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FROM READERS: A mother discussses journey to become military officer

Thursday, December 20, 2012 | 3:45 p.m. CST
Ashland resident Marie Olson began her military career as a college student in 1997. Fifteen years later, she has experienced two overseas deployments and worked her way to the rank of captain with the Missouri National Guard.

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

At first glance, Marie Olson might not be perceived as the type of person associated with military service. With a small stature and beaming grin, the Ashland resident and mother of two does not fit the traditional image of a soldier.

But a deeper search into her background will underscore a 15-year military career that includes two overseas combat tours and promotion to the rank of captain.

While attending Southeast Missouri State University, Olson was inspired to military service and enlisted in the Missouri National Guard in 1997.

The Cameron native went on to complete her training as a military policeman and was assigned to the 1138th MP Company in Springfield.

Taking a break from her education in 1999, Olson was hired full time with her unit the following year.

“I really enjoyed what I was doing with the Guard and wanted to do it every day,” she said.

Her excitement for service received its first test in early 2003, when her unit was mobilized for overseas deployment.

Assigned to locations in Iraq, Kuwait and Qatar, Olson said the unit’s primary duties were to perform law and order missions.

Though she notes the deployment was both interesting and exciting, it came with its difficulties as well.

“My daughter was just nine months old,” she said. “Leaving her behind at such a young age was the most difficult part.”

Returning in late 2003, she remained with the unit until 2006, at which time she transferred to the 175th MP Battalion in Columbia.

She soon completed her bachelor’s degree with Drury University and decided to apply for officer’s candidate school (OCS).

“I had a lot of active service left, and I really wanted a new challenge — a chance to serve as a leader,” she said.

Olson finished OCS in 2008 with the distinction of honor graduate and transferred to the 205th MP Battalion in Poplar Bluff. She was pinned a 2nd lieutenant while the unit was deployed to Louisiana in response to Hurricane Gustav.

Settling into her new duties, Olson soon learned her responsibilities as an officer during wartime when the unit mobilized for service in Afghanistan in early 2010.

“The second deployment was a little easier because my daughter was 8 years old and understood what was going on,” she said. “My son was 4, so he was also at a point where he comprehended what was happening, too.”

Assigned to the eastern section of the country, Olson’s unit served as mentors for the Afghan national police providing guidance in such specialties as security and logistics.

After her return from deployment the following year, she earned her master’s degree through Webster University.

After a brief stint with a unit in Jefferson City, Olson returned to the 175th MP Battalion in Columbia where she serves as the full-time human resources officer. On drill weekends, she serves as the commander of HHC, 70th Troop Command at Jefferson Barracks.

Beginning an unexpected career while still a student, Olson recognizes the gratification that comes with working one’s way into a leadership position.

“You know you’ve done something right when you see soldiers you have trained take their own soldiers to war and bring them back safely,” she said. “That gives you a true sense of accomplishment.”

Despite the moves and overseas duty often connected to a military career, Olson states her family remains the most important aspect of her life and that her career has had its own unique impact on her children.

“My son walks around the house with a backpack and says he’s going to be an infantryman someday,” she laughed. “And my daughter even gave a speech at my recent promotion ceremony.

“It’s just wonderful to know that you have children who are proud of their mother and gladly support such a career choice.”

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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