Pursuing a bachelor’s degree in international affairs from Northern Arizona University, Kathleen Bercume’s plan was to join the FBI or CIA. However, during college, she realized in order to get the job-required skills for her dream job, she needed to serve in the military – specifically Military Intelligence. She enrolled in the NAU Reserve Officer’s Training Corps for the Army.
Upon graduation, Bercume was commissioned as a second lieutenant and joined the United States Army in 2007. She was 23 years old and served for eight years until she left the service to focus on raising her family.
Unfortunately, her first assignment was not with MI. She served as a chemical officer in Alaska and was in charge of chemical decontamination and a chemical reconnaissance platoon.
One of the more interesting aspects of this station was the testing and development of a remotely controlled robot. They tested it in cold weather to discover if they could potentially incorporate it into their unit’s job.
After serving as a chemical officer for two years and meeting all of its requirements, Bercume was finally able to move forward with her career goals and become a Military Intelligence officer at Fort Riley, Kansas.
Here, Bercume handled sensitive information and helped to advise commanders with decision-making. She analyzed threats and advised commanders as well as handled all the background investigations.
Bercume also “played the bad guy” in training operations where players would run through scenarios to anticipate what an enemy might do in that situation.
Bercume served as a military intelligence officer for two and a half years before being given a company commander position.
Bercume said this job was totally different from MI. She was in charge of all battalion staff, equipment, facilities and operations. There was a lot more administration and she had to govern discipline – when necessary.
“It’s a very special thing – it’s an honor to be a company commander,” Bercume said.
Bercume said how important leadership positions in general are because of how much impact they have on the people beneath them and how lives are at stake so much of the time – especially in the military.
“My goal was to make sure that everyone was trained up,” Bercume said.
After serving as a company commander for another year and a half, Bercume’s contract was up and she decided to leave and focus on family.
Bercume said she dedicated her life to the military while she was commissioned in the Army.
“I feel that what I contributed to the military was my life’s work for those eight years that I served,” she said “I gave everything I could to make sure my Soldiers were trained and prepared for deployment so that when they were done with their work, they could return home to their families.”
Bercume said she believes that everybody who is able should spend time in the military in order to have more respect for veterans and their sacrifice.
“I don’t think America understands – the average civilian understands – what it really means to be a Soldier and what you’re giving up,” Bercume said. “They don’t actually see how it impacts the individual.”