Face of Defense: Former NCO, Now Captain, Helps Troops

CONTINGENCY OPERATING SITE WARRIOR, Iraq — Capt. Kim Wal­ter knew she was­n’t going to get rich when she became the first woman in her fam­i­ly to join the Army.
“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.”

Contingency Operating Site Warrior in Kirkuk, Iraq
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 to enlarge

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.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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