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Home > UNS > 140325-01



Protecting our way of life…A Soldier, a mother and a wife

by Sgt. Daniel A. Carter

FORT BRAGG, N.C. (USASOC News Service, March 25, 2014) – For many women, serving their country is both a rewarding and challenging experience. For one woman in particular, her experiences in the U.S. Army have not only helped her become the woman she is today, but have also helped her become the leader that she has aspired to become.

"After enlisting in 1986, I realized that I enjoyed the Army's mission,” said Col. Wendy Graham, a Portland, Maine native."I am the oldest of six siblings so I was given responsibility and decision making at a relatively young age, much like our officer corps. I also wanted to become an Army officer because I wanted to experience diversity and see the world - the real world - and not just listen to academic's theories and discussions."

Graham is the Military Information Support Operations Command (MISOC) inspector general, and has served in the Army for nearly 28 years.

She enlisted into the U.S. Army Reserve in January 1986. After spending her college years as a reservist, as well as a ROTC cadet, Graham knew that she wanted to become an active-duty officer. Graduating with a bachelor's degree in Economic and Political Geography, Graham commissioned in 1990 in the quartermaster corps.

After receiving her commission, Graham received her first duty assignment to Kaiserslautern, Germany, home to the 9th Materiel Management Center, 21st Theater Army Area Command.

"The disadvantage of this assignment for me was that I was the only very junior officer at a 3-star headquarters, so it was a little intimidating," said Graham, "[Although], the primary advantage of this assignment was that because the organization was filled with very professional and experienced officers and NCOs (non-commissioned officers), I had numerous positive role models who took the time to teach me, lead me, and guide me."

In 1994, Graham was stationed in Fort Bliss, Texas, where she assumed command of the 699th Maintenance Company, at the time part of the 11th Air Defense Artillery Brigade. As a young captain, the end of her command marked the first critical turning point in her career.

"I was just finishing up company command [in 1996], which was my ultimate goal in the Army, and having successfully accomplished that I was at a career decision point, should I stay or should I go, when the psychological operations branch manager called."

When the branch manager explained to Graham that she would be immersed into a joint and combined environment, as well as given additional time with Soldiers, she was "sold".

"I was also intrigued with the importance of MISO during each and every phase of a conflict, including the delay and potential prevention of conflict," explains Graham.

After attending the Psychological Operations Officer Course in 1997, she was assigned to the 4th Psychological Operations Group (Airborne) in 1998 where her career as a MISO (Military Information Support Operations) officer began.

A few years after joining the MISO career field, Graham, along with the rest of the United States, experienced an event that would forever change her life as well as that of millions of other people and plunge the nation into the Global War on Terror.

"While there were many memorable moments in my career ranging from operational successes to personal growth experiences, the most memorable one happened on Sept. 11, 2001," said Graham. "Like so many, I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when I saw the news that morning."

"I was overdue to deliver my first child and I remember a feeling of complete and total fear because I was so physically vulnerable," Graham recalled, "Thoughts of hopelessness about bringing a new child into such an evil world surfaced."

But Graham's fear was short-lived. She remembers that her hope was restored sometime between that fateful day and Sept.  20, 2001, when she delivered her daughter while President George W. Bush delivered his speech to the nation alerting the military to be ready for the possibility of war.

Having just delivered her daughter, Graham started to receive many phone calls and visitors who she believed were searching for their own hope, the hope that new life brings.

"I was considering leaving the Army before 9/11, but after 9/11 I chose to remain in the Army until I am no longer needed," Graham said, explaining the second critical turning point in her career, "I feel the best way for me to protect our children's future is to protect our way of life."

After 9/11 and multiple deployments in support of the Global War on Terrorism, Graham served in multiple leadership positions within the MISOC Community. She commanded Company A, 5th Military Information Support Battalion (Airborne) in 2002 and commanded the 8th MISB (A) from 2009 to 2011.  

Graham has been recognized by her command as an essential and influential leader with an effective command philosophy.

"My leadership philosophy is that the character of the leaders shapes the organizational environment," Graham states, "I use a Zig Zigler quote when counseling my leaders, 'The most important persuasion tool you have in your entire arsenal is integrity'."

"Integrity is tangible and measurable and embodies such traits as taking personal responsibility, keeping your word, standing your ground for what is right, maintaining your honor, and having genuine care for your team," she said.  "Care and concern for your subordinates is a forcing function to do what is best for the Army’s mission and its people at all times."

Through her years of service in the Army, Graham believes that mission success is not only about the bottom line, but that it is equally important how one gets to the end result. She describes her best learning experiences as the honest mistakes that she has made in her career and that she has learned more from these than from many of her successes.

"In today's all-volunteer force, women have accepted the challenges, responsibilities, and dangers of military service and if Special Operations Forces interests you, then come along," Graham said.

In addition to a successful career, Graham says that "if you also want a family, you can have that too; the two are not mutually exclusive. It's not always going to be easy, but it is usually rewarding."

Through hard times, professional and operational successes, Graham has been moving forward and leading from the front as an inspirational leader.