CAMP LEMONNIER, Djibouti (12/19/2011) – “I wanted to make my dad
The pen struck the parchment leaving her signature –
Michelle C. Lawrence – above her father's, she recalled.
U.S. Army Spc. Michelle Lawrence, 35th Military Police Company
combat medic currently serving as a unit public affairs
representative for the 1st Battalion 161st Field Artillery, Kansas
Army National Guard, adjusts her camera settings at Camp Lemonnier,
June 30, 2011. Lawrence is a combat medic, but was designated as a
unit public affairs representative for the 1-161 FA BN shortly after
deploying to Africa. She calls Dighton, Kan., home. Photo by Army
Master Sgt. Dawn Price
Weeks later on her seventeenth birthday, she became the third
generation of her family to raise her right hand and recite the Oath
of Enlistment, said U.S. Army Spc. Michelle Lawrence, 35th Military
Police Company combat medic currently serving as a unit public
affairs representative for the 1st Battalion 161st Field Artillery,
Kansas Army National Guard.
“That was her goal [to join the
Army National Guard]. That's what she wanted to do, and I wasn't
going to stop her,” said John Lawrence, Lawrence's father, a
resident of Dighton, Kan., and a U.S. Army veteran.
more than three years after joining the Kansas Army National Guard
as a combat medic, Lawrence is covering the efforts of soldiers
deployed to Africa thanks to a vacancy within the unit and
leadership who realized her potential.
is one of a select few very influential public affairs
representatives in my battalion achieving my communication plan,”
said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Thomas Burke, 1-161 FA BN commander. “I knew
coming into this mobilization that communication with our military
supporters, the general public in the state of Kansas and employers
was vital to maintaining both public support for the mission and
employer support for the soldiers.”
Lawrence wrote stories
highlighting what U.S. soldiers did in countries such as Tanzania,
Rwanda, Mozambique, Burundi and Kenya.
“They tell the story
of how relationships with our counterparts are going beyond the
skills of building partner nation capacity. Soldiers from both
countries are learning that both countries want peace, stability and
better futures for ourselves and our children.” Burke said.
“Specialist Lawrence tells how working together, we can strive to
meet that goal.”
“Lawrence does a great job of telling the
story from the soldier's perspective,” he added.
Although she receives praise for her stories and photos,
Lawrence never thought she would be serving her country as a
journalist or a photographer.
As a high school
junior, Lawrence looked forward to becoming a combat medic
and serving her country, she said.
Although she was
inspired by her father to become a soldier, it was her
mother, a nurse, who led her to become a combat medic.
“My mom is a nurse. I have always wanted to help people
like she does,” Lawrence said.
It was while attending
advanced individual training at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, to
become a combat medic, Private Lawrence called back to her
unit and received the unexpected news that she would be
“I happened to call my unit ... out of
nowhere they said ‘by the way, we are going to Africa next
year and you are going with us,'” Lawrence said.
After the initial shock, Lawrence said she was excited to
deploy to Africa.
“I was pretty much pumped,”
Lawrence said. “I had never been outside the U.S.”
year after the phone call, 20-year old Specialist Lawrence
arrived at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, and once again received
The mission she was assigned to had
one too many people. Although she was a combat medic, she
was being reassigned to meet the needs of the battalion and
would be working as a unit public affairs representative.
“I didn't know anything about public affairs. I didn't
know how to write a story. I didn't know how to take a good
photo. I didn't even know how to use one of these cameras,”
Upon being assigned to the 1-161 FA
public affairs office, Lawrence was placed in the Combined
Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa public affairs office as
the battalion's public affairs liaison with the task force.
It was there that a U.S. Air Force staff sergeant,
skilled in public affairs, helped her tell the story of the
Kansas Army National Guard soldiers serving at Camp
Lemonnier and throughout the African continent, she said.
“I don't think I would be where I am now if he had
not taken me under his wing like he did. He took time out of
his day off of his work schedule to teach me photography and
how write,” Lawrence said.
Ever since learning the
tricks of the trade, Lawrence has been highlighting what
soldiers deployed to Africa are doing, said U.S. Army Staff
Sgt. Daryl Davis, 1-161 FA BN public affairs office,
non-commissioned officer in charge.
“Within a short
period of time she began to churn out remarkable articles
and photos,” Davis said. “She is always willing and very
capable of handling all assignments. She even volunteered
for several others, and continues to impress.”
According to her father, it is no surprise Lawrence has
proved capable of serving her country outside of her skill
set as a combat medic.
“That is the way Michelle
is,” John Lawrence said. “She will go after any task with
the best of her ability and not complain.”
beliefs probably have a lot to do with her diligence and
work ethic, he said.
“President Kennedy made a
statement ... ‘Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask
what you can do for your country,'” John Lawrence said,
quoting U.S. President John F. Kennedy. “I believe in that
whole heartedly. I think Michelle does too.”
really proud of her - her mother is too,” he added.
By Army Staff Sgt. Stephen Linch
Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of
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