The Road to War: Single mother preparing for first deployment

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Spc. Briana Hawkes says she is not nervous about Afghanistan

By Marty Finley

Spc. Briana Hawkes did not necessarily pine for a job in the U.S. Army. She just wanted a free T-shirt.

She signed up for the shirt after she crossed paths with a military recruiter, and the phone calls started pouring in. As the calls mounted, she started considering the Army as a viable career alternative.

By then, Hawkes, 23, had decided her job as a housekeeper was not financially suitable for her, nor did it provide the fulfillment she desired. The Army was looking more appealing by the day.

“I didn’t want to make minimum wage,” she said.

Hawkes, a single mother, is assigned to the 3rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command and preparing for her first deployment after  for years being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The command will deploy in late March or early April to Afghanistan, where it will manage supplies and resources for the Army and assist in the retrograde of equipment and withdrawal of thousands of soldiers from the country as part of a directive issued by President Barack Obama.

Hawkes will fill the role of a supply sergeant, maintaining inventories of supplies handled internally by the 3rd ESC. The position is familiar to Hawkes, who has spent roughly the past six years in the Army and worked with supplies extensively during her career, which included a stint at Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas.

Sgt. 1st Class Robert Strain, a public affairs officer with the 3rd ESC, said Hawkes will manage items from as miniscule as a pack of pens to hundreds of new computers arriving in the unit.

“They all have to go through her,” Strain said.

Hawkes originally eyed active duty but was placed in the reserve, albeit for only a few months.

She forgot to mention her plans to join the military to her family until she had signed up. Jaws dropped when she shared the news.

Unconvinced of her sincerity, Hawkes’ family members started placing bets on how long she would last. Hawkes said she was not a morning person when she joined and had a problem with anyone telling her what to do. These characteristics led family members to label her an inevitable washout.

She quickly proved her naysayers wrong and the doubting ceased, but the surprise at her success has not disappeared.

“They still don’t believe I’ve stayed this long,” she said.

An only child, Hawkes also has worked to alleviate her mother’s worries about Afghanistan and assure her the war stories she has heard will not apply to the mission of the 3rd ESC.

She re-enlisted and landed at Fort Knox in 2010. She said she is not intimidated by the deployment and has volunteered to leave before. A unit she previously was assigned to had been in line for a deployment, she said, but the orders were cut.

“Work keeps me pretty busy,” she said. “I really don’t have time to think about it” or stress over leaving.

She also does not expect a huge change in her daily routine because her work is a constant and is unaffected by geography. But she does admit there will be a few changes.

“It’s a different atmosphere, of course,” she said.

The absence of her 20-month-old daughter is another change. Her daughter’s father is stationed locally and will take care of her until he transfers, Hawkes said. Hawkes’ mother then will take care of her granddaughter in Ohio until she returns from deployment.

Hawkes said her daughter knew her own father when he returned from a yearlong deployment so she is confident her absence will have no negative effects.

“She has a sense,” Hawkes said of her daughter. “She knows who her mother is. She’ll be OK.”

Marty Finley can be reached at (270) 505-1762 or mfinley@thenewsenterprise.com.