FROM READERS: Extensive military career begins with search for supplemental income

Thursday, October 4, 2012 | 10:00 a.m. CDT
Debbie Dixon enlisted in the Missouri National Guard in 1978 as a second job to help supplement her income. She will retire next year with 35 years of service and having served a deployment to Kosovo.

Jeremy P. Amick is the public affairs officer for the Silver Star Families of America.

A mother’s job is often challenging with mornings filled with last-minute tasks such as preparing a child for the day at school. But for many years, Debbie Dixon’s mornings began with the lacing up of combat boots and has lead to an endearment for others who have previously served. 

A 1972, graduate of Jefferson City High School, Dixon was hired by the state of Missouri shortly following her graduation. 

Several years later, she discovered that  even though she worked full time, it was still difficult for a single mother to make ends meet. 

“I wanted to find a way to supplement my income,” said Dixon, 58, of Jefferson City. “It was tough working for the state and trying to cover all the bills.” 

Dixon made the decision to enlist in the National Guard in 1978 as part of the Army Civilian Acquired Skills Program — an initiative designed to recruit women possessing certain high-demand skills into the National Guard. 

Already proficient in many aspects of human resources from her time working for the state, Dixon was only required to complete her initial training, which she did at Fort McClellan, Ala.

Her first assignment was with the 1035th Maintenance Company in Jefferson City, before she was hired full time with the human resources office at the Missouri National Guard's headquarters.

Throughout the next several years, she remained at headquarters working her way up in the ranks and performing a variety of clerical tasks, to include pay, benefits and retirements of active duty Guardsmen and federal technician employees. 

In 2005, the routine of her daily duties was interrupted when she was selected to serve on a newly formed initiative called the Chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and high-yield explosive (CBRNE) enhanced response force packages (CERFP) teams.    

“The CERFP’s responsibilities were to respond to disasters that may include nuclear and radiological threats,” Dixon said. “My position was to work in the decontamination area cleaning personnel and equipment in the case of a hazardous exposure.”

Although her responsibilities never went any further than preparedness training, Dixon was unexpectedly thrust into a new environment when mobilized for service in Kosovo.

“I was 55 years old, and I guess fear of the unknown was my first feeling,” Dixon recalled. “This is what I had signed up for … the realization that whatever role I was to serve for the Guard plays an important role in the larger scheme of events.”  

Deployed to Camp Bondsteel in June 2008, Dixon notes that her background in human resources helped prepare her for the duties she performed in Kosovo. She worked with the “locals” on a regular basis and helped coordinate inbound and outgoing flights for soldiers entering and leaving the country. 

Finishing the deployment in March 2009, Dixon returned home to discover that sacrifices she had made for her two sons over the past several years had not gone unnoticed.

“While I was deployed I had sent money home, and (my sons) used it to completely remodel my house,” she said. “It was quite the unexpected surprise.” 

With 34 years of military service now behind her, Dixon expects to retire next year taking time to “explore her options.”

Looking back on an overseas deployment nearly 30 years in the making, Dixon explains military service has given her a greater appreciation for those who have come before while bestowing a desire to honor others. 

“Many of those who came before us experienced deployments that were extremely difficult,” Dixon said. “They didn’t have the benefits that we have, such as regular communication.”

Dixon has been a member of the American Legion Riders for the past three years and explains that her participation in such groups provides an opportunity to express an appreciation born of her own service. 

“It is truly an honor to participate in events such as the Central Missouri Honor Flights and welcome home our World War II veterans,” she said. “I realize that I am myself a veteran, but these individuals need to be recognized for what they have done to make the world a safer place for all of us.”  

This story is part of a section of the Missourian called From Readers, which is dedicated to your voices and your stories. We hope you'll consider sharing. Here's how. 

Supervising editor is Joy Mayer.

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