FORT MCCOY, Wis. –
“Caring.” “Dedicated.” “Motivating.” “My Army mom.”
These are just a few of the many words Soldiers use to describe Sgt. 1st Class Kristina Boettcher, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the Effects and Enablers (E&E) for Global Medic.
Boettcher facilitates large scale medical readiness training that puts Soldiers through realistic scenarios meant to push them to their limits and prepare them for the worst. During these scenarios, especially the mass casualty exercise, Boettcher never stops moving. She is constantly directing role players and assisting medics through the training scenario when they hit an impasse, all while participating in the exercise herself.
She is always in complete control of everything around her.
Her demeanor, her confidence, the immediate respect that she garners from all those around her is what other NCOs strive to achieve. The way she carries herself makes an instant impression on the Soldiers she encounters.
"When you think of what an NCO should be, that was my first impression of her," Spc. Abraham Garcia, a human resource specialist from the 7306th MESB who worked with Boettcher, said. "Even though I wasn't her Soldier, she was always checking in on me, making sure I was good to go."
The way Boettcher mentored and cared for Garcia along his Army career is a model for the way she treats her soldiers, especially junior enlisted. Boettcher helped Garcia through a pivotal moment when he was deciding what he wanted to do with his life, much like what Boettcher herself went through at his age.
When Boettcher was 19 years old, she was at a crossroads. She knew college was not for her, but she did not know what her next step would be. This led to her joining the U.S. Army -- on a whim, Boettcher said.
“I walked into the recruiter’s office and they said, ‘How can I help you?’ And I said, ‘I’m here to join the Army’... and the rest is history.”
This spontaneous decision would set the groundwork for her to be able to make a crucial impact on so many lives. A big reason why she is able to affect so many soldiers is through the way she treats and talks to them. She makes a point of not talking down to Soldiers, and she treats them with respect.
“If you really want to have a positive interaction and a positive work environment, you need to start there,” she said, “If you want the respect of your junior Soldiers, why not show them respect?”
Garcia said this was a large part of why he felt so comfortable being able to talk to her about personal issues, which he would be usually hesitant to bring up with other NCOs.
"She didn't make me feel like I was a lower soldier … She made me feel like I was a regular person," Garcia said.
Boettcher said she always tries to talk to her junior enlisted on equal footing, to make sure they feel safe to come to her with problems, even those not Army related.
“What makes up a good NCO is having the ability to actually listen and take into consideration what is going on in the Soldiers’ lives,” Boettcher said. “When I say: ‘In Soldiers’ lives,’ I’m not talking about just the Army work… if a Soldier is not settled in their personal life, how do you expect them to give 100 percent in their work life?”
This was evident when one of her soldiers was having problems finding a stable living situation. When she discovered this, she and other senior NCOs found a hotel room for the Soldier and made sure that she had the necessary essentials. Boettcher even connected her with people from Veterans Affairs that helped her set up job interviews, for which Boettcher provided and coordinated transportation.
The soldier has since left the Army, but that does not stop Boettcher from checking in on her, as she calls once a month to make sure she is OK.
“Just because you get out or leave doesn’t mean you're still not my soldier,” Boettcher said. “Call me if you still need anything, we’re here to help you.”
Boettcher’s empathy is one of the guiding values of her leadership philosophy. Looking out for her soldiers and going to bat for them when necessary is what makes her a leader Soldiers are willing to follow.
The impact she has on her Soldiers will have a ripple effect on those that come after them. Garcia will soon be going to the board to become an NCO, and he said Boettcher has greatly influenced his guiding philosophy as a future leader.
"I aspire to be a tough NCO that just straight up takes care of his Soldiers,” Garcia said. “To make sure that I can instill everything that she instilled in me, and I can pass that on to the next Soldier."
Garcia and Boettcher still have a strong relationship to this day, despite currently being in different units. As Garcia said: "She is always there when I need to talk to her. She's like my Army mom.”