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DoD Civilians Deploy to Support Warfighters

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 2, 2001 – Visit the DoD "Public Service Recognition Week" web site at www.defenselink.mil/specials/publicservice/.

Turn on CNN when U.S. troops deploy to some hotspot and you'll see soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines getting off aircraft or coming across the beach.

Lost in that mass of BDU-clothed individuals are the DoD civilians who deploy along with service members.

Thousands of DoD civilians provide on-the-spot support to service members deployed to trouble spots around the world. They wear BDUs just as the service members they support, but they do not carry weapons or there's no service name stitched above their left pockets.

Most of the civilians who deploy are experts in logistics, maintenance, communications or information technologies. Others are specialists in the areas where U.S. troops are deploying or are experts in law enforcement.

Sue Ward Moynihan is one of those civilians. Based at Rock Island National Inventory Control Point in Illinois, she deployed to Kosovo to support the U.S. peacekeeping effort there. The supply management specialist works with the Army's Tank Automotive and Armament Command. She, however, is assigned to the Army Materiel Command in Alexandria, Va.

"My job was to help ensure the readiness of the task force," Moynihan said. "I made sure that supply requests got personal attention. I really enjoyed working with soldiers.

"I went to Kosovo in December 1999," she said. "We did all the things service members did to ready for a deployment."

That meant traveling to Fort Benning, Ga., for preparation for overseas movement training. There she learned about mines and minefields, how to react to sniper fire and enemy artillery, and what she could or could not say to the media. Soldiers and civilians went through weapons familiarization and received overseas driving licenses. "Then we got on a plane at Atlanta and flew to Frankfurt, Germany," she said.

Some of the people deployed to Bosnia, others to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and others to Kosovo. She arrived at Camp Able Sentry in Macedonia and had to hook a ride to Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo.

"It was so snowy, there was no way to get there by land," she said. "I arrived with a country-western band going to the camp to entertain the troops."

Moynihan, a former Army officer, said she was used to austere conditions. "It wasn't as bad as the first people who set up the camp in a wheat field," she said. "We had water on in C-huts -- it wasn't potable, but it allowed us to take showers and use flush toilets. You don't want to use port-o-johns when it's cold. You stick."

And very cold it was, Moynihan noted. "My computer was set up in the back of a truck," she said. "You had to start the truck periodically to warm it up. Even then, frost formed on the floor, so I finally got a rug to take care of that."

About the only excitement came one night when a trio of accused war criminals escaped from detention and the base went on alert, she said. "But I never felt unsafe while I was there," she said.

The hours were long and every day was just like the one before. "We called it 'Groundhog Day' after that movie where Bill Murray repeats the same day over and over," she said.

In their "spare time," Moynihan and the soldiers at Bondsteel helped local children.

"We were always busy and everyone was really motivated," she said. "It's a real mission and everyone realized their part was vital. We all wanted to ensure the equipment was in the highest state of readiness possible."

Moynihan, who left in May 2000, said her friend Mabel Hilton is in Kosovo now. "I can't wait to see her to hear how things have changed," she said.

Moynihan may be called on to deploy again. "It's part of the job," she said. "And while there may be hardships, it's rewarding to help."

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