March is Women's History Month, and the military honors the women who serve in one of the armed services. This year's theme is “Celebrating Women Who Tell Our Stories.”
MIHAIL KOGĂLNICEANU, Romania — During her career in the military, Sgt. First Class Tamara Polson has viewed her five deployments as providing her a different perspective of the world. Until last summer’s deployment to Romania with the 137th Military Police Co., from Carson City, Polson served in the Middle East — twice in Iraq, and one time each in Afghanistan and Kuwait.
Since the MPs arrived at the Mihail Kogălniceanu Air Base in Romania during late summer, Polson, who recently bought a house in Carson City, said the time spent in Eastern Europe hasn’t been as disciplined with the usage of cell phones and access to the internet.
“I truly believed I had deployment life nailed down to a science ... as long as we were in the Middle East. Being in Eastern Europe is a completely different ordeal than before, not so much the weather because Afghanistan gets snow as well and actually looks a bit like Northern Nevada,” she said. “It's more so the discipline, I guess. Cell phones were not a thing when I was deployed previously. Having internet readily available in your pocket just like at home was definitely something that blew my mind.”
Polson, who grew up in Fernley, said the deployment to Romania has given her a bigger perspective of world affairs, especially since northeastern Romania borders Ukraine. In her position as a sergeant, she understands the seriousness of her role with the Nevada Guard and the mission to the MK Air Base.
The deployment in Romania has become more integral to their mission since the fighting between the Ukrainians and Russians has intensified and MK Air Base has more than tripled in size since August with more than 4,000 personnel.
“I understand the seriousness of everything to include the most mundane everyday task,” she said. “The leaders I am here with, the dialogue we share and different opinions help a lot with the everyday readiness and preparedness of a Law and Order (L&O) mission. I've never worked a L&O mission overseas before, and it really is an important task to uphold.”
Polson said she didn’t know what to expect from the deployment. She wanted to improve herself as a person and learn and grow with her detachment. Not only has Polson spent her deployment in Romania, but she also traveled to neighboring Bulgaria’s Novo Selo Training Area with her platoon.
“We became incredibly self-sufficient; as well as learning how to fix all problems presented to us at our level,” she said. “We grew incredibly close and still are to this day.”
Working patrol and manning the desk during the MP’s deployment to Romania have given Sgt. Jessica Bergoon of Hazen a more rounded background with understanding all aspects of the law.
A Douglas County High School and 2014 University of Nevada graduate, with a degree in psychology and sociology, Bergoon works at the Washoe County Law Library. One minute, she could be helping someone find information on custody, and another is looking for help to file a temporary protection order. What she learned at her civilian law job has helped Bergoon with her military law enforcement duties.
“I’m learning a lot with desk operations, patrols, joint mission training with the Romanians and Canadians,” she pointed out.
Serving both her country and state has been a lifetime wish.
“I joined the National Guard. I always wanted to be in the military, and I went to college for a degree,” Bergoon said, adding she deployed to Kuwait in 2016-2017 with the 485 MP Company. “Kuwait and Romania are very different from each other. This base is so much smaller. And our mission in Kuwait was customs.”
Bergoon said the National Guard has been good to her since she enlisted.
“I recommend the National Guard," Bergoon said, citing the tuition waiver program. “There’s a lot of programs in the Guard.”
Sgt. Ashley Staggs, who graduated from Reno’s McQueen High School in 2011, wanted to follow in the footsteps of her father, an active-duty military policeman who spent eight years in the Army. As an MP in Romania, she assumed the duty of base access liaison between the Romania and United States.
“Kuwait was a little more laid back,” said Skaggs, who handled line of duty determinations for headquarters. “Here, it’s busier.”
As a major military installation in Eastern Europe, the NATO air base is the closest to the fighting in Ukraine and to Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014. Consequently, Skaggs processes more base accesses and undertakes more projects. She said consistency is important in implementing the standard operating procedures to make it work for both countries.
When Skaggs leaves Romania for Nevada, she’ll return to the personnel section in Carson City as a human resource specialist where she processes enrollments into the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System.
“I like working for (Office of the Adjutant General),” she said. “I love the job because I like to help people with their problems.”
Staggs said she was surprised to see Maj. Ryanmay Orolfo in Romania. In Nevada, both were involved with the DEERS program.
“It was nice to see a familiar face,” Staggs said.
Staggs’ plan in the Nevada Guard is to complete 20 years for retirement.
Sgt. Mychael McGuire is gaining experience as a desk sergeant and patrolling.
“We’ll swap it out and get a little bit of both worlds,” she said.
As a 17-year-old, McGuire enlisted because she didn’t want to attend college. Move forward six years, and she’s working in recruiting and retention at the Senator Harry Reid Readiness & Training Center at Stead, 13 miles northwest of Reno.
During the deployment at MK Air Base, McGuire said working patrol has been fairly routine, but occasionally, she said the shift can become hectic.
“I encounter individuals who are upset. It’s also a hard time for all of us,” McGuire said of the deployment.
McGuire said she calms the individual, and she’ll find help for the soldier or airman if needed. No matter the infraction, McGuire said she and the other MPs work hard to keep the base personnel safe.
This isn’t the first deployment for McGuire. She also spent 2016-17 in Kuwait, but the majority of her time was spent in Jordan in customs.
McGuire credits the Nevada Guard for kickstarting people’s lives, especially with the college tuition waivers.
“It’s a real big seller,” she said.
Spec. Jaydon Ford splits her patrol duty between the day and night shift every three days. On this particular day in Romania, she had the opportunity to meet Maj. Gen. Ondra Berry, the state’s adjutant general, who presented a challenge coin to her for knowing the Army Values. She also received a coin from Brig. Gen. Troy Armstrong, the Land Component commander for “stepping up in her duties.”
As a full-time student at the University of Nevada, Reno, she balances her schedule between classes and the National Guard. Sometime this spring, though, she will submit her personnel packet for promotion.
Ford’s goal is to become a pediatric orthopedic surgeon.
“I love children, and I think it would be special if I did a lot for children,” said the 22-year-old. “They’re so young, and it would make me feel happy to see them progress.”
Although the deployment has delayed her plans, Ford is planning to submit her application for medical school in 2025.
Ford, like many of her colleagues in the 137th MP Co., enlisted in the National Guard because of the tuition waiver. By choosing military police over a truck driver and cook as her specialty, she also received an additional bonus.
Sgt. Veronica Walczek is a desk sergeant who has enjoyed the deployment.
“I like it. I like to be challenged,” she said.
Walczek who’s originally from Pennsylvania, has found her Romanian counterparts to be helpful and there’s been a good working relationship.
During the past three years, Walczek has also helped her fellow Nevadans. She, along with others, were on state orders traveling the state in 2021 and 2022 and giving residents COVID vaccinations. One of the stops was at the Churchill County Fairgrounds.
“I never thought I’d be doing medical for COVID,” she added.
Walczek said it’s important to help her fellow Nevadans and to serve her country.
“I like the National Guard, and I like to travel,” she said. “It has definitely given me the opportunity to meet new people.”
Not only is Walczek a citizen-soldier, but she was also an accomplished gymnast when she was in her teens. She competed until she was in her mid-teens, and then became interested in coaching others.
“After the deployment, I’ll go back to gymnastics instructions,” she said.