protects U.S. commanders in Iraq
should return to the U.S. in time for holidays
VEVAY, Ind. (December 2008) When Kattie Eldridge
was a young girl, she had the unique opportunity to spend a summer in
Germany with her aunt, Mamie Kyle, who served in the U.S. Army as a
military police officer. Eldridge decided then that she also wanted
to serve her country and become a military police officer.
Kattie Eldridge spent nine
months in Iraq as a military police
officer assigned to a personal
security detail for U.S. miitary
commanders and special visitors.
When she graduated from Switzerland County High School
in 2006, Eldridge joined the Indiana National Guard and trained to be
a military police officer. Earlier this year, her unit was deployed
to Iraq for a nine-month tour as the Personal Security Detail for the
Third Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) at the U.S. Air Base in Balad,
Prior to arriving in the country, the PSD received special training
for its mission in Iraq. Eight team members attended protected services
training, in which they learned protective services tactics and how
to conduct anti-ambush operations. Another 14 soldiers attended special
reaction team school and were taught specialized team responses to high-risk
situations such as barricaded subjects, hostage situations and counterterrorist
Once in Iraq, the Indiana National Guardsmen, part of the 76th Infantry
Brigade Combat Team, provided security for general officers, distinguished
visitors and high risk personnel on base. They also served as security
for these personnel during convoys across Iraq. During their deployment,
the unit protected such distinguished visitors as Vice President Dick
Cheney, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Secretary of the Army Pete
Geren, General David Petraeus and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
In late November when the specialized unit left Iraq, they completed
more than 60 missions and were successful at protecting every person
Eldridge, 21, was the lead scout driver for the unit. Her job was to
tell the military convoy what was up ahead of them. My time in
Iraq has been an exciting new experience, she said in a telephone
conversation from Balad. You never know what is going to happen.
You have to be prepared for anything.
In June, her convoy actually came under attack when insurgents hit it
with an improvised explosive device. During that mission, soldiers from
the unit received two Purple Heart medals, three combat action badges
and one combat medic badge.
It has been scary at times here, but I have complete faith in
my team and our training, she said.
A typical day for Eldridge in Balad, which is situated in the middle
of Iraq, begins with a check of all of her trucks and equipment. Then
she usually is assigned a mission. When we do get a day off, we
arent really encouraged to go sightseeing, she said. We
usually visit the USO to play pool, call home or just relax. Eldridge
said the Iraqis she has interacted with are always nice. When
we are on missions, the Iraqi children wave and hold their thumbs up
for us, she said. They love us.
Eldridge, who will return to her job at Greendale, Ind., manufacturing
plant Pri Pak, said when she first joined the Indiana National Guard,
she re-assured her parents that she would be fine, and that she would
never get deployed. I remember telling them that I was just joining
the National Guard, she laughed. I had no idea that I would
end up being deployed.
Tammy Nielsen, Katties mother, is proud of her daughter. She
is my hero, she said. While it terrifies me, I know this
is what she wants to do, and I totally support her.
Nielsen, who also works at Pri Pak, said her daughter is simply following
the family tradition. Eldridges grandfather was a U.S. Navy Seal
during the Vietnam War, and Nielsens sisters both served in the
armed forces. Eldridges younger brother, Zack Eldridge, has decided
to join the U.S. Marines when he graduates from high school next year.
I am so proud of Kattie, said Nielsen. But I cant
wait to get my baby back home.
Roger Eldridge, Katties father, said his daughter should be back
in the United States by December. I am extremely proud of her,
but I worry constantly, he said. I will be glad when she
Eldridge said she is looking forward to coming back to Indiana, but
she wouldnt mind doing a second tour in Iraq despite the danger
and the occasional homesickness.
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