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Specialist breaks all-male barrier

Soldiers are expected to adapt to any environment, and a Mississippi National Guard soldier here is living up to that expectation as she works outside her normal specialty.

Army Spc. Susan Fautner is one of many soldiers who have adapted to a job and life outside of their experience. She joined the Guard in April 2004 as a supply specialist.

“Her ability to multitask, add humor and dependability has relieved me of a lot of extra duty hours,” Army Staff Sgt. Rico McNair, supply sergeant for 890th Engineer Battalion Forward Support Company, said. “She has been a great asset for my section.”

Fautner originally was part of the battalion’s A Company supply section, but personnel shortages necessitated assigning her temporarily to the “Barrier Yard,” normally an all-male assignment, to help supervise Iraqi civilians while they inventory and inspect concrete barriers prior to delivery.

At first, Fautner admitted, she was worried about being the only woman in the yard. But she said her faith in God and co-workers give her confidence that her new assignment would work out well.

Fautner said she learned to become flexible early in her deployment. As a single parent, she said, she was full of concerns when she learned she was deploying. She worried about matters such as who would preserve her children’s routines and who will keep up her apartment.

“Child rearing is not an easy task while being deployed, especially with two teenage daughters, but support I received from family and friends made it bearable,” she said. “The Internet capabilities have made this deployment [easier], because I can see my children instead of just hearing their voices over the phone.”

Fautner watched a milestone in her elder daughter’s life by watching her graduate from high school via video conference, and she helped her enroll into her first community college semester over the phone.

“Moments that I’ve spent my entire life waiting to see happen, and having to miss them really instilled a sense of pride in the sacrifices that I’ve made for my country,” Fautner said.

Time she has spent mentoring younger soldiers has helped ease the pain of being away from her teenage daughters, Fautner said. The conversations she has with them, she noted, often are the same ones she has with her daughters.

“Not only do you have to be a soldier, but when you are a single parent, the responsibilities double,” she said. “We do what we have to do. I’m not the only single mother out here, so my hat is off to all single mothers that are deployed.”

In Mississippi, Faunter is a food-service worker at Biloxi Regional Medical Center. She said she’s looking forward to enrolling at Perkinston Community College and purchasing her first home when she returns home.

“Hopefully, my oldest daughter and I will not have any of the same classes,” she said with a laugh.

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