The last time she was in Iraq, Tara Dawe was Spec. Dawe in the New York Army National Guard's 442nd Military Police Company.

When she returns later this year, as the 442nd deploys for a second time, she'll be Captain Dawe, the company's commander.

It's just one more stop in a career that includes service in two state National Guards, the Air Force Reserve, a deployment to Bosnia and a full-time civilian career as a New York City beat cop and now detective.

"I have outstanding company commanders assigned in my battalion, but she is the best," said Maj. David Gagnon, commander of the 104th Military Police Battalion. "It's her dedication and experience - she just gets the job done," he said.

Coming back to her old unit as an officer, and now commanding it, has been challenging, Dawe said.

"I will admit it was a difficult transition," she explained. "For so long I followed the direction of my senior NCO's and now I am the one who they are looking at for direction."

"Once I got comfortable in my position then it became easy. I felt I knew many of the strengths of the Soldiers and it helped me plan and delegate better," she said.

"All I want from my Soldiers is their faith that I am a good leader and for them to know that I am putting everything I have into making this unit the best unit possible and that we will be ready to deploy," Dawe said.

"I do my best to know as much as possible about each Soldier, to know their civilian jobs, their goals, if they are in school and have children. All these things add to the stress of being deployed," she said.

The daughter of a retired New York City Police Officer, Dawe joined the Florida Guard at age 17 because she was "intrigued" by the Guard's domestic disaster role.

"Growing up we saw how the Guard was used in many ways especially for hurricanes," she said. "I just think seeking responsibility comes with citizenship."

After serving three years in the Florida Guard, she returned to New York to follow her dad into the NYPD and also joined New York Army National Guard as a military policeman

In 1999, Dawe volunteered to fill a vacancy in the 105th MP Company when it deployed to Bosnia on a peacekeeping mission. For seven months she was a humvee gunner doing presence patrols.

After returning home she enlisted in the Air Force Reserve to try new things, but then returned to the New York Army National Guard to enter Officer Candidate School, while assigned to the 442nd.

At the same time she went from being a beat cop in the 63rd Precinct to becoming a detective in the NYPD Warrant Squad, assigned to track down fugitives.

In February 2003 the 442nd MP Company was mobilized for service in Iraq and Dawe decided she wanted to deploy with the Soldiers who had become her friends and team mates instead of going to OCS.

So in April 2003 Specialist Tara Dawe was in Baghdad, where she would spend the next year.

The 442nd worked with the Marines, opened the first Iraqi police academy, trained four classes of police recruits at academies in Karbala and Najaf, and earned a Presidential Unit Citation before returning to the United States in April 2004.

Morale was "pretty high" despite poor living conditions and the frustrations of training raw Iraqi police recruits, Dawe recalled.

"One of the things we noticed from the start was the difference shown towards us as a National Guard unit versus active duty," said Dawe. "Before long the other units started coming to us because we had so many civilian police officers, construction workers, plumbers and numerous other skilled people that we tapped to get us through the rough moments."

Two weeks after outprocessing at Fort Dix, and starting back to work with the Warrant Squad, Dawe was attending OCS. By October 2005 she was the class Distinguished Honor Graduate and enrolled in her Officer Basic Course.

Her status as Honor Graduate allowed her to pick her assignment after finishing Officer Basic in February 2006 and she picked the 442nd MP Company. She served as platoon leader and XO before becoming commander in the summer of 2008.

Now, with the 442nd tapped to head to Iraq in the spring of 2010, Dawe is putting her experience to work preparing her company for combat for deployment.

About 45 percent of the Soldiers are fresh out of basic training, 25 percent have been deployed, 20 percent are college students, and a third are civilian cops, Dawe said. She's got faith in them and in her leadership team from the first sergeant on down.

"I have known some of these soldiers for more than 10 years and even the new ones have a lot of spirit," she said.

"I have taken phone calls from some of the new members who are still at school becoming MPs. They don't want to miss the deployment," she said.

"This is a great team and I know we are going to do a terrific job," Dawe said.