Arny Maj. Veleka Henderson is 18 years and 7,445 miles — as the crow flies — from her years at Newton High School.
In the oil-rich Arab nation of Qatar — the locals pronounce it as "cutter," she says — she’s a senior intelligence officer at the Third Army’s Camp As Sayliyah. It’s a small base, she says,
And Qatar, though small, a little smaller than the state of Connecticut, is strategically important for a number of reasons. It shares a border with Saudi Arabia, and also is home to the Arab news network Al Jazeera. Along with oil, the country’s economy is fueled by the tourists who flock to its Persian Gulf beaches.
"It’s a melting pot,’’ Henderson says, where soldiers, male and female, are comfortable moving about.
Though it’s understandable that Maj. Henderson can’t discuss specifics about her role in the Army, she says her job is to "study the enemy’’ and assess threat levels in the region.
"The protection of my soldiers, that’s my job,’’ she says.
Henderson has been in Qatar since July; before that she was in Milledgeville, working with cadets at the Georgia Military College. She actually joined the Army before she graduated from high school, she explains, which meant traveling to Columbus to drill once a month.
And when she was an NHS senior, she said, while her classmates went on their senior trip, she went to basic training.
That’s the way it is when one chooses a career in the Army. Along with a wealth of opportunities that open up, there are sacrifices to be made.
One of them most certainly is separation from loved ones.
Henderson is herself a newlywed. In May, she married Capt, Eric Henderson, who is currently on leave in Savannah after serving in Afghanistan. She is looking forward to joining him when her year in Qatar is finished.
In the meantime, Henderson is among the leaders of a new initiative, Sisters in Arms, which is designed to provide support for the Army’s female soldiers. It’s important, she says, because the female soldiers share unique challenges. And, she says, "Our story is just not told.’’
"It is my goal that the monthly program on Camp As Sayliyah will break down the walls that divide so many female soldiers and help them find their individual voice," said Henderson.
Discussing topics such as sexual assault, sexual harassment, and gender discrimination, Camp As Sayliyah launched its first "Sisters in Arms" program Aug. 28.
Inviting all military females within southwest Asia region to a luncheon, the objective was to build bonds, instill unit cohesion and build bridges between the senior and junior females.
"I support this program fully and believe it will strengthen bonds that will make it easier for females to relate on similar issues," said Command Sgt. Maj. Earla L. Reddock, Area Support Group-Qatar, command sergeant major. "This program is designed to educate, train, mentor and empower service women to become future leaders."
"This month’s theme was ‘Who Am I,’" said Henderson. "It was an introduction to the program and a chance to encourage the sharing of experiences. I am very excited as I think it is not only a great opportunity to mentor and teach, but an opportunity to learn from other female soldiers serving as well. While some women have risen through the ranks, others have not, and I believe they will benefit from the mentorship of other successful female leaders. "
When asked what advice she would offer to young women considering a military career, Henderson is firm: "I would make sure they know everything. I would not sugar-coat it for them,’’ she says. "They need to think about all aspects. But it’s a great job opportunity.’’
Portions of this story are reprinted with permission from the U.S. Army, from a story that was posted at www.army.mil, the official home page of the U.S. Army.