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Minnesota National Guard
A Mom on a Mission for Mothers Day

This female Minnesota Army National Guard Soldier probably had one of the more unique Mothers Day greetings

As Sgt Veronica Schilling of Fort Ripley, Minn, stood in the turret of a Humvee in Iraq, her truck commander, 1st Lt Paul Harper of North Minneapolis, Minn, yelled up to her, Hey Schilling, Happy Mothers Day, as the clock struck 12:15 am

For the next several hours, Schilling of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Brigade Combat Team, either stood up in the turret or sat down on its parapet, assuming her duties as one of four Humvee gunners This convoy escort team secured more than 15 semi trucks hauling goods from a small base in southern Iraq to Baghdad International Airport

The convoy didnt arrive at BIAP until sunrise

I would like my family to know that I do all of this for them, said Schilling, a 1995 Little Falls High School graduate and the married mother of a daughter who turns 2 on May 24 I am here for those I love most back home

She also said that when her daughter, Brooke, is older she will explain to her that she deployed to Iraq to protect her

Sure will be a mothers day you cant forget, Schilling said What she did this particular night wasnt different from any others She was the eyes for her team armed with a machine gun mounted on the swiveling turret This included using a large spotlight and donning night vision goggles

I shine anything that looks suspicious, she said

Schillings spotlight duties included illuminating potholes and overpasses for her driver, Spc Brandon Gerold (ducking down in the Humvee for safety as it went under them)

Schilling, who has been in the Guard since 1997, would also tell Harper the convoys interval status and other traffic concerns

When the convoy stopped because of the discovery of an Improvised Explosive Device several miles up the highway, Schilling donned her night vision goggles She said she was constantly scanning the area around the Humvee

Just always being alert and looking around, Schilling said this pretty much summed up her duties

She said she isn't the only one on the roads looking around It feels pretty good when people do a double take when they see that it is a female up there (in the turret), she said Its a good feeling

She said this reaction also gives her a lot of confidence

Something she admitted she didnt have when she first learned that she was going be a gunner I didnt feel that I had enough training on the crew served weapon, she said But with some additional experience I felt very confident and proud to be a female gunner

Schilling also trained with other Soldiers that she replaced Her fist convoy was to BIAP

It was a good time, she said The guys made it fun, they knew when to joke and not to joke around but it still was scary at times

This training also gave her the opportunity to test fire a 50-caliber machine gun, the weapon of choice for most gunners

I have learned since that first convoy to be very alert and always be ready to fight, she said My teams safety is dependent on my ability to quickly react

Back in Minnesota, Schilling left a full-time position at Camp Ripley near Little Falls, Minn, where she worked at the Property Management Office

When she returns, she will be the supply noncommissioned officer for Company B, 134th Brigade Support Battalion at the camp

She also will work in supply at Camp Adder, Iraq once a replacement company takes over the convoy escort missions next month

She said her deployment goal is to build on her skills as a noncommissioned officer and return to Minnesota with this knowledge and experience as back up

But for now, she said she will remember this Mothers Day as a day that she wasnt with her family but thought of them constantly

She also knows that Brooke is in good hands Schillings mother quit her job so she could watch Brooke during the day

Sgt. 1st Class Clinton Wood, 1/34 BCT PAO
May 2006

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