International Women’s Day 2019: Portrait of a U.S. Soldier in Iraq
Story by MAJ Timothy Johnson on 03/06/2019
CAMP TAJI, Iraq 108th Sustainment Brigade commemorates International Women’s Day 2019 (IWD) by recognizing the dedication and strength of U.S. Army National Guard Sgt. Gabrielle Calderon.
Called upon in the eleventh hour to fill a critical Operation Inherent Resolve deployment vacancy with Task Force Lincoln, comprised of Soldiers from the Illinois Army National Guard, Calderon answered without hesitation
“My family is my motivation and drive behind everything I do. I am only here because I have their support” she said.
Serving on her first overseas deployment, Calderon executes a dual role as convoy commander and security element lead for advise and assist missions conducted with Iraqi Army key leaders. She adds energy and laughter to the daily grind, and is a motivating force for the rest of the task force.
“Sgt. Calderon has a drive to continuously improve, displays a contagious attitude, and shows strong professionalism,” Maj. Zachary Bokum, her team leader explains. “She is a leader that others need to emulate.”
Reflecting on this year’s IWD theme “Balance for Better,” Calderon expressed the positivity her team admires in her.
“As a motor transportation operator. I am in a male-dominated specialty. I do often feel I have to do better just to prove I’m just as good as the men. I don’t allow it to bring me down; I use it as the fuel to put my engine into overdrive.”
She offers advice for anyone experiencing gender bias, be it in a military setting or a civilian workplace: “stand up for yourself, and prove that you are just as good if not better than those who surround you.”
Calderon’s favorite part of being a Soldier is the challenge and opportunity it presents.
“There is always a new goal to achieve, an NCOES, a higher rank, a new MOS, a new unit, a new mission.”
She says choosing to stay in the Army has its challenges, but it’s the right choice for her and her family.
“My husband has always encouraged me to do what I love and what I’m good at, and for me, that’s being a Soldier. Having him by my side allows us to show our kids that hard work is not only the job of a dad, but in our home we are a team.”
She looks forward to getting back to some of her favorite activities, like organizing special birthday parties for her kids and tinkering with the race cars in the garage. Until then she’ll continue to focus on the mission at hand, striving to be the outstanding leader described in the Creed of the Noncommissioned Officer.
“I have been blessed with some amazing leaders in my path, and I take pride in what they teach me,” Calderon explains, “I want to provide the leadership to my Soldiers that has been provided to me.”