Me: You worked in Security Forces for the United States Air Force before your current job as an Air Battle Manager. Tell us about one of your more challenging deployments and where you are today?
Lt Chantal Hand: I enlisted in the military in January 2007. In October of that year, I deployed to Camp Bucca, Iraq. My job there was to guard the Iraqi detainees. Abu Ghraib definitely changed how Security Forces as a whole guarded detainees. Before we left for deployment, we were given a ton of training on what happened, how it happened, and how it could have been prevented. I think it did affect my team and me in the way we approached our job. It made me more cautious when interacting with detainees.
Being a guard at Camp Bucca was a challenging job because Iraqis already have a problem with women and now that I was guarding them, it was even worse…Some of the detainees were okay to be around, but some of them were extremely disrespectful. They would make inappropriate gestures at the other females and me when we were on a walk around. Sometimes they even threw stuff at us, to include poop.
The compound I worked in was unique to others because it had both Sunni and Shiite prisoners in it. This was challenging because not only do they not get along well among themselves, but they also didn’t like having women guard. It was a very different kind of work environment than working in an American prison.
While on duty, there were many emotions. I worked mids, so I remember being tired a lot. We also worked 6 days on and only 1 day off because we were so short on bodies. As a young Airman, this schedule can wear on you and depress you really quickly. Luckily, I had a really good team around me to help me through the deployment. Also, de-stressing is extremely important in our job. When you are deployed, there aren’t a lot of things to do to de-stress, so I would go to the gym a lot.
During this deployment, I ran into a lot of great officers and eventually decided I wanted to commission, more specifically go to the Air Force Academy. I returned from deployment in March and immediately began working on my package. I submitted my package to the Air Force Academy in the winter of 2008.
In May 2009 I found out I was pregnant. On that same day I found out that I had been accepted to the Air Force Academy. Though I had to decline my acceptance to the Academy, I did not give up on my dream of commissioning. That fall, I put in applications to attend ROTC. January 2010, I gave birth to my daughter and found out that I had been accepted into the SOAR (Scholarship for Outstanding Airmen to ROTC) program. I separated from the military in August of 2010 to complete my degree, and ultimately earn my commission. In May of 2013 I graduated from The Ohio State University and that August, I was commissioned.
Me: What or who was it that kept you towards your goal of getting commissioned?
Lt Hand: I have always been a driven person and once I make my mind up on something I don’t give up. I would say that there were people, my chief and CC (commander), that kept helping me keep the door open for the opportunity. They didn’t give up on me, so I couldn’t give up on myself.