Angela Gray

In April 2007, I received a phone call telling me I was being command directed to deploy. It was my turn to serve my country. Kansas had been sending units overseas since early in the war and I had felt some guilt at not having deployed.Angela Gray

I would deploy with the 287th Sustainment Brigade in Wichita, Kansas, and serve as the Ammunitions Officer during deployment. I would later be made the officer in charge of the Brigade Commanders Personnel Security Detachment.

Telling my family I would be leaving for a year was hard. My parents, especially my mother, were worried. My older brother, although he never said anything, worried as well. My boys were 2 and 6 years old when I deployed and did not really comprehend mom was going away for a year and may not come back due to the dangers overseas.

During deployment, one of the big rewards was having access to the internet in my Containerized Housing Unit (CHUs). This allowed me to connect with the boys and my family and friends regularly. I was able to keep track of my kid’s activities and by using online registration was able to enroll them in activities 6,000 miles from home.

Being away from my two boys was the hardest part of my deployment. I missed our daily contact, taking them to activities, putting them to bed, bath time, watching them grow and learn new things. But most of all the hugs, kisses and "I love you mom" were what I missed most.

I used Skype and talked to my kids weekly or the day before and after I returned from missions. I did not Skype every day like some of the Soldiers in my unit, it was just too much stress/anxiety for me to deal with not being there and if they were sick, I felt horrible even though I knew what I was doing overseas was important.

Therefore, I would detach from being Mom to my boys and become CPT Gray, leader of the Brigade Commander’s PSD. Even though some of my soldiers were old enough to be my dad, it was ingrained in me to take care of them. I made sure they had plenty of down time to do laundry, go to the gym, days off prior to and after training and days on the road. Some sections did not get this luxury of time off it was work, work, or only 4 hours off at a time. Every day I would go through all the left over care packages in the Headquarters area so my soldiers would not have to go to the PX. I would bring back snacks, gum, candy, toothpaste, toothbrushes, sunflower seeds and hair products.

My deployment with the 287th Sustainment Brigade was the opportunity of a lifetime. I had the best job. I had a job nobody really wanted at first but once they saw what I did and that we were not in the most dangerous area of Iraq, I was envied. My team of 22 and I and up to 5 VIPs faced the possibility of death each time we left the Forward Operating Base (FOB).

I left the wire to go on missions to visit unit soldiers at other forward operating bases in the southern half of Iraq.

My PSD team did security for 9 school visits with civil military affairs and attended 7 Key Leader Engagements with the Brigade Commander to meet and greet local Sheiks in our area of operations. I have 50 missions outside the wire and 11,000 accident free miles. My team of soldiers varied in age from early 20s to early 50s. Each did their job to the best of their abilities and when I asked them to work late, train in 140 degree weather, spend long hours on some of the nastiest roads in the world or sleep in less than desirable areas or go days without a shower, they never complained but seem to enjoy it.

As a female, my job was scary and highly stressful each time we left the comforts of the wire but I had a job to do and it did not matter what your gender was, you were a soldier first. Many of my senior male counter parts worried each time my team and I left the FOB and were always glad to see us walking back to our CHUs after each mission.

My deployment gave me an education a textbook or college, cannot give you. I was able to see the Iraqi population up close, the 287th Civil Military Affair folks invited soldiers to read to the Iraqi children as they delivered school supplies. The Iraqi schools varied in structure as some locations had a lot of money and others not, I saw mud hut schools with thatched roofs with beat up desks and beat up black boards to very nice brick schools with nice desks and black boards.

I did security at Key Leaders Engagements with local Sheiks, I was able to eat authentic Iraqi food mostly lamb, rice, lamb kabobs, fruit, flat bread, and I drank a lot of Chia tea.

I was fortunate to be able visit a bakery and an old Iraqi training area while at AL Numaniyah, which housed the Regional Maintenance Center (RMC).

The RMC was always a fun visit as it was a short 4 hours, with a stop in Scania, the Interpreter always had fresh flat bread for us.

My time outside the wire was spent in the Southern half of Iraq; I went through nine Iraqi provinces. I saw more desert, sand, sand storms, donkeys, camels, oil fields, port of johns, sharing of bathrooms and dangerous areas to last me a lifetime. I have trained and worked in 140-degree heat in full battle rattle and the sweat just evaporate right off you.

Nonetheless, I have truly enjoyed serving my country, stateside and overseas. I have many friends on this side of the pond and overseas. I have met people I hope to see again and others I hope we never cross paths again. I have enjoyed the training, travel and the educational opportunities. I know one day this will all end and I will have to hang up this uniform but I can say I gave it my all and I will miss it and I will miss the soldiers the most. However, you will find me at the VFW Post 1650 sharing my war stories with other veterans.


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