An occasional series of chats with one of our troops.
Sgt. 1st Class Valerie Baumgartel
Hometown: Newhall, Iowa / Age: 37 / Iowa National Guard’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team, Third Platoon
Q: What do you do here?
A: I’m a platoon sergeant, Third Platoon. Third Platoon is more specialized. We have weapons, ammo, ground support equipment (like) generators, A/C repair. . . . I pretty much just supervise schedules and stuff like that. It’s nothing super exciting, but I’m kind of a behind-the-scenes person.
Q: What do you do back home?
A: I’m a quality assurance specialist for an herbs and spices company in Norway (Iowa). Totally, totally different. This is my 19th year (in the Guard). I’ll retire when I get back.
Q: This is your first deployment. How has it been?
A: I guess nothing really surprises me because you really don’t know what to prepare for or anything like that. I knew that the temperature was going to be cold and then warm. I guess the biggest thing about (Bagram Air Field) is just that it’s so dusty and it’s so big, so that’s probably the biggest surprise for me. Other than that, there aren’t too many surprises.
Q: Did anything here remind you of home?
A: The cold did, but in a good way, because it wasn’t really that cold. As they (at home) were having, like, 30 below, it was maybe 20 degrees here, and it was definitely a tolerable 20 degrees. I mean, I barely wore my cold-weather gear. Granted, I’m not “out” out, like most of the (soldiers).
Q: What has made this deployment go well?
A: I have a good support system back home: my husband (Brad) and my children. . . . That’s really the biggest, most important thing to making me successful here, is having a good support system back home, so I’ve been really lucky in that aspect.
I have a stepson and two sons. My oldest two are 6. His son (Braden) and my son (Noah) are both 6, and then my youngest (Jonathan) is 4.
As soon as I see (my family), I’m just going to hug them all and we’re just going to hang out and definitely get some good food. My husband’s an awesome cook, so he’ll be cooking for me, and Panera Bread isn’t very far away. That’s what I’m looking forward to most. That and Starbucks coffee.
Q: Will he cook anything special?
A: He pretty much knows my favorites, so I’m sure there will be some good meals. He makes the best egg noodles in the world because he always adds herbs and spices. . . . He was active duty at one point in time. He was in the Army and he was actually a cook.