to do,” she said. “You could say that he inspired me to choose my [military occupational specialty].”
Had she not made that fateful mall trip that day with her buddies, Hoyle may have never joined the Army at all.
“My grandpa laughed and said that I would never make it past boot camp,” she recalled. “I smiled and told him to watch me!”
For the next 12 years, seven months and 17 days, she gave the Army her all and gave everyone something to see.
Hoyle went to Mannheim, Germany, upon graduation from basic and advanced individual training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. She spent another three years in Missouri when she returned from overseas. The rest of her time was spent at Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield, Georgia, and Fort Campbell, Kentucky, along with two deployments to Iraq.
Her most-rewarding experience happened upon returning from one of those tours.
“Coming home from the 2003 military deployment and marching into the gym where our ceremony was being held, two things that were emotional during this ceremony was the huge flag that was center stage and, of course, seeing the face of my 6-year-old son in the crowd,” she said.
Besting approximately 200 Soldiers to earn the top physical fitness award in the Primary Leadership Development Course was also a definite high point over those 12 years.
“Every time I completed the four-hour mandatory 12-mile road march with a 35-pound ruck on my back was a highlight, [along with] completing two back-to-back rotations at the [Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, Louisiana],” she said.
When Hoyle joined the Army, she didn’t give a lot of thought to exactly how long she would serve. But back-to-back deployments pretty much made that decision for her.
“My husband was also in the military,” she said. “When we deployed, it always the same time and [to] different locations, which made it difficult for us and, especially, our son. It was the easiest and, yet, hardest choice I have ever had to make – easiest, because it was the only choice I could make and hardest because I loved being in the Army, loved being a Soldier and I did not want to get out of the Army.”
The transition only meant Hoyle took off the uniform; she didn’t stop supporting the Army.
Hoyle’s path to government civilian service started far from where she eventually landed. She started as a motor pool dispatcher in Fort Richardson, Alaska.
“My husband was active duty, so when he was reassigned to Redstone Arsenal, [Alabama], I was placed on the priority placement program and was placed in a temporary position as a secretary,” she said.
Not long after taking that secretarial job, Hoyle accepted an offer to work in Bagdad, Iraq, as a civilian contractor.
“I remained overseas until the majority of [forward operating bases]/camps/bases closed,” she said. “After coming back home, I was reinstated back to government service.”
She worked at Fox Army Health Center on Redstone Arsenal until moving to the AMCOM legal section in 2015.
Though Hoyle said she finds her current position rewarding in such a fast-paced office, she still misses her time in uniform.
“I miss most the comradeship that you share with people within your unit, or even with other units,” she said. “Celebrating birthdays and holidays with your Army family – even going on vacation – was common. I miss the loyalty, competitiveness and the support that I had every single day from fellow Soldiers.”