On Patrol

Until every one comes home | The Magazine of the USO

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The more our American social norms change, the more the military will reflect society. And today, there’s no shortage of women like Army Staff Sergeant Jennifer Adams-Ward, a combat medic from Fort Dodge, Iowa, who deployed to Bosnia once and Afghanistan twice during her 18-year career. 

Army Staff Sergeant Jennifer Adams-Ward is a combat medic from Fort Dodge, Iowa, who deployed to Bosnia once and Afghanistan twice during her 18-year career. DOD photo by Gloria MontgomeryArmy Staff Sergeant Jennifer Adams-Ward is a combat medic from Fort Dodge, Iowa, who deployed to Bosnia once and Afghanistan twice during her 18-year career. DOD photo by Gloria Montgomery

“It’s definitely intense, working downrange and being away from your loved ones,” said the single mother of two who had to leave her children with family each time she has deployed. “The stress level is high, but we form one big family in the medical field. We eat together, we work out together, and sometimes we sleep in the same areas together. In the military, we don’t have time for all the gender drama. The mission’s importance takes precedent over all that other stuff.” 

On her first Afghanistan deployment in 2008, Adams-Ward worked directly with critical cases coming off the front lines. In 2011, during her second deployment to Kandahar, her mission was to build a Warrior Recovery Center (WRC) to provide assistance to those with traumatic brain injuries, as well as offering behavioral care and chaplain services. 

Now, back home, she is the medical noncommissioned officer of the Warrior Transition Unit at Fort Hood, Texas, and she couldn’t be more proud of her brothers and sisters in arms for their professionalism and service. 

“The best part of my career has been knowing that I’ve changed lives,” she said. “In the first part of my career, I would never see the patients who I worked on afterward, and there was a certain simplicity in that. But at the WRC, I worked very closely with patients. I would treat them and I would see them every day, and when they thank you personally before leaving, or seek you out later in your career, it warms your heart knowing you made a huge difference in their life for the rest of their life.” 

Adams-Ward, who also holds a collateral billet as the equal opportunity officer, said service in the military should have little to do with gender.  

“Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad there are still different physical standards because I do understand, genetically speaking, that women are physically different from men, so I’m glad that they keep that separate. But as far as my job, my duty position, my responsibilities and my ability to be promoted, I’m very happy to say that the Army does a good job of keeping it equal.”

Joseph Andrew Lee is a USO staff writer.