CAMP BLUE DIAMOND, Iraq -- Corporal Melissa Kilpatrick, an intelligence analyst with the 2nd Marine Division, was recently awarded a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal for her work in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Kilpatrick, a 25-year-old Wichita, Kan., native and 1998 graduate of Cheney High School followed in trace of Marines with 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment conducting cordon and knock operations in the Al Anbar Province in the event a woman was encountered.
As the infantry Marines secured neighborhood areas and knocked on doors to look for clues to the whereabouts of insurgents, if a woman was identified, Kilpatrick was called to come up and deal with the women Iraqis who lived there.
“In case the women were scared or upset, I would put them at ease by talking to them,” said Kilpatrick. “It’s a huge difference when the women see me, she added. They smile and can relate to me better than to the males.”
Because of their society and customs, Iraqi women rarely communicate with men outside of their family and homes. Without Marines like Kilpatrick, who has been an intelligence analyst for nearly three and a half years, the infantry’s work to combat the insurgency would be seriously set back.
Though this is her first time deployed to Iraq, she isn’t new to the Global War on Terrorism. Kilpatrick’s first experience dealing with Muslim women during cordon and knock operations was when she served with Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa in Djibouti. She assisted infantry units with the same type of expertise both in dealing with the women and in analyzing intelligence data collected from the searches.
“I don’t speak Arabic, but I know enough to get by,” said Kilpatrick. “One important thing that eases them is when they see my wedding ring. They make conversation about that and ask me if I have children – which I don’t. But anything to lighten the mood is a success.”
She deployed here earlier this year as part of the division’s headquarters intelligence element. Much of the work she does is in direct support of the division general’s planning for operations. Her yearlong stint here will be a challenge like no other, but according to her, it’s little in comparison to the success her unit is making.
“It’s nothing like I thought it would be out here,” said Kilpatrick. “My job is oftentimes the same thing every day, but over time I see the changes our mission has on the Iraqi people and that’s what counts.”
Whether it’s for the Marines or the community at home, Kilpatrick’s life passion is taking care of people. She plans to use her Marine Corps experience as a springboard for her career in the nursing field. Though the Corps may seem to have little or nothing to do with nursing, it has been a way of life that she hopes will improve her chances of success in nursing.
“The Corps has taught me a lot about patience,” said Kilpatrick. “Before I enlisted I waited tables and volunteered in an emergency room while attending college. Juggling so many things was nearly impossible at the time, but with my training now, I know I’ll be able to handle anything that comes my way.”