News: Commanders reflect on career paths
Story by Jessica Maxwell
The makings of a career
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. – One soldier comes from Puerto Rico and another soldier comes from Illinois. Both joined their college ROTC programs but neither believed the Army would be their careers. Years later, both have achieved the rank of colonel and command units in the 20th Support Command (CBRNE).
Col. Maria Zumwalt, originally from Bayamon, Puerto Rico, joined the University of Puerto Rico ROTC program in order to earn some money for college. At the time, she had no connection to the military but after participating in military training, Zumwalt grew to enjoy the opportunities offered.
“I found I enjoyed the structure, sense of purpose and the challenges,” Zumwalt said. “I was fascinated by it all.”
Col. Marue “Mo” Quick, a native of Fairmount, Ill., joined the ROTC program at Western Illinois University after listening to a presentation given to the freshman class.
“I loved what the military was doing. It [ROTC] was a tremendously rewarding experience,” Quick said.
Puerto Rico to Texas, and all in all, the stops in-between
Zumwalt, a science major at school, said at the time of her commissioning, chemical companies were in the process of transitioning to male and female soldiers. Beginning with her first station in Germany, Zumwalt refers to herself as a someone who thrives on challenges.
“I see challenge in a positive light – it’s a good thing,” she said. “Challenge should not be an obstacle but an opportunity to make a difference.”
Currently, Zumwalt commands the 48th Chemical Brigade (Fort Hood, Texas) and she previously served as the commander for the 1st Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division. While in the division, she deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Zumwalt said throughout her time in the military, she values every single minute spent training and caring for Soldiers. As she’s taken on the role of a leader, Zumwalt said this has only increased.
“Everything we do as leaders is ultimately about taking care of soldiers and their families,” she said. “Soldiers are the reason we have a job – we owe them the best. That’s why I’ve stayed in the Army for so many years.”
To Zumwalt, taking care of soldiers includes ensuring they have top training and systems in place to recognize excellence, as well as holding soldiers accountable. As the commander of the 48th Chemical Brigade, Zumwalt believes that trust, teamwork and discipline are components of a trained and ready unit.
“Discipline is everything. If you have discipline in your unit and Soldiers respect their leaders, anything and everything can be accomplished,” Zumwalt said.
To build a disciplined team that is not only experts in their core competencies, Zumwalt believes it is just as important that Soldiers understand they have to fulfill all the warrior tasks to the highest standard. Additionally, she believes it is crucial to take care of the families.
“When it comes to CBRNE soldiers, I don’t think there’s a more adaptable and flexible force, and I don’t say that lightly,” Zumwalt said. “You can say CBRNE soldiers are the quintessential athletes.”
Decision to continuously give her best
After ROTC, Quick attended Advanced Camp at Fort Riley, Kan., and it was there that she was assessed into the ammunitions specialty of the Ordnance Corps. She remembers the executive officer in her ROTC program told her “all the good people go to the ordnance corps because it’s tough” and it was this sentiment that led her down her career path, where she currently commands the 52d Ordnance Group (Explosive Ordnance Disposal), Fort Campbell, Ky.
Following her first assignment as an ammunitions platoon leader at Kreigsfeld, Germany, Quick said the next logical step was to attend EOD school in Indianhead, Md., and Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. To Quick, becoming an EOD officer was a step beyond ammunition, as it offered a chance for more knowledge.
When she told her assignments officer about her wish to attend EOD school, he responded with less-than-positive advice.
“He told me that no one in EOD ever promotes past the rank of major and that I’d never command a battalion,” she said.
Sticking to her plans, Quick moved forward with her plans for EOD school and her career. From then on, Quick adopted the motto of going where the Army needed her and wherever she was assigned, she would go and put forth the best efforts.
Prior to commanding the 52nd Ordnance Group, Quick commanded the 79th Ordnance Battalion [EOD] for 33 months, 14 of which were spent in Baghdad. Quick said she believes EOD warriors are tremendous soldiers, who work hard and are the absolute best in their career field.
“EOD soldiers walk towards a device that we tell others to walk away from,” she said. “They are timeless heroes, with the confidence and knowledge to do their jobs, despite overwhelming danger.”
Quick said she is honored to command EOD soldiers, and considers herself lucky to serve with them. When she took command, she again promised to give her very to the soldiers.
“I am proud to be a soldier in this unit and I am extraordinarily proud of all soldiers in this unit,” Quick said. “EOD soldiers will tell you they just go out and do their job. I will tell you they do the impossible daily.”
Both commanders believe soldiers are key to their successes and in their current positions, Quick and Zumwalt say they are proud and honored to serve with their soldiers.
“I think you take bits and pieces of what you’ve learned along the way and apply it to your current position,” said Quick.
Zumwalt added, “You always try to make sure you’re making a difference every day and that’s always a challenge but it’s a great challenge to have.”