WASHINGTON (Jan. 25, 2010) -- As the eldest of six children, Capt. Kate Gowel always felt a desire to lead. She first led the way into the military -- a path all five of her siblings soon followed -- and later led the way in her career as a military lawyer.
"I honestly think we have a sense of duty and we feel at home serving in the military," said Gowel, referring to her family. Four of her siblings joined the Army, and one of her sisters went the Air Force route.
In high school, Gowel said, she decided to go to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., "on a whim."
"I felt like I would be losing out if I didn't try," she said. "I enjoyed West Point quite a lot and met many great friends there, including my husband."
Her father, retired Army Maj. Gen. Bruce Scott, said that decision proved inspirational to her siblings.
"Kate had been accepted with scholarships to many good schools, but at the last minute, she decided to accept her West Point appointment," her father said. "When her younger siblings saw that she could do it, I am positive it motivated them as well."
Three of her siblings followed her into the U.S. Military Academy, carrying on a family legacy of sorts. Her father and grandfathers went to the academy as well, and her father can trace active-duty military service in his family back about 130 years.
Gowel moved on to participate in the Army's Funded Legal Education Program, which enables officers to go to law school. The Army picks up the tab in exchange for a service commitment.
Her latest challenge led her on a deployment to Iraq, where she served as the trial counsel for the 1st Cavalry Division's 2nd Brigade.
"I also had lots of extra jobs, such as providing legal assistance to Soldiers in the brigade, paying claims to Iraqi citizens and interacting with judges and lawyers in the Iraqi criminal justice system," she said. "It has been very interesting, and very challenging."
And each day brought a different challenge, Gowel said.
"I like being able to help Soldiers with family and personal problems while at the same time being able to help commanders deal with ... legal problems and Soldier problems," she said. "It is all very interesting and keeps me on my toes. I enjoy having a real purpose in my profession. I also enjoy the sense of pride and camaraderie and working with all types of talented, smart, interesting people."
She redeployed to Fort Hood, Texas, just in time for the holidays. Her husband, Capt. John Gowel, also a military lawyer, took care of their two boys, while she was away.
"He did a great job taking care of them and everything else while I was gone," she said. "Spoken from experience, being the spouse left at home is far, far harder and more stressful than being the spouse deployed."
Gowel describes her home life as a balancing act of sorts as she strives to juggle the demands of being a military officer and a mother of two.
"The most challenging aspect of my job really is being able to do it well while still being a good wife and a good mother to my children," she said. "Balancing a demanding job, at which I cannot fail, and a family is very, very challenging."
Challenges aside, Gowel said, she's grateful she was able to excel in the "family business."
"We really had a great time growing up," she said. "My mom always seemed happy and loved the lifestyle of moving around and meeting new people, and our dad very much liked being in the Army, being a leader and working with Soldiers.
"The Army -- and Air Force -- is basically our family business; we take it pretty seriously and take pride in it," she said.