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    National Guard members attend officer development session with the Senate Sergeant at Arms

    U.S. Senate Sergeant at Arms speaks at Capital professional development event

    Photo By Staff Sgt. Andrew Enriquez | Retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Karen Gibson, now the U.S. Senate Sergeant at Arms, speaks...... read more read more



    Story by Capt. Chelsi Johnson 

    DC National Guard

    WASHINGTON – National Guard female officers supporting the Capitol Response mission took part in an officer development session with the Senate Sergeant at Arms, May 11.

    Retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Karen Gibson spoke to an audience of about 25 female Soldiers and Airmen at the U.S. Capitol about why she joined the Army, the challenges she faced, and the lessons she learned while serving.

    “I ended up staying in the Army for 33 years, and you might say I got lucky because it was not a very well thought out decision,” said Gibson. “It didn’t take long for me to absolutely fall in love with being a Soldier.”

    Growing up in Montana, Gibson wanted to be an engineer, and when she was accepted to Purdue University, the Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps scholarship helped to cover the out-of-state tuition costs.

    “[What] I loved about being a Soldier was that it challenged me mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually,” said Gibson. “No matter what I accomplished, wherever they set the bar, there’s another pole that I could go for after that.”

    Throughout the conversation, Gibson told stories where she often faced adversity being one of only a few female officers. She highlighted one story in particular about overcoming difficulties when she went to the Northern Warfare Training Center for the winter course and the culminating graduation exercise was a 10-kilometer biathlon.

    “I didn’t tell anyone, but I had grown up skiing six days a week in Montana, and I came in second,” said Gibson. “From that point on, life got a lot easier for me because once I demonstrated competence, people stopped caring which bathroom I used. What I have found throughout my career is that the more serious the work at hand, the less people care about gender or race or sexual orientation, and the more they care about whether or not you could do your job.”

    Gibson spoke about her various military assignments throughout her career and the challenges she faced in the assignments she wanted and the assignments she did not want.

    “Sometimes, even when it’s not the [job] you want and it doesn’t look like it’s going to be a lot of fun, there is still much that you can learn in that position that will be important to you for other jobs that you’re going to take in the future,” said Gibson. “So you should approach any position that you’re given from that perspective of ‘what can I learn from doing this and how is it going to make me better.’”

    An assignment that Gibson wanted throughout her career was a deployment, but as opportunities became available, life happened. By 2007, Gibson was a lieutenant colonel and though the U.S. had been fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan for several years, she still had not deployed. For Gibson, she questioned her ability to lead Soldiers if she hadn’t done what the Army expected of Soldiers, so she found an assignment at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, that would give her a chance to deploy and fight in the battle. However, the battle she ended up fighting wasn’t on a deployment.

    As part of the pre-deployment health assessment, Gibson had a mammogram and was diagnosed with breast cancer. She would not be deploying for at least five years.

    “It plunged me into depression,” said Gibson. “I wanted to be tested. I wanted to be part of this team. I wanted to see what I was made of. I did find out, but it was a different battle than the one I thought I was embarking on, and I learned a lot in that time.”

    Gibson realized that, when going through an emotionally transforming event, people may feel like they’re the only one to ever have this happen to them.

    “I [realized] that almost everyone has had something big and emotional and hard and difficult happen in their lives, and it made me a more empathetic leader,” said Gibson. “There’s an expression that I think [is from] ancient Greece: be kind, because the person you’re dealing with may be having troubles you don’t see. I fully believe that.”

    Gibson, looking to prove the doctors wrong, ended up deploying twice over the next five years before retiring in March 2020. She spent the next several months being self-employed. Then the January 6 attack on the Capitol happened.

    The skillset Gibson gained from her military background earned her a spot on the security review team that looked into the attack and, as part of the effort, they briefed members of Congress and their staff.

    “On February 17, we briefed [U.S. Senate Majority] Leader Schumer’s office in the Senate, and on February 20, his office asked me if I would like to be the Senate Sergeant at Arms,” said Gibson. “I wasn't looking for a job; my resume wasn't out there. I was happily retired. I thought, here I am, trying to be part of something, to make sure that this never happens again, and I'm offered an opportunity to continue in that role. How can I say no?”

    As Gibson concluded the session, she reflected on her time as a Soldier serving in the Army and how that has helped her transition to her role as Senate Sergeant at Arms.

    “When I reflect on [what] I most loved about being a Soldier, it was being a part of a team of people who were committed to each other and to the mission and that were embarked on something really meaningful and worthwhile,” said Gibson. “I find that in the Senate Sergeant at Arms, and I get up for work every day with the same enthusiasm that I had as a Soldier.

    She closed by thanking the Soldiers and Airmen in the audience. “Thank you for what you are doing in this exciting and fulfilling work. It makes our nation stronger, and I think our units are lucky to have you here.”



    Date Taken: 05.14.2021
    Date Posted: 05.17.2021 15:47
    Story ID: 396614
    Location: WASHINGTON, DC, US 

    Web Views: 166
    Downloads: 0