Kentucky MP not your average mom

Story by David Altom, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs

ScheleeRiddell03

Schelee Riddell and her daughter, Lilee. (Photo courtesy Schelee Riddle)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Schelee Riddell is not your typical mom. A seasoned veteran of three deployments in an eight year span, this single mother of one has learned to blend her military duties with her professional and personal life; the result so far has made for an interesting life, to say the very least.

“It’s certainly been a life changing experience,” said Riddell. “But I wouldn’t have traded it for anything in the world.”

While she may be unique in comparison to your average mom, Staff Sgt. Riddell is just one of thousands of women in uniform who have children. It’s estimated that there are around 340 moms in the Kentucky Army National Guard alone.

“Being a military mom is the best of both worlds,” said Riddell. “Having a family and serving a greater purpose, what more could you ask for?”

One thing is for certain — being a mom has not held her back. Only recently Riddell was recognized by the Major Samuel Woodfill Chapter of the Association of the United States Army as an outstanding non-commissioned officer. In addition to the accolades by her fellow soldiers, she will be part of a team representing Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana at the AUSA national meeting this fall in Washington, DC.

“That’s pretty exciting,” she said. “It’s an honor and a privilege to represent my fellow soldiers.”

ScheleeRiddell02

Then Sgt. Schelee Riddell on foot patrol in Iraq with the 223rd Military Police Co. in 2008. (Photo courtesy Schelee Riddle)

A member of the Kentucky National Guard for nearly 14 years, Riddell has been deployed three times with the 223rd Military Police Company, once to Bosnia, twice to Iraq. Her mission to Bosnia was an eye opener as she was right out of basic and military police school. Then came the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and a second assignment there in 2008.

“I turned 21 when we were shipping to Iraq. Except Bosnia, I’d never been that far away from home. There was a lot of anxiety and excitement that came during the push into Iraq.  I’m surprise that it wasn’t more  overwhelming. My training helped prepare me, of course, and my earlier deployment to Bosnia made it easier, if you can call it that.”

Easy is a relative term.  Riddell’s platoon ran patrols along the main supply routes and worked security check points. Complicating matters was the issue of suicide bombings. Riddell said her experience in Bosnia gave her the confidence to do what needed to be done.

Schelee Riddle01

Then Sgt. Schelee Riddell with the 223rd Military Police Co. during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2008. Female MPs played a crucial role in both saving lives of the troops and in building trust with local citizens. (Photo courtesy Schelee Riddle)

“Being able to interact with people from other cultures is important for soldiers, especially MPs,” she said. “Though it wasn’t a daily occurrence, troops everywhere were being seriously injured or killed due to suicide bombings, but people had to be searched. Being a female MP gave my unit an advantage that not all others had when it came to being a part of the cultural sensitivity of how the local females were to be treated.

“I believe that being able to not only meet our mission requirements by successfully search and secure areas in northern Iraq but also building bridges through respectfully dealing with the local cultures made for an ideal impact. We had to be certain one hundred percent of the time or risk someone getting blown up.”

Now that she’s home Riddell is a full timer with the Kentucky Army Guard’s recruiting command; she’s also a squad leader with the 940th MP Co. Her enthusiasm for both jobs is matched by the seriousness with which she approaches them.

“If you don’t make sure your soldiers are mentally, physically and spiritually prepared for what’s out there — whether they’re at home or deployed — you as a leader will fail,” she said. “Yes, my Soldiers may say that I am tough on them and at times they can’t see the point in the drills or the task preparations that I have them do, but without fail they are stronger and tougher than anyone of their peers because of it.”

Riddell’s love for the Kentucky Guard is pretty strong, enough so that she didn’t let something like geography keep her from being part of her unit.

“When I moved to Colorado to help my dad start up his own business for a year, I still flew or drove the 1,000 miles home for drill every month,” she said.

As if being the military and motherhood isn’t enough to keep her busy, she’s managed to find time to start her own small business.

“I recently partnered with my aunt making handmade quilts. We started out making baby quilts and now we do them for all ages. It’s a great stress reliever and a nice little money maker, too.”

Riddell says she’s lucky in that her family is supportive of her career.

“I couldn’t ask for a better support system,” she said. “whether it was my first deployment or my third, my family has been such a huge part of it all. I’ve been truly blessed with parents and so many family members that stand firmly behind me on my decision to serve my country.”

ScheleeRiddell04

Every soldier needs a support system: Lilee Riddell with a message for her mother. (Photo courtesy Schelee Riddle)

Her number one priority, of course, is her daughter, Lilee.

“She is the absolute light of my life,” she said with a grin. “Words can simply not describe the joy that she brings me. We’ve heard the term stop and smell the roses — she makes me stop and dance.  In the most random places she will hear a song and she wants her momma to stop and dance with her!

“She makes me a better person, she teaches me patience and unconditional love. I want to show her daily that anything is possible and that she is not limited in this world!”

Riddell is in the Guard for the long haul. One day she hopes to make sergeant major. Given her philosophy and determination, it’s a good chance she’ll make it.

“I continue to set goals and I achieve them,” she said. “I refuse to let anyone decide for me what I can and can’t achieve. Daily I prove to myself that anything is possible as long as you have the drive and determination to get what needs to be done, done…regardless of whether or not it is part of my job description. My peers trust me to uphold the standards and my leadership and my troops look at me with confidence, knowing that I will always lead by example.”

Spoken like a true soldier … and a great mom.

About kentuckyguard