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Allean Harrington was enamored with the military at an early age.
Her infatuation began with a deep appreciation for the attractiveness of the uniforms.
A random drive one day led her near the U.S. National Guard and Army Reserves recruiting offices. She drove past the National Guard but hit the brakes when she reached the Reserves office. She walked inside.
Her life would never be the same.
She joined the U.S. Army Reserves in 1977, serving more than 26-and-a-half years between active and inactive duty, retiring as a chief warrant officer.
“I guess you could say military is my life,” she said.
Harrington started out in administrative duty before she moved into supply, finishing her career serving as a logistics specialist. After retiring, the itch for service returned and she spent 17 months in Afghanistan as a civilian contractor.
She had numerous assignments that took her to Bosnia and southwest Asia, but she also saw wartime work in the Persian Gulf, where she served as a supply sergeant with a chemical battalion.
Her mission was a crucial one as she compiled supplies and bartered for other items, including equipment and food.
“I made sure we had all the supplies we needed to keep our camp going, all the supplies we needed to build our area,” she said
Being a chemical unit, most of their equipment was packed up.
“We had to make do with what we could,” she said.
She would find boards to form makeshift platforms for tents and trade protective masks for smaller sizes once members of the unit lost weight. After chemical suits were worn, she said, they would have to be replaced.
Often she drove for miles to find supply sites because they relocated quickly.
“It was really difficult, just keeping the equipment that our people needed,” she said.
The unit cleaned up chemical spills and also decontaminated equipment, such as tanks and vehicles, before they crossed customs.
Harrington also helped manage the Tactical Operations Center at her command and was informed by her leaders Desert Storm could be launching at any moment.
Harrington received the code in the middle of the night when she heard, “This will be the mother of all wars” across the radio. She had been serving as part of Desert Shield.
The camp was informed and a mixture of emotions flooded the area, panic included.
“It was really kind of scary to me, because hardly any of us had ever been in combat,” she said.
The closest Harrington actually came to combat was a routine trip along a supply route. Her vehicle veered off course and was within miles of enemy lines when military policemen chased the vehicle down and warned them they were heading in the wrong direction.
Her unit also was charged with cleaning up a mustard gas spill in Kuwait. By the time the unit mobilized, the spill had been taken care of.
“We were grateful for that,” she said.
Female soldiers had to cover as much of their body as they could when they moved around. Protective vests, first aid kits and canteens were a requirement, she said.
Harrington also was required to keep her weapon in immaculate shape and keep a log of her ammunition, but the sand could pose problems in keeping arms clean.
Considering the circumstances, morale was good, she said. But a spirit of unrest lingered around the camp and persisted during recreational moments, such as a round of cards.
“Everybody was pretty much uneasy for the most part,” she said.
On one occasion, Harrington and others feared the perimeter of the camp was being infiltrated, so they quickly drew their weapons. The intruder was nothing more than trash bags, she said with a laugh.
“It was easy to maybe have an accident so you had to be really careful that you really shot at what needed to be shot at or did not shoot when it wasn’t necessary,” she said.
Marty Finley can be reached at (270) 505-1762 or email@example.com.
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