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Veteran Spotlight

Charleen Crenshaw July 7, 1959 Cold War, Desert Shield/Desert Storm, Operation Enduring Freedom U.S. Army – SFC

Charleen enlisted in the Army on February 12, 1980, in the “delayed entry program” and chose military intelligence as her field.  She actually reported on March 23, 1980, and received credit for that pre-duty time period as a benefit.

During her 10 weeks of basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, Charleen was scared.  She felt like she was on a cattle truck, being “thrown on” and “thrown off” and yelled at all the time. Early on, she was called in because of a complicated situation. It seems she was never officially sworn in, so she could go home if she wanted to. Charleen chose to stay and finished learning the generic soldier skills needed to pass basic training. She remembers guns, physical training and a lot of running.

Charleen attended Advanced Individual Training at Goodfellow AFB, Texas. This was a major training center where Army soldiers were kept separate from airmen. It was ironic that her small group just walked to class while any other Army MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) had to march. During the months between March and July, Charleen studied simulations for three kinds of intelligence: human intelligence (often plainclothes soldiers), communication intelligence (listening to spoken messages) and signal intelligence (airwaves and radio signals.)

The first assignment for Charleen was with the third infantry division at Leighton Barracks in Wurzburg, Germany. 

In 1981 to ‘83, she spent a lot of time bivouacked (camped) in the field. During one scary time, she was on guard duty on top of a mountain during one of the coldest winters in Germany’s history. The two guards after her missed duty so she was standing a third hour. Someone finally checked on her and said, “We’ll fix that.” She was taken in and warmed up with only a little frostbite. It could have been a disaster.

Another time when Charleen was on night duty, she heard all kinds of things. Her job was to report activity but she wasn’t sure if she was really hearing branches break and seeing movement or not. There were wild pigs in the area. It turned out to be a fox – no harm done. 

From Germany, Charleen got a 30-day leave to go home and then went to Fort Hood, Texas, for three years of duty and training with the 163rd Military Intelligence Battalion. During this time, she was sent to Stuttgart, Germany for 90 days of RED Training (Readiness Training). Here she met her future husband, Phillip. 

They were married in Utah, and then he returned to Germany, and she went back to Fort Hood. In 1986, she was finally assigned back to Germany where her husband was located, and she served there until she “ets-ed” on April 23, 1989 (estimated time of separation.)  

Charleen transferred to the Reserves in Heidelberg, Germany for two years, 1989-91. Deciding to focus on their family, she moved back to the states. She was a homemaker until 2004 when she decided to rejoin and finish a military career.  

She became part of the 478th Human Resources Company in Salt Lake City, Utah, and today still serves with a detachment in Helena, Montana. Her husband took care of the kids while she was deployed. It was his turn since she did most of the raising of the kids when he was active military. She’s now waiting for final paperwork and then will retire with 30 years of service.

Charleen says she has learned a lot in the military and is very proud of her service.  She has always been involved in community activities where she was stationed: a beauty pageant at Fort Hood, acting in “Music Man” in Germany, and singing in church everywhere.   

As a female soldier, she faced hard situations and felt that she constantly had to prove herself.  She learned to ignore some of the rude comments and wisely kept her mouth shut; however, when backed in a corner she came out fighting – especially when she knew the fight was for her soldiers and their future view of leadership. She gained a lot of respect when she passed her PT tests, after being chided about her age and gender.  

Would she advise young people to join today? “Heck, yeah!” But if they do, they should make sure they understand their responsibilities. During her current Reserve work, she sees young people that are only joining for the education, and they think training and service is just a game.  They need to realize that the military has expectations of them, as well.  She would do it all again – if she were 20 years old again.

Thank you for your service, Charleen.

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