By Laura M. LeveringApril 30, 2010
JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. - Staff Sergeant Katteri Franklin knew all along she wanted to be a police officer, but had no idea she would eventually want to make a career of it in the military. The McCleary, native was simply looking for a way to make a better life for herself, while helping others along the way.
"I didn't want kids to go through some of the things that I went through growing up, so I thought that by becoming a police officer, I would be able to help make a difference," said Franklin, NCO in charge of military police investigations, 51st Military Police Detachment, 504th Military Police Battalion.
Since enlisting, Franklin has deployed twice and seen more in her 10 years as an MP than many will in a lifetime.
"I can honestly say I've been there and seen that," she said.
One particular scene that stood out in her mind was an incident that occurred during her deployment to Iraq in 2007.
Franklin reluctantly described rendering aid to an Iraqi man who approached her after being shot in the head. While wrapping bandages around the Iraqi to keep his eye from dangling, Franklin discovered the bullet had left a gaping hole in the back of his head.
"I stuck my hands in his head and touched his brain," Franklin said.
Adding that it was her duty to help the Iraqi, she said, "That's what we do as American Soldiers. We help others."
It wasn't the only time she helped a complete stranger.
Franklin's actions during a mortar attack on that same deployment were vital to the survival of a Polish soldier. Franklin was taking cover when she heard someone yell for a medic. Franklin responded by running to the site of impact with a combat lifesaver's bag in hand.
Upon arrival, she found a Polish soldier with two sucking chest wounds.
"I pushed a (coalition) soldier out of the way, then myself and (another) guy, who I later found out was a medic, rendered aid to the Polish soldier," Franklin said.
While neither of the former events was formally recognized, she was awarded a Bronze Star Medal, for her actions in October 2007.
Franklin was providing security for coalition forces while they emplaced barriers for a temporary patrol base in southern Iraq when her team became engaged in a complex attack. The battle lasted nearly an hour, during which Franklin rendered aid to two wounded Soldiers, returned fire and pulled two key leaders to safety.
Franklin was one of four to receive Bronze Star Medals for their efforts, which, according to the citation, "contributed greatly to the survival of the wounded."
Yet, Franklin hardly considers herself a hero. Instead, she credits the training she received as a Soldier and years of experience.
"It's almost like going into autopilot," Franklin said. "To me, I'm just doing what I was trained to do."
Franklin admits that receiving awards and recognition are nice, but insists the true feeling of success comes from knowing she has had a positive effect on younger Soldiers.
"I love leading and training them," she said. You have to be able to be stern, but at the same time, you have to be able to flip that switch, and be the listener when they need it."
Sergeant Brian Dattage, a former Soldier of Franklin's, said that he still goes to Franklin for advice, though they are currently stationed apart.
"The MP Corps could use more (leaders) like her," Dattage said. "She knows her job, she takes the time to teach and let others learn from their mistakes, and she holds the Army Values very close to her."
Sergeant Catherine McRae respects how Franklin demands the best out of her Soldiers, and reciprocates that demand.
"Her expectations are high, but she has never left me without the tools or encouragement to accomplish anything she sets forth," said McRae, MPI.
Franklin said her past experiences with NCOs are what helped shape her as a leader.
"They've shown me what to be and what not to be," she said, adding that her mom has been her biggest influence.
"Without her, I don't know where I'd be."
Laura M. Levering is a reporter with Joint Base Lewis-McChord's weekly newspaper, the Northwest Guardian.