By Army Staff Sgt. Patrick Caldwell
310th Expeditionary Sustainment Command
JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq (7/21/11) – Army Spc. Crystal Gregan, a driver and gunner assigned to Golf Company, 145th Brigade Support Battalion, and a member of the Idaho National Guard, does not mince words regarding why she is stationed at Joint Base Balad, Iraq.
The reason she joined the military and came to Iraq was simple: patriotism. "This deployment is my patriotic duty. I've always been proud of my country," Gregan said.
Gregan stepped out of a management slot at a chain retail pharmacy store in her hometown, and into the role of a Soldier more than a year ago. The transition from Citizen to Soldier carried its own unique challenges.
"In civilian life, I tell people what to do. Here, I do what people tell me to do," she said.
Gregan said there are times, though, when as a lower ranking Soldier, and a female, it is important to ensure her voice is heard.
"Sometimes you have to go outside the bubble and say, 'This is what I think,'" Gregan said. She also said she's faced challenges since her deployment began, but the experience she has gained is invaluable.
"There have been times when I said, 'I hate this', but it has still broadened my horizons," she said.
While she enjoys her role as a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle driver, she also benefits from her time in the gunner's turret.
"I'm one of those people that if something goes down, I want to be in a position to do something about it," she said.
Gregan also said Iraq has made a lasting impression during her deployment. The differences in the quality of life between the villages in Iraq and her hometown of Blackfoot, Idaho are striking. Everyone, she said, should ensure they get an opportunity to see how other people in other countries live.
"Iraq is everything you see on TV. Many children don't have shoes or socks. It is really like that over here," she said. "I think every American should [deploy], so they get a concept of what they have at home. At some point in their lives they need to experience what the real world is all about."
Gregan said her year-long deployment has helped her to reflect on her life and plan for the future. She already has framed a post-deployment plan.
"During this deployment … I've had time to look at my life," she said. "I'm a goal-oriented person. I plan to go back to [my civilian job] and go back to Idaho State University. I'm not sure what I'll major in."
The challenges and triumphs all added into hard-earned and critical experience, she said.
"The military has given me the opportunity to meet a lot of different people," she said.