Family Matters Blog: Blogger Expresses Desire to Serve
By Elaine Wilson
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 22, 2010 Last summer I traveled to Iraq with Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, over the Fourth of July weekend. It was my first opportunity to go downrange.
Barbara Eberly, a government civilian deployed to Iraq, poses with her daughter, Navy Lt. Cmdr. Heather Kline, who retires soon after 22 years of service. Eberly volunteered to serve a yearlong deployment through the Civilian Expeditionary Workforce, and is stationed on Camp Victory, Iraq. Courtesy photo
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
It was viciously hot and dusty but I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. There was such a sense of purpose there -- of mission -- that was very appealing to me, particularly as an Air Force veteran who misses her military service.
I visited the picturesque Al-Faw Palace and the embassy in Iraq, but the highlight for me was simply meeting the troops serving there.
I had always wanted to deploy but that experience cinched it for me.
And, as I recently found out, it's highly possible I can, even as a 41-year-old Defense Department civilian.
The Civilian Expeditionary Workforce gives government civilians the opportunity to deploy for up to a year to places such as Afghanistan or Iraq. The program is open to a number of career fields – including mine, public affairs – and the purpose is to support troops serving overseas and stateside.
I recently spoke to a 58-year-old woman currently serving in Iraq through the program. Like me, Barbara Eberly had always wanted to deploy. She learned about civilian deployment opportunities through a co-worker at the Defense Logistics Agency Distribution center in New Cumberland, Pa., and was hooked.
"Of course I did have reservations about, 'Will I really be able to do this?'" she told me via e-mail from Iraq. "But I’ve always learned that it’s not age or gender that stops a person from finishing a tough challenge. It’s a lack of will."
Eberly attended a two-week predeployment training for civilians on Camp Atterbury National Deployment Center, Ind., then flew to Iraq several months ago. She now supports the 199th Garrison Command public works department on Camp Victory.
"U.S. citizens should count their blessings every day for their freedom," she said, referring to her experience. "As the saying goes, 'You're not in Kansas anymore.'"
I spoke with Eberly's daughter, curious about how her family was handling the deployment. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Heather Kline, due to retire soon after 20 years of service, told me the family initially had reservations about the decision, but now feels a great sense of pride.
"I'm extremely proud of her," she said. "If anything happened to her I'd be crushed, but proud of her sacrifice. She's willing to put herself where others wouldn't. I love that about her."
Speaking with Eberly sold me even more on the idea of deployment. Eberly chose to serve her nation when she could easily have looked toward retirement instead.
That's a sacrifice I'd like to make as well.
I plan to look further into this in the coming months. I may opt to wait a few years until my youngest is in school -- a luxury servicemembers certainly don't have – but am determined to check a deployment off my bucket list before I retire.
I'll keep you posted!
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