Chief Warrant Officer speaks at Women’s History Celebration

Staff Report

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jennifer Maggard was the featured speaker at the Lexington Veterans Affairs Medical Center Women’s History Celebration Mar. 26.

This is her speech…

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Chief Warrant Officer two Jennifer Maggard, from the Kentucky National Guard, was the guest speaker at a Women’s History Month Celebration honoring Women Veterans in Lexington Mar. 26. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Capt. Stephen Martin)

“Thank you for including me in today’s ceremony honoring women’s history month. It is truly an honor to be here today to remember the women who were true pioneers in a movement that has allowed women to serve in the capacity that I and so many others do today.Growing up, I was always taught to take pride in everything I was doing. Not because I was a girl and not to prove that I was better than anyone else but because of the values my parents believed in. They instilled in me the values that the Army stands on today: Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, and Personal Courage.

I was always active growing up in high school. I played soccer and because my high school didn’t have a girls team at the time, I played on the boys team… until my junior year when I helped to get a girls team started for our high school. I also ran track and believe it or not was a cheerleader. My competitive nature allowed me to go far in all the sports I participated in.

It was around my junior year of high school when I started thinking about how I was going to pay for college. I met with a recruiter one time and decided the National Guard was for me. I love to travel, have a sense for adventure and like the commercial says – in the Army National Guard: You Can. So I did!

I loved basic training. Being so involved in athletics helped to make basic training more manageable and easier for me to complete. I enjoyed working with my fellow basic trainees to accomplish missions, getting to shoot an M-16, but mostly I enjoyed having something bigger than myself to take pride in. I knew from the first day I would make a career out of being a Soldier.

Jennifer Maggard

(Then) Spc. Jennifer Maggard deployed on a Peacekeeping Mission to Bosnia with the 223rd Military Police in 2001. Here, Maggard is visiting with some local school children in downtown Bosnia-Herzegovina. (photo submitted)

Being fresh out of Basic Training, I was ready for anything and everything the Army had to offer. I applied and was hired as a full time technician just two months after graduating AIT (Advanced Individual Training). Shortly after, there were several deployments ramping up and I wanted to be a part of it. I volunteered to deploy on a peacekeeping mission with the 223rd Military Police Company to Bosnia.

I enjoyed my time overseas and grew both as a Soldier and a person. The accommodations were very nice considering where we were. We had real beds, bath houses, fast food, a movie theater, and a very large PX (aka wal-mart). We had computer access and could call home just about every day if we wanted.

…We returned home on September 10th, 2001; flying over New York City literally only 10 hours prior to the first plane striking the tower. Little did I know that one short year later, I would be off on my second deployment crossing the border into Iraq on the second day of the war.

The accommodations this go around were very different from Bosnia. We had cots to sleep on in tents, outhouses, MRE’s, and care packages from home were about the only way to get supplies such as shampoo or soap. Of course without running water, even having those supplies didn’t do much good. This was a much tougher deployment both physically and mentally. Our unit lost a Soldier when a vehicle rolled over into water canal and he drowned trying to save the other Soldiers in the vehicle.

Jennifer Maggard

Sgt. Jennifer Maggard deployed to Iraq with the 223rd Military Police Company providing convoy security. This photo was taken two days before the unit crossed the border from Kuwait into Iraq at the start of the war in March 2003. (photo submitted)

Being one of 28 females out of 186 Soldiers made for an interesting deployment, especially with the living conditions. We had to build our showers and outhouses. The sand storms just made life no fun at all. Personal hygiene became difficult at times and creativity was a must. Of course not having a option made it more manageable. The deployment couldn’t end soon enough. That was a tough deployment to return home from knowing we all would not return alive. It made being with family and friends bittersweet knowing there was a family who would not get to make the same memories I was creating. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about Sgt. Darrin Potter and his family.

Shortly after returning from my second deployment, I was hired on fulltime to work as a recruiting and retention NCO (Non-Commissioned Officer) for the Guard. There I was, one of only 3 fulltime female recruiters in the state. I often found myself talking to the female recruits of fellow recruiters sharing my experience with them and sometimes their families.

Jennifer Maggard

Warrant Officer one Jennifer Maggard preflights a UH-60 blackhawk during Rotary Wing Flight School in Fort Rucker, Ala June 2009. (photo submitted)

I went on to recruit for the Aviation unit located in Frankfort, where I was then recruited to attend warrant officer school and become a UH-60 Blackhawk pilot. This was the first time I was married and away from home for an extended period of time. All together, flight school was 18 months long and my husband stayed in Kentucky while I was in Ft Rucker, Ala. I was one of 200 females out of 4000 flight school students in the course, so you can imagine how hard that was on my husband. I was always treated with dignity and respect from my fellow flight school students but it was also something I demanded from them. Part of flight school is SERE-C (survival, evasion, resistance and escape) C-High risk. This is where we are taught as aviators how to escape and to prepare us for what we may experience if our aircraft ever goes down and we are captured. I was the only female in my class of 32. I was never treated any different from the male Soldiers and feel I gained their respect holding my own throughout the three-week course.

One thing I have always said about women serving away from home, whether it’s to attend a school or deploy on an overseas mission, (and not to discredit dad’s out there) is this: When dad doesn’t come home it’s just ‘one less plate to set on the table’ – when mom doesn’t come home it’s ‘who is going to make dinner?’

We all have our own strengths and weaknesses when it comes to our everyday tasks that we perform. I have found that it is just as much a struggle for a man to be away from home as it is a woman.

Now for the favorite part of my story of how my family came to be.  When my husband and I found out we couldn’t have children, I knew immediately I wanted to adopt. It was a very stressful process both emotionally and financially. It was so nice to have the support of our immediate families as well as our church and military family. I researched every possible way to ease the financial burden adoption was going to place on us. I found that the Active duty military offered an adoption benefit to Active Duty Soldiers and national Guard soldiers on active duty at the time of adoption and finalization. I just so happened to be on active duty orders when our daughter was born and our adoption finalized so we were eligible for the $2,000 benefit.

I did a lot of research on National Guard members and found there was no benefit for traditional Guardsman but there was for State employees in addition to the Active Duty Troops. So between my research and my husband’s platform sitting on Kentucky’s First Lady Military Spouse committee, we were able to pass House bill 224 which allowed traditional Guardsman an adoption benefit of up to $3000 to help ease the financial burden that adoption can bring.

Our culture has come a long way and continues to change. We’re currently taking steps which incorporate women into the combat arms branches and very soon, women will virtually be conducting every assignment that only recently were closed to females.

Be up to the challenge, lead by example, and set a new higher standard not just for females but for all Soldiers.

To the female veterans who have come before me. Thank you. Thank you for your hard work and dedication to something bigger than yourselves. Thank you for being the example to all who have come after you and thank you for your sacrifices you have made both of yourselves and from your families.”

 

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