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Why I Serve: Full-Circle Duty

By Spc. Leah R. Burton
Special to American Forces Press Service

BALAD, Iraq, Oct. 8, 2004 – "I feel I've come full circle. I've gotten to finish what I started," said Indiana Army National Guardsman Spc. Teresa L. Morris, said of her service that started nearly 31 years ago.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Spc. Teresa L. Morris, of the Indiana National Guard, first came into the active Army in November 1973. After a break in service, she joined the Guard in 1992 and is currently deployed in Iraq. Photo by Spc. Leah R. Burton

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

She has firsthand knowledge of the growth the Army has undergone in the past 30 years, as she answered the call of duty and enlisted in the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps on Nov. 30, 1973. Back then, women were not allowed in the U.S. Army. WAC and the Army were two separate entities, and the woman's role was purely in a support capacity.

Morris attended six weeks of basic training at Fort McClellan, Ala., then the Army's women's training base. Then, she went through eight weeks of advanced individual training at Fort Jackson, S.C., to be a clerk-typist.

"Back then the women trained separate from the men. The only men you might see on post were maybe a cook or a [military police officer], because even your command was all female," Morris said. "We had our own esprit d'corps." Morris' AIT class was one of the first classes to train on the new electric typewriter.

"We didn't even have computers. We had just switched over from manual typewriters to electric typewriters, and we were very excited," Morris said.

During her first assignment at Headquarters Brigade Combat Team Committee Group, Fort Dix, N.J., the Army absorbed the WAC and for the first time men and women trained at the same installations.

"The transition was smooth, except that now we worked with men," Morris said.

In December 1977, the Army opened 14 new career management fields to women. Women could now be crewmembers for long-range missile and rocket sites, smoke and flame specialists, field artillery surveyors and others. In addition, women could be assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division, a previously all-male unit.

In 1974, Morris got married. She was on orders to move to Germany when she found out she was expecting their first child. When Morris gave birth to her first son in 1975, she got out of the Army.

She spent her time earning her associate's degree and raising her children.

In 1992, Morris joined the Indiana National Guard. Because of her previous service, she didn't have to attend basic or advanced training again.

"I was 36 when I came back in. I felt like since it was for the state, it was pretty safe. My kids were still in school, and it was a way to get my [bachelor's degree in religious studies]," Morris said.

Since enlisting in the National Guard, Morris has been assigned to Company A, 38th Infantry Division, Headquarters State Area Command-Indiana and Headquarters, 138th Personnel Services Battalion, where she was for only 30 days prior to deployment.

She calls her deployment in Iraq "exciting."

"It was a once in a lifetime experience," Morris said about deploying here. "I felt compelled."

In her spare time, Morris enjoys going to Bible study and her gospel women's group and working out at the gym.

(Army Pfc. Burton is a member of the 28th Public Affairs Detachment from Fort Lewis, Wash. She is currently deployed to Iraq in support of the 13th Corps Support Command at Logistics Support Area Anaconda.)

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