From the comforts of her home in Texas, she watched the news of Afghani families leaving their birth country, desperately looking for opportunities to leave and live, she was driven to do something.
So, when the call arrived, looking for volunteers in the form of a deployment, she took it.
Karen Butler, management and program analyst, Civilian Personnel Officer, Area Support Group – Kuwait, applied for a position to aid Afghani families traveling to the United States, and in a matter of days, was on her way to the country of Qatar. But first she had to pass via Camp Atterbury, Indiana, for processing.
And on the seventh day, fate intervened.
The mission changed and her destination was modified. Her new offers were to return home or take another position with ASG-KU in the Civilian Personnel Office.
Without hesitation, she chose the latter.
She arrived as part of the Army Expeditionary Civilian Workforce. A program that gives civilians an opportunity to work their skills abroad and the opportunity to get cross training, according to Butler.
She joined the Civilian Personnel Office whose mission is, in part, to “recruit and sustain the best possible workforce through effective and efficient available Human Resource products and services,” according to the ASG-KU CPO mission statement. However, she had no experience in this area.
Out of her element, she embarked on an experience where she learned as she worked. But her coworkers and customers wouldn’t know it, as she performs like a seasoned professional.
“I was stunned, she came onboard in October 2021 and the supervisor at the time was gone for most of November and December. And she took the bulk of the tasks,” said Dianna D. Cole, civilian personnel officer, CPO, ASG-KU. She handled all aspects of CPO to include processing orders, benefits, timekeeping, leave, recruiting, awards, and advising the Commander. “It’s pretty impressive, you would never have suspected for a minute that she didn’t spend a lifetime honing this craft,” said Cole.
She began her dedication to the Department of Defense when she enlisted in the Air Force and would serve as a mental health specialist. Then, following her enlistment, she worked with the Department of the Army, Defense Logistics Agency, and Department of Homeland Security, gaining experience in logistics and manpower.
When asked about her motivation, Butler purposely said, “I want to do everything to keep you, I want your transition to be smooth because that is your first impression of ASG-Kuwait. I want to ensure that all entitlements, allowances, and incentives are processed in a timely and expeditious manner.”
Although her focus is to support the civilian workforce, Soldiers also benefit from working alongside Butler. They first noticed her work ethic shine when the previous supervisor left and then again, May through July, when her other coworker was gone for a few months. “She was holding it down, solo,” said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Mikul J. Singleton, noncommissioned officer in charge, S-1, ASG-KU.
With the S-1 and CPO offices collocated, their work environment is at times comingled, and the Soldiers appreciate the good energy. “She puts in long hours and still is always outgoing and in a good mood,” said Singleton. Adding, she also has enough energy to run probably every 5K race here. In her time here, she has missed only a couple of races and is currently preparing for a half-marathon.
Her time with ASG-KU has been fulfilling but as with any field, things do not always go smoothly. Working in the CPO can be rewarding but it can also be challenging, especially when dealing with pay and leave issues, people can become passionate. However, Butler has a personal arsenal to combat any situation. “Karen handles things with finesse and grace. She is not perfect but handles things perfectly,” said Cole.
Although her time in the Middle East is coming to an end, she has done it before. In 2006 she served in Camp Fallujah, Iraq, and that tour helped to solidify her ethos of continued service alongside servicemembers. “I enjoy the deployment part of my career,” said Butler.
Her optimistic personality intertwined with an ability to refocus as situations dictate, make her an ideal team member.
“She arrived here knowing it wasn’t her normal job and she embraced every aspect of civilian personnel support and dedicated herself with an ambition of learning. She may have learned a lot and has a whole different resume now, but we are the ones who have benefited 100 percent,” added Cole.