Ashley and Tasha Gerken are two young women serving you and I, in the United States Army. They’re stationed in Kuwait but were able to respond to my interview request on a recent leave. Anything in italics is theirs. I have not changed a thing.
Bio: Ashley and Tasha- 20 years old, 88M, SGT/E-5 currently with the 217th TC from San Antonio, TX. Joined at 17 years of age during Junior year in High School at Manson Northwest Webster in Manson, IA. We were assigned to the 482nd TC (915 unit), which then became 445th TC (PLS unit). Did basic training in Fort Jackson, SC, during summer of 2004. Then went back to High School to finish senior year, then went to Fort Bliss, TX, during summer of 2006, for AIT. Moved to El Paso, TX, at the beginning of 2006 and in March transferred to 5035th Garrison Support Unit on Fort Bliss, TX. Then in June, was put on orders for deployment.
- Why did you enlist? Are there other members of the military in your family that influenced your decision
- How long do you plan on serving?
- Without violating opsec, please describe a typical convoy.
- Do you wear body armor while working? Are your vehicles armored? Are you comfortable with this level of protection?
- What are your impressions of Iraq and Kuwait, as a place to visit, their people? Do you get any opportunity to meet locals off base?
- What would you say to a young woman thinking of enlisting?
- What one piece of advice would you give your replacement in theater? What hard-learned lesson or tip or trick that proves invaluable?
- Every time I write a piece about women in combat, such as Amanda Pinson or Leigh Ann Hester, some caveman always wants to argue that women do not belong in combat. What is your opinion?
Ashley- I have always wanted to do the military thing my whole life. I remember always wanting to play as a military person. Then one day walking through the mall, I wanted to stop in to talk to our recruiter, who was friends with our mom. We ended up going to MEPS within a few days. No influences, we just both wanted to do it.
tash- When we were both really young, we had always had this dream of becoming a “GI JOE”. We were both tom-boys and since we had already planned on joining it was rather simple. Our family always knew, in the back of their head, that we would join some day. We were 17 when we enlisted and because of that we needed a parents signature. Everyone in our family was shocked that we wanted to join while we were still in high school but since our mother knew if she didn’t sign the paper then we would just wait until the next year. So, with much time to think, she signed them. I wanted to go Air Force but I researched the branches and found that the Army Reserves would best suit me. There was really no influence at all about it….our family just stood behind us in our decision.
Ashley- I want to go Active duty and do 20 years, but I feel like I am in a position that it would be best if I stay reserves, with some of the future plans I have.
tash- I was planning on going Active duty after high school and be in for 20 years. Now…I still would like to do 20 years but I have started my life long dream of barrel racing and I am starting to get some of my goals started. So, I kind of thought through it and I figured that if I do 20 years as a reservist I will still have all the benefits…just at a later time. Plus, I want to work as an instructor for transportation so I can stay in the reserves and do a civilian job.
BOTH- Well, a convoy is anything over two vehicles and we probably average 25 vehicles in a convoy. All we do is pick up whatever it is that is needed and take it to where it needs to go. Depending on where we have to go a mission can last close to a month. We are always scanning for any suspicious activity or anything that looks like a threat.
BOTH- Only when we are on mission do we wear our body armor. Because we are stationed in Kuwait, it is considered a safe zone and therefore we do not need to wear it. Yes, the vehicles are up armored and I am very comfortable with the level of protection. The trucks we drive are like the safest wheeled vehicle you can drive….and the biggest.
BOTH- I don’t think it is somewhere to go on vacation but it is not a bad place. Most of the people I have seen are really humble and appear to be harmless. I have met some locals and they are really nice people. They offer you gifts and are just really friendly towards the soldiers. Yes, you do have to follow the saying ‘trust no one’ but all in all they are glad we are there and that we got Saddam out. It would be a good place for some people to visit just to show how much we take for granted. I know I will try not to do that again because I realize how easy we have it in the states.
BOTH- You really need to be able to pull your weight and learn to take initiative. An important thing to consider before joining is ‘Am I joining for the right reason?’ I honestly wouldn’t want someone fighting by my side knowing that they are only there for college money and not to serve with their fellow soldiers. I have seen too many people joining for the wrong reason and then regretting it in the long run. Some are just not meant to be in the military at all. Females: You need to do what you are told, put up with the other male/female soldiers (trust me on this one), and don’t pull the ‘Females can get away with anything’ stuff (too many think that), and you would do just fine in the military.
tash- Short-cuts you find aren’t always good. Safety always has to come first so take your time to think everything out first before you act. We have had too many preventable incidents so far, and another one: “Complacency kills!”
Ashley- Why can’t a woman be in combat? Cause we are supposed to be the “house wife”? The military is “so” big on Equal Opportunities, but females can’t do a portion of the jobs, because they are female. I can carry my weight and out do some males, so how is someone going to tell me that women don’t belong in combat? There are some males that definitely don’t belong here.
tash- I absolutely HATE when people think that. It is a free country and we can do whatever we want. I have seen females totally out do males. Females can be just as good or better then males. I know some males that would love to be able to do what I can or know what I know. I disagree with the fact about females aren’t allowed in the infantry. Oh well, I guess….we all have our opinions.