[Interview transcript]

SCHANEN : This is an interview with Deanna Heiser Gehrke who has been serving with the United States Army Reserves since December of 1995, and is currently still in there. The interview is being conducted at her home at in Grafton, Wisconsin, on January 10th of 2005, and the interviewer is Vicki Schanen. So Deanna, why don't you start by just giving me a little information about you, you know, where you were born and when, and tell me a little bit about your family.

GEHRKE : Um, I was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, August 4th 1975. I grew up in Grafton, in Ozaukee County. I have a older sister and younger brother who also served in the military. Currently I'm married to Randy Gehrke who is also serving in the military and I have a fourteen month old son named Jacob.

SCHANEN : Oh, okay. Good. And how 'bout your, I think you know, it's a real military family, 1:00but I think it's also your father?

GEHRKE : Yes. My father was also in the military--served in Vietnam.

SCHANEN : Alright. So what kind of education did you have prior to entering the service?

GEHRKE : Regular education or military?

SCHANEN : Regular education.

GEHRKE : Um, I was in high school and then I was in, I went to college at UW [University of Wisconsin] Milwaukee through my sophomore year of college, and then I joined the military when I was twenty.

SCHANEN : Okay. So what made you--you were a student then when you decided to join the military?

GEHRKE : Correct.

SCHANEN : Okay, and what prompted you to join the military?

GEHRKE : Um, well one thing was the financial benefit they had for school, but also I had some friends serving, and my father was in, as we mentioned, so I just always kind of wanted to do something for my country.

SCHANEN : Okay. And why did you choose that point in time to do it--after two years of college? You said financially that would help with the rest of your college, then?


GEHRKE : Correct. Yep. I thought it would be good, and I just, I had considered joining when I was--before I became a freshman--I just don't think I was ready, and when I turned twenty, it just seemed like the right point.

SCHANEN : Okay, and why did you choose the Army Reserve?

GEHRKE : Um, really it was just the most readily available. My friend had been in the Army Reserve, and I just really went and saw her recruiter and I chose the Army because that's what my dad had been in.

SCHANEN : Now, your maiden name was Heiser, and your married name is Gehrke, but your military name is Heiser.

GEHRKE : Um, I go by Heiser in the military. Correct. I kept that name. I just thought it would be easier for the troops that I was working with, and I just kept it to make my dad happy--more like proud [baby crying].

SCHANEN : Okay, alright. And now when did you, what month and year did you join, and where were 3:00you inducted, things like that?

GEHRKE : Um, I joined in December of 1995, and I was inducted at the MEP [Military Entrance Processing] Station in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

SCHANEN : Alright. And did you go right from there into a basic training, or did you have a little time before--

GEHRKE : I had a little time. I joined in December, and I left right at the beginning of January for basic training, at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.

SCHANEN : Okay, and that was how many weeks, and how was basic training?

GEHRKE : It was eight weeks long, and the advice I got was to just do what you're told, and try to not let the drill sergeants know your name.

SCHANEN : Who had this sage advice for you?

GEHRKE : Um, Mandy [inaudible].

SCHANEN : Oh, okay. She'd been through it, already.

GEHRKE : Right, she'd been through it already a couple years before me, so I did that. I did exactly what I was told, and that actually led me to be the platoon sergeant.


SCHANEN : Oh really. During basic training?

GEHRKE : Correct. So doing what you're told and being squared away led me to be in charge then, and I did that from about the second week to the end. And we still had our drill sergeants, but you always have some--one of the soldiers in charge.

SCHANEN : What's the job of the platoon sergeant?

GEHRKE : Um, accountability of the soldiers--

SCHANEN : So you're responsible for all of them?

GEHRKE : Yeah, I mean the drill sergeants primarily are, but they are trying to teach you leadership and that type of thing, so it was pretty challenging. We had some drill sergeants who were having some family issues, so they were kind of in-and-out, so I felt like I had a lot more responsibility than some other.

SCHANEN : Okay. Um, when you did enter the Army Reserve, what was your commitment supposed to be, and did they promise you any type of benefits, or any particular training?

GEHRKE : Um, my commitment was six years active reserve, drilling on the 5:00weekends, and then two years in active and um, I had the benefits I got was student loan repayment, um, the GI bill which we get. I did get a signing bonus, and I enlisted into the ordnance corps.

SCHANEN : So you could pick which one you wanted to get into?

GEHRKE : Right--Well, I enlisted actually as a mechanic, but I was with an ordnance unit.

SCHANEN : Okay, you enlisted as a mechanic.

GEHRKE : Correct [laughs].

SCHANEN : And what were you going to college for?

GEHRKE : Um, I think at that time I may have been undecided, but I was going for business.

SCHANEN : But, had you had any mechanical type experience prior to this?

GEHRKE : None [laughs]--which was challenging.

SCHANEN : Okay, and how do you go about picking mechanic if you hadn't had any experience prior to that? Just certain things open to you, or?

GEHRKE : Um, there were certain jobs that were open, but on the advice again of 6:00Mandy, I basically said, you know, "I want these benefits, and I want to be gone this amount of time. What jobs do you have available?" And so they pulled up a list of jobs, and you know, it wasn't very many, and so I just, I thought well, I might as well try something different.

SCHANEN : Okay. It certainly is. So you're in Fort Jackson, South Carolina, and you're the drill--

GEHRKE : Platoon sergeant.

SCHANEN : Platoon Sergeant, I mean. Was there any adjustment period for you from civilian, actually college student life, to basic training?

GEHRKE : Um, yeah. It was pretty difficult. I was only in reception for a couple days, but I had really never been away from my family. Since they lived in Grafton, they were only a few miles away, you know, from school--about half an hour--plus my parents worked downtown, so that's really close.

SCHANEN : You were living on campus?

GEHRKE : Yep. But they were very close, so that was the first time I'd really 7:00been away from home, so it was challenging to deal with being away from home, and being away from my friends, and the boyfriend I had at the time, so.

SCHANEN : Okay. And what about just the lifestyle in basic training as opposed to being a college student? Being a college student is a pretty free lifestyle.

GEHRKE : Mm hm. Yeah, and you know, again, I had a little bit of warning, so I kind of knew what I was in for, and so I had a little bit of mental preparation just from what Mandy had told me about what she had gone through, but it was still challenging day-to-day. You know, days were really long, and you know they seemed like you'd been a week into one day with all the things you did, but it was challenging, but I would definitely do it again.

SCHANEN : Well obviously you must have enjoyed something about it if you're still in.

GEHRKE : Right [laughs].

SCHANEN : Okay. So that was--do you have any memorable little stories about it? I mean, usually ask about instructors and that, but you were kind of like a junior instructor.

GEHRKE : Right, a junior drill sergeant kind of. Um, you know, it was very 8:00structured and very strict. You know, I remember towards the end, you know, them being a little bit more flexible with us and we got to do more of the fun type activities like the confidence courses, you know, those types of things.

SCHANEN : Did you have free time during basic training?

GEHRKE : There was a little bit of free time on Sundays. I mean you wouldn't really call it free time basically. You could go to Church and do your laundry, and possibly make phone calls. The benefit of being the platoon sergeant was I got to monitor everybody else's phone calls and the minutes they were on, but then I got to make mine at the end, and no one was really monitoring me, so I got to spend a little more time on the phone.

SCHANEN : Were you only allowed a certain amount of time with phone calls, or so many calls?

GEHRKE : Um, yeah, I think once we started getting phone calls, you could only have like five minutes on the phone, or something like that.

SCHANEN : And only a certain number of calls, also? It's not like you could call 9:00thirty people at five minutes apiece.

GEHRKE : Oh, correct. You had five minutes to call whoever you wanted

SCHANEN : Oh, total.

GEHRKE : Yeah [laughs].

SCHANEN : So like one minute for this person, two minutes for that person. Okay. Wow.

GEHRKE : Right [laughs].

SCHANEN : That's not much. Then after you finished your basic training, um, did you go to advanced training then to be a mechanic?

GEHRKE : Yep. That's right. I went to AIT [Advanced Individual Training], still at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, and met a lot of interesting people there. The school was I want to say about [pauses] maybe three months long? I'm not sure exactly. But there was only, I was the only female in my class, and of all the classes there--there were probably only three or four classes, there was only four or five females. So a lot of males. So we were definitely in a male-dominated job.


SCHANEN : And did you have to actually get real greasy?

GEHRKE : You did some days. Yep. You had the whole jumpsuit outfit, and you were in the trucks and under the trucks and everything. But it was difficult for me, because they taught the class like you had some automotive background, which probably most of the people did, but I didn't, so it was difficult for me, but I still got through very well, so I was a class leader there for a while, also.

SCHANEN : Are you able to work on your own cars now?

GEHRKE : I can change the oil and change the tires--basics--change the spark plugs if I had to.

SCHANEN : Alright. That's good. Every little bit helps. Now did you get more free time when you were in the training?

GEHRKE : Yep. We definitely got more free time, especially, there were like stages. When you got to the second stage you had some of your weekends off, or had some freedoms during that time, so there were, you know, we were in a city 11:00that we could go out to with some of the friends and go to movies and you know, go to the mall shopping and that sort of thing in Columbia, so--

SCHANEN : And when you had your free time, were you usually allowed to leave the base, or were there only certain times you could leave the base, otherwise you had free time on base.

GEHRKE : Sometimes you could leave over the weekend when they gave you pass. You didn't always get that. But otherwise sometimes you'd get a little free time in the evenings, but that was more or less just to go to like the PX [Postal Exchange] and get whatever you needed and come back.

SCHANEN : Alright. Did they have any, like recreation centers or something on the base?

GEHRKE : Yep. They had recreation centers. I don't think that we ever really went to those because we did so much PT [physical training] during the day.

SCHANEN : Oh, okay.

GEHRKE : Cause to do more physical activity wasn't really of a top priority.

SCHANEN : But did they have like bowling, or pool tables or something like that there?

GEHRKE : Yep. There was bowling there and a bar, like a bowling alley bar, and--

SCHANEN : And they show movies on base, also?


GEHRKE : Not that I can remember, but they might have. You really didn't get that much free time, so by the time you did you just either went into town with your friends or you went to movies or shopping. That's pretty much it and then you were done.

SCHANEN : And just what type of things were you trained for? I mean, changing oil, changing spark plugs, tires?

GEHRKE : Um, yep, all of those things are more or less trouble shooting the vehicle, so if there was something wrong, going through the checklist and figuring out what it was and how to fix it and that type of thing, and then doing a lot of preventative maintenance on the vehicles. You know, we did a lot of that. We had all, each of us had these gigantic tool boxes that I could hardly lift that we had to carry every day, so--

SCHANEN : And you're a pretty slight girl, I imagine you were then, too, so that's a big [laughs].

GEHRKE : Right, they were pretty heavy, so.

SCHANEN : Did you have problems with the guys that you were training with because you were the only woman there?


GEHRKE : Not typically. They were all very friendly and willing to help me if I had questions.

SCHANEN : Nobody felt you were in an area you shouldn't be in?

GEHRKE : I don't remember feeling that way or having that impression.

SCHANEN : Okay, that's good.

GEHRKE : I've been always the kind to hold my own, so--[Laughs].

SCHANEN : Now, I forget. When I asked you about your background, did I ask you if you had brothers and sisters? You said you had a brother in the service. Was it just you and your brother?

GEHRKE : I have a old sister. She's two-and-a-half years older than me. She lives in this area. She lives in Belgium, Wisconsin, has a husband and two children. And then I have a brother. He's a year-and-a-half younger than me. He served on active duty for about three years and then the remainder of his time in the Guard, and he is also married. He lives in West Bend, Wisconsin and has two children.

SCHANEN : Okay, so you were the middle of the three, so you did kind of have to hold your own always.


GEHRKE : Yes [laughs].

SCHANEN : Okay. When you said I've always been able to hold my own then I thought, well yeah, how many brothers and sisters and where were you?

GEHRKE : Right.

SCHANEN : Middle always seems to be keeping up with the older one and keeping the younger one in tow, or whatever. Were there any interesting stories from your advanced training, now, that come to mind when you come to that period of time?


SCHANEN : Did you guys ever play pranks on each other, or any funny incident that happened while you were learning how to repair certain [inaudible].

GEHRKE : Well I do remember I think because there were so few females there that the females did get a lot of attention from the males because here they had been in basic training for a few months, so there was always, you know, it seemed that someone was always interested in the female for some reason. But I don't remember too many jokes or anything, but you know, I'm sure we had like just playful days and 15:00things like that, nothing specific.

SCHANEN : And so then after you finished this training, which was several months, what I was noting, too, was that you were probably there in South Carolina for the winter, but how did you like that? I mean, we were having cold and snow up here, I'm sure.

GEHRKE : Actually when I was in basic training it got very cold, and I remember being out on the BRM [Basic Rifle Marksmanship] range, trying to qualify with the weapons. We were out there for one week straight, and--


GEHRKE : Basic Rifle Marksmanship. So we were out on the range for, we were out on the range for probably about three weeks, actually, and I remember it being very, very cold where they had warming tents and it was actually very cold, almost like how cold it gets up here. We were--we took turns going in the warming tent. Your fingers were cold, your toes were cold.


SCHANEN : Were you near the mountains, the western part of South Carolina?

GEHRKE : Um, we were right near Columbia which I think, which I think is in the middle.

SCHANEN : The center, okay. I think it's kind of mountains around there, isn't it?

GEHRKE : Mm Hm. It got very cold, but then once there was a very short transition period where it went from cold to hot and from the time we were in the AIT and the time we left, it was extremely hot, so--

SCHANEN : Was the cold atypical or did they just have a short period that's really cold?

GEHRKE : Um, I think they have that every year where it's very cold. I mean, I went right in the beginning of January, so January was pretty cold down there.

SCHANEN : So you get pretty cold, you get pretty hot. Kind of like here, then. Then when you were finished with your, oh I wanted to ask about the sleeping facilities. Were they open bay?

GEHRKE : Um, actually, in basic we had eight man rooms, and then at AIT, we had two 17:00person rooms, and I think the males may have had eight person rooms. But since there was such few females, we were on one end of the building in two person rooms, so actually the sleeping conditions were relatively good, I thought.

SCHANEN : Alright. How 'bout the eating facilities?

GEHRKE : The eating facilities I think both for basic and AIT were nice. Of course you couldn't in basic have any of the desserts, or anything. They would just put them out to tempt you and give 'em to the drill sergeants, but you couldn't have any of that.

SCHANEN : Oh really?

GEHRKE : But the facilities were relatively nice. Since I was the platoon guide, I didn't really have to do KP [Kitchen Patrol] more than once in basic which was great.

SCHANEN : Did you get a dessert because you were the platoon sergeant?

GEHRKE : No. [laughs]

SCHANEN : Oh, not high enough up, yet. How as the food? Did it taste pretty good, or was it pretty bland, or?

GEHRKE : I thought it was pretty decent. You didn't have a lot of time to really sit down and enjoy it.

SCHANEN : Even in the AIT?


GEHRKE : The AIT was a lot better, and the food was decent there.

SCHANEN : Was there anything in particular that you liked or didn't like you know, that?

GEHRKE : About the food?

SCHANEN : Any particular food, like, "Oh, they're having that, I don't want it" or, "Oh, they're having this"?

GEHRKE : Well, it seemed like they often had like some sort of mystery meat and sauce that you weren't ever really sure what it was, so, um, you know during that time you kind of question it, but you were so hungry and you waited so long that you ate anything.

SCHANEN : Okay. So after you finished your AIT, now, you were able to come back to civilian life and just were required then to go to meetings once a month? One weekend a month, or?

GEHRKE : Correct. Yep. We drilled one weekend a month, and I was with the 826th ordnance company, that, too, out of Milwaukee. Our headquarters are in Madison, so.

SCHANEN : You said 826th ordnance company what?

GEHRKE : Det. It's a detachment unit.

SCHANEN : Oh, a detachment, okay.

GEHRKE : Mm hm. So they have a detachment in Rockford and then a detachment in Milwaukee.

SCHANEN : Okay, so you could go to Milwaukee for your meetings?


GEHRKE : Yep. I was right on Silver Spring Drive, and--

SCHANEN : Did you go back to school, then?


SCHANEN : You had finished two years.

GEHRKE : Yes. I had finished, I got back from AIT in May, beginning of June, and then I went back to school the following fall.

SCHANEN : You graduated, then?

GEHRKE : Yep. I graduated '98.

SCHANEN : With a degree in?

GEHRKE : Bachelors of Business Administration, major in marketing, so--

SCHANEN : No minor in mechanics?

GEHRKE : No, no, uh uh [laughs].

SCHANEN : Okay, I have to think, myself, right now. And you finished your six years of your commitment, but apparently decided to keep going because you started in '95 and this is 2005, so, you're four years beyond that, now.

GEHRKE : Right. I drilled my six years and then the last two that I had to go in 20:00active I decided to just continue drilling, so I just stayed in my unit and continued drilling and, um, then I had been extended for a year, and then an additional two year extension.

SCHANEN : So you can now extend by the year or by two years, or?

GEHRKE : You can only do it under certain rules for so long. My next one I would have to re-enlist to stay back in.

SCHANEN : Re-enlist would mean another six year commitment?

GEHRKE : Well, now that I, by that time I'll have eleven years, and now that I'm an E-6, they do indefinite reenlistment. So basically I would reenlist indefinitely.

SCHANEN : Oh, okay. And you're thinking of doing that, or--

GEHRKE : Um, it's possible. I have to--I'm more on the side of staying in, but we have a baby, we want to have more, so I'm going to have to make a decision if I'm going to have to sacrifice that time.

SCHANEN : Alright, because you have two weeks in the summer, too, that you have to go, and where do you go, then?


GEHRKE : Um, well, with my unit, with the 826th, I was with them for probably seven of the eight years, and then I was with the 961st engineering battalion for one year.

SCHANEN : And how come you're switching?

GEHRKE : Well I was with the 826 from '95 to 2001.

SCHANEN : So that was your original six years.

GEHRKE : Um, yeah, I guess that would be, and then I got promoted to staff sergeant and then I got promoted into the 961st.

SCHANEN : So promotion may move you to--

GEHRKE : Right. So I stayed with them for a year, and then I wanted to come back to the 826, and then I came back to the 826, and then last--in 2003, in January--I mobilized for Operation Iraqi Freedom and we were at Fort McCoy [Wisconsin] for six months, and they were going to send us over three times. We were supposed to go to Jordan, and then Kuwait and Iraq, they were kinda deciding, and we were 22:00packed to go the first time, but they didn't have enough seats on the plane, so they just sent--it was just a platoon of us. I was the platoon sergeant and then my commander, and so we sent the commander and three other soldiers over there to kind of prepare and get ready, so stayed back and kind of ran the platoon, and then we just kept getting word from them. It wasn't the work we thought we thought over there, and so finally after six months they sent those guys back from Kuwait and we ended up getting demobilized and sent home.

SCHANEN : So for six months you're sitting at camp at Fort McCoy.

GEHRKE : Correct.

SCHANEN : And did you have your baby at this time, yet?


SCHANEN : And you weren't pregnant, yet at this time.

GEHRKE : Um, we, yeah, I was pregnant later.

SCHANEN : Okay, so you were still not pregnant and no baby, no baby, yet.

GEHRKE : Right.

SCHANEN : And that was six months that you had to do that, and you were the 23:00platoon sergeant, yet.

GEHRKE : Yeah, again. Well, they demobilized the platoon, and back in Milwaukee I, there were two platoons and then we had a detachment sergeant and then one of the platoons, and I was one of the platoon sergeants. So then they mobilized the platoon and I was the highest ranking.

SCHANEN : So what was your job title?

GEHRKE : Well, I was, originally I was a heavy wheel mechanic, and then what happened was that there was only a few of us in Milwaukee. The majority of the mechanics were at the Madison location, so they ended up moving all the positions there, and I re-classed as a ammunition specialist.

SCHANEN : Did you have to have special training, then, for that?

GEHRKE : We had to go to a new class for that, but I could do that one weekend a month. So I re-classed as an ammunition specialist and then I did that and after we got off of mobilization I decided when we got pregnant that I would switch into a different job, so now I work for the 88th RRC and I'm a career counselor 24:00in retention.


GEHRKE : Regional Readiness Command.

SCHANEN : And you're a career counselor?

GEHRKE : Career counselor, and it's basically I do retention for the 88th in South-Eastern, Wisconsin I work with I'm still a reservist, but they're AGR people who do my same job, so AGRs are assigned to units and then you come in on the drill weekends and help them with those units.

SCHANEN : And AGR means--

GEHRKE : Active Guard and Reserve members, so they're--

SCHANEN : That's their full time job?

GEHRKE : Right.


GEHRKE : So I come in on the drill weekends and help them with the soldiers in the units that we're assigned to, and the 826th is one of my units.

SCHANEN : Okay, and retention means you're trying to keep people reenlisted?

GEHRKE : Right. We reenlist people or extend 'em. We talk to them about their benefits if they have questions. We're basically a catch all for if they're not 25:00getting--if they're having pay problems. You know just basically trying to solve soldiers problems when they can't get it done on their own--don't know where to go.

SCHANEN : Kind of like, what do they call it in civilian life, um, human resources or something?

GEHRKE : Um, kind of like that, yeah, kind of like that, but we do reenlist soldiers. We talk to them about staying in. When soldiers come off of demobilization from being overseas, we sit down and talk to them about things that went well and things that, you know, maybe gave them problems, or them reenlisting, or staying in, or just trying to get a feel of where they are so we can retain our force.

SCHANEN : And you're doing that one weekend a month, where somebody else is there all the time. Do they have to contact you ever with questions during the month when you're not there, or?

GEHRKE : They're free to call me. But they're the full time person so they know more about what's going on and I come on the weekends and help them and talk with the soldiers.

SCHANEN : And then what are your two weeks in the summer? What do you do for those?


GEHRKE : Usually we have, we go off to like Fort McCoy and work with the soldiers that are being demomed [??].

SCHANEN : Same thing. So what is your job in civilian life--the rest of the month [laughs]?

GEHRKE : Um, I'm an enrollment officer with Cardinal Stritch University [Milwaukee, Wisconsin] which is similar kind of to what I do in the Army side. But I enroll students for the college of business and its all for working adults. So it's an evening program for working adults.

SCHANEN : Okay. Do you feel that any of the things you were trained for in the military have helped you in civilian life?

GEHRKE : Um, I think so.

SCHANEN : I mean you're trained as a mechanic.

GEHRKE : Right, but you know, as you get promoted you go to different leadership schools and things like that, and I think, well I just think since I've been platoon sergeants from the beginning and platoon guides and class leaders and you know, kind of put in charge of things that that's developed a kind of leadership skills in me that I use, you know, in my regular life, and you know, the ability 27:00to multi-task. I've certainly refined that, and between working and being in the military and having a family, you certainly learn to multi-task, and so I mean definitely I think both overlap, you know, I'm very into my job in the military, so I'm always talking to people on both sides about both things.

SCHANEN : Right. And since you have a job in the military, I'm sure you're always encouraging people to become a part of that.

GEHRKE : Right. And I always did that in previous years, so going into retention seemed like a natural progression for me.

SCHANEN : So you always, from the time you started, you felt that was a good decision for you, and that it would for many other people, too. So even before working in that position, you say, "you should get into this."

GEHRKE : Yes, yep. I always encourage people to join, you know, because obviously you're going to have your complaints about everything, and there's times where you're not going to be happy, but I think overall it 28:00develops you as a person.

SCHANEN : And with your counseling, are you counseling reserve versus active duty, you know full time regular Army, or?

GEHRKE : We only take care of reserve units.

SCHANEN : Okay. But people would probably have questions asked weighing one over the other, then you just refer them to someone, or you just talk to--

GEHRKE : Um, we don't talk to people who aren't, like new, or people who are enrolling. That's for recruiters. We only talk to soldiers who are already in.

SCHANEN : So you are just dealing with how to use what's available.

GEHRKE : The current population.

SCHANEN : That's a good way--okay. Veterans benefits--now you did take advantage of something for education, for school?

GEHRKE : Yep. I had the student loan repayment. I'm still using that, as long as you're active reservist you can use those benefits, so I'm still using that.

SCHANEN : Does that mean you can still take classes and they'll--

GEHRKE : Yeah, that means that I had student loans for when I was in, and then they pay back a certain percentage each year, they pay back when you're drilling. 29:00When I was in school when I got back, I also used the GI bill which is certain amount of money that you get every month that you get for being in school and being a drilling reservist. Um--

SCHANEN : How 'bout for a home loan? Do they--

GEHRKE : We do have a VA [Veterans Administration] home loan for the home that we bought three years ago, so that's what we used for that which was great because we didn't have to have a down payment, so.

SCHANEN : Okay. So it's all been working out very well for you. Did you ever get any medals or citations or anything during your time?

GEHRKE : Um, I do have--we did get Army achievement medals for when we were mobilized for what we did then, um, I have my ribbons from my schools and overseas training ribbons and--

SCHANEN : Were you ever overseas, or just trained to go over?

GEHRKE : When we were, when I was with the 826, we did our two weeks in the summer annual trainings. We had quite a few opportunities to go overseas. The 30:00unit went to Korea once. It went to Germany three times, and I got to go with the unit to Germany twice. So we did overseas training. We were in Miesau, Germany, which is near Ramstein [Germany] Air Force Base just south of Frankfurt, and then we were there for three weeks both times.

SCHANEN : You were maintaining motor pools over there, then?

GEHRKE : Um, mostly No. 'Cause the unit I was in was mostly an ordnance unit, so we were doing more of the shipping the ammo and we worked with a lot of the active duty people over there then for those three weeks, and we shipped ammo then to wherever they needed it. We worked in there. ASPs which are the ammunition supply points, where they have the ammo storage sheds, that type of thing.

SCHANEN : How about friendships? Did you make any friendships, or have any, probably I shouldn't say--friendships during your basic or advanced training 31:00that you've maintained? Because I can't say reserves for friendships you've maintained in the reserves--you're still in there.

GEHRKE : Right. Actually, no. I didn't--I did keep in touch with one girl for basic for quite a few years, but then we lost touch after that. And in AIT, they were mostly the males, so I didn't keep in touch with any of them, and the females were all in different classes than I was, so I didn't really know them that well. But I do have quite a few friends that are still good friends of mine that are in my old unit--the 826th--that I still keep in contact with.

SCHANEN : Oh, that's right, you moved to a different unit.

GEHRKE : Mm Hm. That's right. So I have quite a few friends there.

SCHANEN : And I don't know if this would even be relevant, but are there any kind of reunions or anything from like your AIT school or basic training?

GEHRKE : None that I know of. Uh, uh. No, I haven't heard of any reunions or anything.

SCHANEN : How 'bout veterans organizations? Do you belong to any veterans 32:00organizations, or have you?

SCHANEN : Currently we don't belong to any. I'm thinking about joining the American Legion, but so far we haven't. we're just [inaudible] right now, cause I have a family and baby and a job, and.

SCHANEN : Okay. Overall, what do you think your military experience has in terms of meaning to your life? What part do you think it's played in who you are or where you are, or?

GEHRKE : I just think it's really developed me in a certain way. You know, like I was talking about leadership, and I think it just gives you a different sense of pride when you're serving your country, and, you know, you do your weekend drills, and you kind of get caught up in all that and you don't really think about it, but when you step back, you know, you really are serving your country. In my civilian job, I meet veterans all the time who come in and are going to school, and I always try to take a minute to thank them for their service, you 33:00know, even if it was for, you know, two years on active duty and everything else. They still served and put their time in and I think it makes you see the country in a different light. And really, you have a little bit better of an understanding of the sacrifices that soldiers are making, and you know, it's an important role. And someone has to do it, and obviously it's not the right job for everybody, and I understand that, but um, I think it's mainly more patriotic and, you know, I have a military family, so on one hand, I hope my son does it, and follow in my footsteps, and on the other hand, you want him to be home and safe, but, you know, of course I would support his decision if he felt compelled to do that, but I think, my husband and I are both in the military, both our fathers were in the military, so it's [inaudible]

SCHANEN : Did you meet in the military?

GEHRKE : In school I was, I had a friend who worked at Fort McCoy at a camp 34:00called Badger Challenge. It was a military camp for at-risk kids, and he asked me to come up there and work with them, work with the kids over the summer, so I went up there, and my husband was also a counselor up there, so we were both counselors up there.

SCHANEN : Now this was before you went for your basic, or--

GEHRKE : No. This was in '97. I went up to Fort McCoy for summers. I was still in college, so we just did this over the summers of '97 and '98, and then they opened the Wisconsin National Guard Challenge Academy up at Fort McCoy and I worked there for about a year before I graduated college, and that was the same type of thing--it was for at-risk teenagers.

SCHANEN : Sounds like an interesting program.

GEHRKE : Mm hm. I think it says a lot about the values and things that the people have who work there, you know, we're basically helping these kids to change their lives.

SCHANEN : Is this sponsored by the state, or is it?

GEHRKE : It's sponsored by the state, but they do get federal money.


SCHANEN : And it's military personnel that help with it, then, because it's a military challenge, or something?

GEHRKE : It's run by the state. You don't have to be in the military to do it, but it is I think sponsored by the National Guard.

SCHANEN : And what is, what is the program for the kids? What do they do?

GEHRKE : They go through schooling, so a lot of them are truant from high school, or they're getting bad grades; they're not going to graduate; they have drug problems, so they go through the program. They get their HSED [High School Equivalency Diploma], they go to class with their teachers every day. It's more of a military setting, though. They march to class. They have to do certain things. Clean their barracks--they live in barracks. So--

SCHANEN : Do they have obstacle courses?


SCHANEN : Marches, long distance marches?

GEHRKE : Yes. They go through all that kind of physical activity, physical training. You know, it's not as tough as basic training, because we're not training them for war, but we're trying to give them the discipline that they 36:00didn't have in their civilian or normal life, and trying to get them through high school so they can graduate and hopefully be more productive since then.

SCHANEN : Has there been any follow-up on the success of that program?

GEHRKE : There is. It's still running today, so, and it gets more successful every year. I don't know statistics, but we have kept in touch with a couple of the kids who went through that program so we know kind of how they're progressing and staying out of trouble and doing something with their lives, so.

SCHANEN : Oh, that's great.

GEHRKE : It's rewarding that way, as well. If I hadn't been in the military, I wouldn't have been in the program like that, and that's where I met my husband. So the military stuff has actually very important to me.

SCHANEN : Okay. Any other stories from your military experience that you'd like to share?

GEHRKE : Um, just when I was with the 826th ordnance company we did a lot of really good things that I think a lot of other units don't get to do. For 37:00example, we did our trainings overseas. We got to go to Germany, and then on the weekends we had free time to--

SCHANEN : --Oh in Germany--

GEHRKE : Yeah. To go, I mean I went with two other people for the weekend and we went to Switzerland, and you know, we saw stuff there, so you know we got free time to travel around as well while we were there, and so--

SCHANEN : And were you there just for two weeks just because--

GEHRKE : Three weeks. Yep, you go for three weeks. I went over there twice, and that's a big opportunity for some people who might not ever get to go overseas, or get to Europe, so that's a really great thing about that unit. And then we got really good training. We used to do sling loading operations where we would have helicopters fly up, you know helicopter units we used to [inaudible] from like Georgia area I think, and they would fly up and it's basically putting the ammo on these huge nets and hooking it to the bottom of helicopters, so you're standing on this ammo, and this huge helicopter is hovering over your head, and you have to hook something onto the bottom of it. So and we, you know 38:00we got rides in Chinook Helicopters and Blackhawk helicopters from things like that, so I just think we had a lot of opportunities that not everybody gets, so it's been really rewarding that way, as well.

SCHANEN : And how long were you with that unit?

GEHRKE : Most of my career I was with them from '95 to Fall of 2003, but one of those years I was at the 961st.

SCHANEN : Okay, so ordnance was your basic place.

GEHRKE : My home. [laughs].

SCHANEN : And that's the one that you keep in contact with them with the job you're doing, now?

GEHRKE : Yes. Right, They are one of my units I worked with in retention, so I consider that like--

SCHANEN : Your home.

GEHRKE : Yep. Yeah, I've been there a long time, so that's.

SCHANEN : And you maintain those friendships even outside of the military setting, or is it basically at the drill setting?

GEHRKE : Yeah, no, outside I have a girlfriend outside that I talk to quite a bit during the week. Actually, people who got out before, I'm still very good 39:00friends with. One lives in Phoenix [Arizona]. One lives in Milwaukee, and I still talk with them--e-mail with them. We were a close knit group. I just stayed in and they got out. But I do have friends from now. One of the males that I went overseas with, he's a very good friend of my husband and I still. The 826th is actually over in Iraq right now, and one of my very good friends from mobilization went with them, so I keep in touch with him and his family, as well. So it's given me a lot of friendships and opportunities that I would have missed had I not been in the military.

SCHANEN : And I know I'm going to be interviewing your husband, so I'll get his story, but are you in the same unit now, or--

GEHRKE : No. He's actually, he was in the reserves, but then wanted to become an officer and he switched over to the Guard, so now he's in the field artillery unit in the National Guard.

SCHANEN : So you, were you ever in the same unit, or have you just met having both been in the military Reserve Corps.

GEHRKE : Well, we met at that camp for at risk kids, and he wasn't even in the 40:00military, yet. So he joined after we had met.

SCHANEN : So you had a lot to do with that?

GEHRKE : I talked him into, well, me and his father was also an AGR--Active Guard Reserve--for the National Guard, a US command sergeant major. He retired about two years ago, so I think the influence of both of us--both his father and myself on him, you know, I think it was something he wanted to do, so he joined after he was out of college, and now he's a lieutenant.

SCHANEN : Alright, now I'll let him tell about that. Anything else that you care to share?

GEHRKE : I think that's it.

SCHANEN : Alright, well thank you very much.

GEHRKE : Thanks.

[End of Interview]

0:00 - Interview Introduction

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Partial Transcript: Interviewer: This is an interview with Deanna Heiser Gehrke who has been serving with the United States Army Reserves since December, 1995, and is currently still in there.

Segment Synopsis: In this segment, Gehrke describes her pre-military life and her decision to enlist in the Army Reserve.



2:58 - Basic Training

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Partial Transcript: Interviewer: And now when did you, what month and year did you join, and where were you inducted?

Segment Synopsis: In this segment, Gehrke describes her basic training experiences at Fort Jackson, South Carolina as a junior platoon sergeant, and reflects on her adjustment to the military way of life.



9:15 - Advanced Individual Training School

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Partial Transcript: Interviewer: Then after you finished your basic training, did you go to advanced training then to be a mechanic?

Segment Synopsis: In this segment, Gehrke describes her experiences while training to be a heavy wheel mechanic, and compares life in advanced training to that in basic training.



18:29 - Drilling with the 826th Ordnance Company and the 961st Engineer Battallion

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Partial Transcript: Interviewer: So after you finished AIT, now, you were able to come back to civilian life and just were required then to go to meetings once a month?

Segment Synopsis: In this segment, Gehrke describes her return to civilian life, her higher education, and her monthly drilling with the Army Reserves from 1995 through 2003.



21:34 - Mobilization for Operation Iraqi Freedom

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Partial Transcript: Gehrke: So I stayed with them for a year, and then I wanted to come back to the 826, and then I came back to the 826, and then last, in 2003, in January, I mobilized for Operation Iraqi Freedom and we were at Fort McCoy [Wisconsin] for six months, and they were going to send us over three times.

Segment Synopsis: In this segment, Gehrke explains her brief six month mobilization during Operation Iraqi Freedom.



23:20 - Reclassification / Assignment to the 88th Regional Readiness Command

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Partial Transcript: Interviewer: And what is your title--your job title?

Segment Synopsis: In this segment, Gehrke details her transition from being a heavy wheel mechanic, to an ammunition specialist, to a career counseling with the 88th Regional Readiness Command.



26:12 - Civilian Life / Veterans Benefits

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Partial Transcript: Interviewer: So what is your job in civilian life--the rest of the month?

Segment Synopsis: In this segment, Gehrke describes her civilian career, noting how the military has assisted her in this pursuit, and explains her use of veterans benefits.



29:50 - Overseas Training / The Impact of Military Life

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Partial Transcript: Interviewer: Were you ever overseas, or just trained to go over?

Segment Synopsis: In this segment, Gehrke describes her training overseas, as well as the friendships and character-building benefits of having served in the military.



33:55 - Work at Wisconsin Challenge Academy

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Partial Transcript: Gehrke: In school I was, I had a friend who worked at Fort McCoy at a camp called Badger Challenge.

Segment Synopsis: In this segment, Gehrke describes her work at the Wisconsin Challenge Academy, detailing the academy's mission and affiliations.



36:48 - Anecdotes / Interview Conclusion

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Partial Transcript: Interviewer: Any other stories from your military experience that you'd like to share?

Segment Synopsis: In this segment, Gehrke relates stories about her training in Germany, her military friendships, and concludes with a brief discussion of her husband's service.



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