In the past couple of days, I have had the chance to speak with two women who are sergeants and in their 30s. One is in a close combat support job, the other in an administrative job in a support battalion. I have known the first sergeant for almost two years, never speaking for more than five minutes at a time. She is, to go with initial impressions, a tough woman who keeps up with guys out on the flight line and partying. She has an acid wit. She and some of her sergeant buddies sometimes sit in the DFAC and rate people in the serving line--and speculate about their lives.
Then I talked with sergeant tough guy about her plans after deployment. It turns out they are all set up. She moved back home with her ailing parents and is planning to care for them. She never talked about work, but will have a steady job that allows her to care for Mom and Dad, whom she clearly loves and admires very much. I don't know when or if I will see that side of her again, but it was interesting to see her as a loving and devoted daughter.
Moving in the other direction, the woman in the support battalion is tall, intense single Mom who is carefully planning completing a bachelor's degree, Officer's Candidate School, and then completing her career as an officer. Unlike sergeant tough guy who always sits in a group in the DFAC, sergeant soon-to-be-an-officer eats alone and reads. The brief conversations we have had have been about books, raising daughters, etc.
Until a couple of days ago. We got on the subject of Afghanistan and she said, "We need to take some people out." I thought she would continue in her support-unit role as an officer, but she seems quite ready to get as close as women are allowed to the front lines.
A week ago, if someone asked me, I would have said sergeant tough guy would be back in Afghanistan within a year and the other sergeant would be locked into a five-year stateside assignment. The reverse is closer to the truth. Tough guy will most likely be caring for Mom and Dad in 2011, and the new lieutenant will be in Afghanistan--and I would not want to be one of our nation's enemies downrange of her weapon.