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by Helen Davids

Those of you who have heard me talk on Celebration Zoom events (or follow me on FB), may recall that I worked for the Federal Government (Army) at Fort Hood, Texas. You also may know that I am from New Jersey, so the question is – how did this Jersey Girl find her way and make it to Texas?

I grew up in a little Jersey beach town (1 mile square, surrounded by 2 lakes and the Atlantic Ocean) , where everyone knew everyone – my Mayberry at the Jersey Shore!

When it was time to consider a career path and get a real job, my Mom (who also worked for the Army) suggested I take my Civil Service test, but not for the secretarial field, so I would have more opportunity for growth and promotions. Best advice I ever listened to!

After passing the test, going on interviews, and getting paperwork finalized , I finally began my civil service career, which lasted 33 years! I worked at the Ft. Monmouth Army Base as a supply clerk , before working my way up to a Logistics Management Specialist. I spent my first ½ of my career there, and during that time I also got married, lost both my parents and brother, and got divorced. It was time for a big change!

An opportunity presented itself for volunteers to travel to Ft Hood Texas, to implement what was called the Force XXI Project – digitization of the Army for the 21st Century!

I was the first one to sign up and what started out as a 3-month project, turned into the 2nd ½ of my career and what an adventure it was!

First adventure – driving from New Jersey to Texas by myself! It took me a few days to get there, with numerous stops along the way. When I hit the Texas border (Texarkana), I thought where were all the ranches, tumbleweeds and cactus? All I saw were buildings, billboards and fast food restaurants. As I got further down the road, I did see some farms with horses and cows, but when I came through Dallas, it looked like New York City! And when I got to Killeen, TX (the Fort Hood military based town), it was riddled with pawn shops and tattoo parlors!

Second adventure – pumping my own gas for the first time! In New Jersey, there were no self-serve gas stations. The first time I had to fill up, as I stood there at the pump with a deer in the headlights look, this tall cowboy (Stetson hat, handlebar mustache, big belt buckle and boots, Sam Elliot lookalike!), came over to me and said “ Y’all need a hand there little lady?”

Third adventure – Meeting the troops! As I got acclimated to the Texas heat (105 in the shade in July), settled into my new apartment, and learned about my job duties, I got to meet and interact with soldiers from the 1st Calvary Division and the 4th Infantry Division. I went out on training exercises with them (riding around in HMMVs and wearing BDUs) to assess the new equipment that was being installed and tested. I was part of the Help Desk team, that recorded all the equipment Hardware/software/training errors as they happened. I briefed the military leaders on all our findings. After several years of Force XXI training at Ft Hood, the Army decided to implement this training at other Army bases. I travelled to almost every Army base in the continental US (also to 2 in Alaska, 1 in Hawaii and 2 in Germany) Talk about some great experiences and adventures!

And during this time, I also married my 2nd husband, a true Texas gentleman, and we did a lot of travelling together as well- Cruises, road trips and lots of visits around the country with family and friends, and to Texas festivals, concerts and shows! I learned how to two-step, enjoyed country music and BBQ!

I retired from Federal Service in 2012, and we moved to Frisco Lakes to begin our next adventure.

Sadly, my husband passed away the following year, but boy did we make some great memories!

And as much as I loved growing up in New Jersey, I now consider myself a Texas Gal, Y’all!•

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