War on Terrorism

Friday, May 21, 2010

Father, Daughter Return From Iraq

By Army Sgt. David Bruce
Camp Atterbury Public Affairs

May 21, 2010 - It's difficult for any leader to send someone into harm's way, but it's especially hard when that someone is your daughter. Army 1st Sgt. Robert Hempstead, first sergeant for the Indiana National Guard's 1313th Engineer Company, knows what that's like. The company, based in Columbus, Ind., recently returned from a tour in Iraq, and Hempstead's daughter, Crystal, is one of the unit's soldiers.

"This sort of thing is unusual and caused some initial concern among the command group," Hempstead said. "She was part of 1413th Engineer Company as a mechanic. When she heard of the deployment, she came to me and asked to go. We were short mechanics, so we took her."

Sgt. Crystal Hempstead said it didn't seem to her to be a big issue.

"Because there was such a rank difference, it wasn't like I was going to be working directly with him," she explained. "I think he handled it very well. It was frustrating, because it was almost like he was harder on me than everybody else. There was definitely no favoritism anywhere."

Crystal said that although people often told her she was fortunate to deploy with family, she doesn't necessarily agree.

"We're in a combat zone," she said. "Do you really want your parents to go to a combat zone? Just as much as it tore him up for me to be there, it was upsetting to me that he was there. Honestly, I didn't like seeing him there."

Handling the desire to be protective of his daughter wasn't easy for Hempstead, he said, but his experience as a senior noncommissioned officer gave him the perspective to manage the situation.

"I had to flip the switch with her, but I did that with all of [the company's soldiers]," he said. "To say that I wasn't concerned about her would be a lie, but to say I wasn't concerned about all of them would also be a lie."

Hempstead said he is proud of his daughter's ambition and looks forward to her future as a soldier and as a young woman.

"She's an E-5 now, and she's 22 years old," he said. "She has a very good opportunity to work at the Patriot Academy. She's finishing her degree. She doesn't need me as much as she thinks she does."

The young NCO said she would deploy with her father again.

"He is a good first sergeant, and he definitely knows what he is doing," she said. "In that aspect, I would serve with him again, but it would always be in the back of my mind that my dad is overseas again, and I would rather he not be. But it is his career as much as it is mine, and that is just part of it."

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