FORT McCOY, Wis. –
Remembering what her ancestors and tribal elders told her has helped an 88th Readiness Division Native American perform her mission throughout her career.
The journey began 17 years ago when Charles joined the active Army. She originally trained as a 92W water treatment specialist. She joined the Army Reserve in 2016.
“I transitioned from the regular Army to the Army Reserve for balance,” she said. As a part-time Soldier, she found it easier to complete her bachelor’s degree and obtain certification as a financial planner.
She also switched her military occupational specialty and now works as a 36B budget analyst as an Active Guard Reserve Soldier with the 88th RD.
“I’ve been interested in the process of how budget and finance work, along with helping Soldiers,” Charles said. “I wanted a change from my previous MOS. While dealing with Army Reserve budgets, I enjoy the analyzing process that involves locating a problem and providing different resolutions.
“In a way, I changed gears from working with equipment to working with people,” she said.
Charles doesn’t spend all her time with figures and spreadsheets. She also makes connections with other Native American Soldiers at Fort McCoy. “I meet with other people to share food and share stories,” she said. She hopes that circle gets larger.
Hailing from Newcomb, New Mexico, Charles stays connected to her Native American heritage by “speaking with my relatives in my Dine’ [Navajo] language. I travel back to the land of the Navajo Nation every so often. I listen to stories during the traditional ceremonies. I carry an arrowhead with yellow corn pollen each day to help me remember who I am and where I come from,” she said.
Charles believes it’s important to stay connected to her Native American heritage. “It is who I am from birth, and who I am today, and who I will be when I return to the Navajo Nation. My ancestors fought for our rights, language, culture, traditions and way of life.
“Also, I want to stay connected to my indigenous heritage for my family and the Dine’ [Navajo] people,” she said.
Wherever Charles finds herself, she said she feels pride in being a Native American serving in the Army Reserve. That emotion illustrated itself in the public act of reenlistment, which she did here on Nov. 22, 2022.
88th RD Command Sgt. Maj. Gregory Betty “didn’t give up on me, encouraging me to stay in the Army and move forward with my career, and now I’ve reenlisted,” said Charles.
“I’m reenlisting to finish my journey as an Indigenous Soldier, while providing help to Soldiers during good and bad times. I’m also doing it to improve my way of life as a human being and a Soldier,” she said.
In the past, Charles said she reenlisted for her family. “But this reenlistment is different and unique. I’m doing this primarily for me and to leave a legacy of knowledge and wisdom for our future leaders to keep improving the Army.”
She gives the following advice to other Soldiers considering reenlistment: “Analyze the positive and negative of your life at this moment and set goals to achieve them. Ask yourself, ‘can I be successful at those goals?’ Encourage the meaning of a Soldier in the Army today. I would say, with your help, we can all make a difference or a change in how the Army operates with Families and Soldiers.”
“My family is very supportive [of my decision to reenlist]; they encourage me just as much as I encourage them,” she said.
Charles plans to leverage the training and certifications obtained through her two MOSs into a civilian career with the Navajo Nation in New Mexico. “My passions are water treatment and budgets,” she said.