Face of Defense: Former NCO, Now Captain, Helps Troops
By Army Pfc. Alyxandra McChesney
U.S. Division North
CONTINGENCY OPERATING SITE WARRIOR, Iraq, Mar. 23, 2011 Capt. Kim Walter knew she wasn’t going to get rich when she became the first woman in her family to join the Army.
Army Capt. Kim Walter works on her daily reports at Contingency Operating Site Warrior in Kirkuk, Iraq, March 7, 2011. U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Alyxandra McChesney
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
“I didn’t join for the money, and I didn’t join for school,” said the operations officer serving here with the 1st Infantry Division’s 101st Brigade Support Battalion, 1st Advise and Assist Task Force. “I joined to serve for my country.”
The journey began for Walter, who calls Crowley, La., home, when she enlisted as a private in 1990. A year later, at age 18, she deployed for the Persian Gulf War as a combat medic and the only woman in her company.
“It was my first time away from home,” she said. “I had no idea what to expect. I was exposed to things I had never seen before.
“When we moved from Kuwait to Iraq in tanks,” she continued, “the moment we engaged the enemy we had to jump out of the vehicle, dig fox holes and get into our fighting positions, until the enemy fire was suppressed.”
As night fell, the troops lined up vehicles in columns and dug fox holes deep enough to provide cover from enemy fire, she explained.
Walter said her leaders and peers didn’t treat her differently because she was a woman. “I was never asked to do less than the male soldiers fighting next to me,” she said. “I was expected to do the same as everyone else, and that’s what I did.”
In 2004, Walter deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom as a platoon leader and flight medic with the 101st Airborne Division’s 50th Medical Company, based out of Fort Campbell, Ky.
“I still remember every patient I worked on, every detail of their injuries and every face,” she said. “Those are some of the things I will never forget.”
While deployed as a flight medic, her job was to respond to medical evacuations by helicopter.
“I joined as a combat medic to help people,” she said. “Until then, I didn’t realize the capacity in what I could do to save people’s lives.”
Walter was recognized for her achievements in a National Geographic book titled, “Count On Us: American Women in the Military” by Amy Nathan, published in 2004.
“I was fortunate enough to have leaders that didn’t single me out as a female,” she said. “They gave me the same opportunities as every other soldier under them. They pushed me to strive and work hard to be the best soldier I could be.”
During her 17 years of enlisted service, Walter took advantage of the opportunities the Army provided. She attended Baker College in Michigan and earned a bachelor’s degree in health services and administration.
In 2007, Walter decided to pursue a commission.
“I have seen the Army change … in so many different ways since I joined,” she said. “I have seen it go from ‘Be all that you can be’ to ‘Army of One,’ and now ‘Army Strong,’” she said.
“I do miss being [a noncommissioned officer] and working directly with my soldiers. An officer’s job does more of the preparation and planning of missions, and the NCO works directly with the soldiers to execute, and get the missions done.”
Walter uses her experience and knowledge to help her staff and soldiers grow in their military careers and to overcome obstacles.
“Because of her experience as an NCO, we can turn to her for any questions, advice or concerns we may have,” said Army Staff Sgt. Jonathan Grape, battle operations NCO in U.S. Division North. “She teaches me new things about the Army every day, and I use her as a learning tool to help me grow as an NCO.”
Walter said she is approaching 21 years of active military service and plans to continue her service until 2017.
“I am honored and proud to say that I serve and fight with the most diverse organization in the world, the U.S. military,” she said.