JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq – Spc. Crystal Gregan, a driver and gunner assigned to Golf Company, 3rd Battalion, 116th Cavalry Regiment, 77th Sustainment Brigade, 310th Expeditionary Sustainment Command, and a native of Blackfoot does not mince words regarding why she is stationed at Joint Base Balad, Iraq.
“This deployment is my patriotic duty. I’ve always been proud of my country,” Gregan said.
The reason she joined the military and came to Iraq was simple: patriotism. Gregan stepped out of a management slot at Walgreens, a retail pharmacy store in Blackfoot, and into the role of a soldier more than a year ago. The transition from citizen to soldier carried its own unique challenges.
“In civilian life, I tell people what to do. Here, I do what people tell me to do,” she said.
Gregan said there are times, though, when as a lower-ranking soldier, and a female, it is important to ensure her voice is heard.
“Sometimes you have to go outside the bubble and say, ‘This is what I think,’” Gregan said. Gregan said she’s faced challenges since her deployment began, but the experience she gained is invaluable.
“There have been times when I said, ‘I hate this’, but it has still broadened my horizons,” she said.
While she enjoys her role as a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle driver, she also benefits from her time in the gunner’s turret.
“I’m one of those people that if something goes down, I want to be in a position to do something about it,” she said.
Gregan also said Iraq has made a lasting impression during her deployment. The differences in the quality of life between the villages in Iraq and her hometown of Blackfoot are striking. Everyone, she said, should ensure they get an opportunity to see how other people in other countries live.
“Iraq is everything you see on TV. Many children don’t have shoes or socks. It is really like that over here,” she said. “I think every American should [deploy], so they get a concept of what they have at home. At some point in their lives they need to experience what the real world is all about.”
Gregan said her year-long deployment helped her to reflect on her life and plan for the future. She already has framed a post-deployment plan.
“During this deployment, some of the time, I’ve had time to look at my life,” she said. “I’m a goal-oriented person. I plan to go back to Walgreens, go back to Idaho State University. I’m not sure what I’ll major in.”
The challenges and triumphs all added into hard-earned and critical experience, she said.
“The military has given me the opportunity to meet a lot of different people,” she said.