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Face of Defense: Perspective, Tenacity Mark Soldier's Career

CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait --

Army Maj. Kimberly Scott, the logistical planner and acquisition and cross-service agreement manager for the Kansas Army National Guard’s 35th Infantry Division, is the consummate trailblazer -- she sees her world as an opportunity yet to be accomplished, rather than a path fraught with obstacles.

Hers is the hand that will reach out to pull another soldier up by her side. She's a mentor and facilitator of success; something often discussed, and less often achieved. Of course, it's only natural to wonder how such a leader came to be.

Somewhere, in an impoverished orphanage in South Korea, beginning in the early 1970s, U.S. military forces began to make an indelible mark on an impressionable little girl. These men were a beacon of light and hope, and served as the big brothers who kept Scott and her fellow orphans safe and well, at a time when darkness might have prevailed.

“I was born somewhere in South Korea, I don't know exactly where, because I was an orphan,” Scott said. “I grew up in an orphanage until I got adopted in 1986. The orphanage was built in 1953, right at the end of the Korean War. Initially, it was built for war orphans.”

According to Scott, South Korea was still a developing country at the time, and many of the children's lives were probably saved due to the care and concern of U.S. forces.

"Whenever the orphanage ran out of food, the U.S. military forces supplied food,” said Scott. “There were several times they spent Christmas with us, buying gifts. There were a couple of times that we went to their installation to have Thanksgiving and Christmas parties and they also did welfare checks on over 100 orphanage kids. The military forces did a lot for us in that orphanage.”

Second Chance

In one way or another, most of Scott's life has shown her to be exceptional. In 1986, she was the oldest child, at 13 years old, to be adopted out of the orphanage.

Scott's life changed forever when she was adopted and moved to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, with her new family.

According to a 2015 report by The Economist, 24 babies left South Korea every day to foreign adoptions in the mid-1980s. Another 2015 article, authored by S.C.S., and published by The Economist, estimates that 85 percent of the children in South Korean orphanages today will stay there until they become adults. The reason for low adoption rates, according to the article, is that there are still social stigmas regarding adoption within the country, and changes in South Korean adoption laws have made adopting more difficult for foreigners seeking to adopt.

“The fact that American military forces were always there in a positive light for us meant a lot to me,” Scott said. “If it wasn't for the American military forces, I probably would have died a long time ago. Orphanage life was not exactly that easy. I ran away from the orphanage a lot.”

“I came back one time pretty messed up,” Scott said. “It happened to be just at the time when the U.S. military forces had showed up to do one of their health and welfare checks. I was undernourished. My body was eating itself, and I was pretty much skin and bone. They were taking pictures of me to document my condition, as the doctor was checking me and giving me vitamins and everything. It was American soldiers who took care of me until I got better. In turn, I felt that I could at least do something. I think probably my childhood had a lot to do with my decision to join the military.”

Beating the Odds

After graduating high school, Scott enlisted in the Marine Corps where she attained the rank of lance corporal. Again a statistical outlier, Scott was among the 7.7 percent of active-duty female Marines during that time.

“I got out of the Marines on June 7, 1997, and joined the Missouri National Guard on June 22, 1997,” Scott said. “I was enlisted as a Marine and I was also enlisted when I first came into the Army National Guard.”

Scott's propensity to serve went beyond her military service and extended to her community after she left the Marine Corps.

“After I got out of the Marine Corps, I went to the police academy and became a deputy sheriff for the Platte County Sheriff's Department,” Scott said. “I did that for over 14 years, and then I got out of law enforcement.”

According to a Bureau of Labor and Statistics report, in 2012, only 12 percent of police patrol officers were women.

“I went up to the rank of sergeant on the enlisted side,” Scott said. “I knew eventually that I wanted to go to the officer side of it, because there are certain things you can do as an enlisted soldier, but you can't entirely take care of people at the level I wanted to -- so, I thought that by becoming an officer, I could actually make some positive changes.” 

After she became a mother, Scott felt it was even more important to push forward and further her education and career endeavors by working toward becoming an officer in the Army National Guard. 

“About the year 2003, after I had my son, that's when I made the decision that I was going to go officer. I started my phase zero in January of 2004. Then I went to Officer Candidate School, and graduated in September of 2005. I went through OCS the traditional way.”

Becoming part of the 9 percent of the U.S. population to hold a master's degree, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, and having graduated through the traditional OCS, Scott now felt she had the experience and education to affect a greater depth of mentorship and assistance among her troops.

Standing Out

Scott's diverse military experiences have enabled her to be well-rounded and offer sound advice to soldiers. She has been a bulk fueler, a military police officer, worked in communications, logistics, as a human resources officer, a plans and operations officer and in several managerial positions within the military.

In a traditionally male-dominated occupation and among literally thousands of peers, standing out is a feat to be admired. A 2014 demographics report published by the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Military Community and Family Policy offers a glimpse into Scott's exceptional accomplishments.

The report indicated that out of a total force size of 354,072 Army National Guardsmen, there were 6,710 majors. The number of officers in grades O-4 to O-6 included 10,562 men and just 1,363 women.

With all of her accomplishments, Scott's most gratifying military moments have been in the service of her military family and in helping comrades to succeed. 

“The most rewarding jobs in my military career have been becoming a platoon leader and company commander. My platoon was 43 soldiers, including me, and working one-on-one with them -- that's the part I enjoyed the most,” Scott said. “I remember I had a soldier that wanted to go to Air Assault School. I worked with squad leaders and team leaders to get that soldier developed. He's now an officer. I am actually really proud of him. He is a great officer!”

As a citizen-soldier, Scott has found gratification in her civilian occupation as well. She leads a team of 10 employees as a Defense Department contractor for the Mission Command Training Program at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, where her team, in conjunction with more than 500 other facilitators, creates up to five corps, division, or brigade-level warfighter exercises per year. Warfighter exercises help to prepare soldiers for deployments, as they simulate conditions soldiers might encounter downrange in their varying military occupational specialties.

Military careers are often made or broken by the soldiers themselves, according to Scott. She encourages soldiers to take charge of their careers, and says that attitude plays a huge role in their outcomes and the quality of their experiences.

“Everyone's eyes are on you as a member of the U.S. military forces,” she said. “Watch out what you do and what you say. Watch your actions, because there may be a little orphan kid keeping an eye on you. You may affect that kid, because they're putting you on a pedestal.”