ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- “It shocked everyone that knew me that I joined the Army, I was not the typical Army officer, just people who grew up with me,” said Patricia Tuggle.
Tuggle grew up in the St. Louis area, went to the University of Missouri, and started out her adult life teaching in the classroom before joining the Army.
“I was actually a high school teacher in Missouri at the time and shut down my classroom, turned in my grades, and a week later went to basic training,” she said.
After that, it was Officer Candidate School. After another year of training, “then I headed right to Iraq. I deployed to Iraq for a year.”
During her time in Iraq, she supported an Engineering Battalion in a human resources role. She described her time there saying she, “was up north in Iraq, so there was a lot going on up there. I was there in 2008 and 2009. There were a lot of transitions happening at the time however … it was an active time, people wanted to know what I was wearing, if I got shot at, were things blowing up.”
About halfway through her deployment, she started to fill in as a Public Affairs officer, telling the stories of the soldiers serving in Iraq and going out on patrol. She said she went out with a “route clearing company, that was always who my command felt most comfortable sending me out with because it was a little dangerous at the time. So, if I went out with a route clearance, they had the most protected vehicles, they were the ones who went around and literally searched for bomb.”
She served in those roles with Army engineers for two years but then decided she was ready for a change.
“I kind of decided I wanted to do something a little different, Human Resources is my realm, but I was looking for something new and exciting," Tuggle said. "I ended up applying to be a Civil Affairs Officer."
In that role, she acted as a liaison between the Army and local governments or other countries’ military.
“I had a team, it was my first Civil Affairs team. I had a couple of unique trips to Slovenia and Jordan” she said. “I went to Jordan for a large exercise, I think 11 different countries were involved.”
That exercise was training for a possible large-scale chemical attack. She said her favorite part was that she had a Jordanian female officer who was her counterpart. During that time, she met and married fellow Civil Affairs officer Curtis Tuggle.
“We were down the hall from each other for six months, both studying Arabic just in different classrooms," she recalled. "So we got married and I shipped off to Louisville for classes and then he packed himself up and shipped out to Germany before I got back.”
After starting a family, the Tuggles made the decision to leave active service. Patricia described it as tough decision, and her husband said it took awhile to make that choice.
The two have not entirely left military life behind, however. Both are now members of the Washington DC National Guard.
"It’s been unique over the past year because DC has been very active," Patricia said. "This year has been tough balancing.”
They both were called up in June for riots in DC, again in November for the election, and in the wake of the capitol insurrection in January. Now with two young children, that makes things a bit difficult. The parents said they are very fortunate to have family in the area.
“When we get called in, the unit knows you can have one Tuggle right away and the other two hours later,” Patricia said.
Patricia's parents live a short distance away and if they have enough notice, Curtis' parents will fly in from California. The pair, known as “Team Tuggle” to their National Guard peers, say their situation is a little out of the ordinary.
“It usually catches people off guard and in any sort of activation. Everyone’s number one question is, 'how did you pull this off, where is your family?” Patricia said.
"One of the funniest things that tends to happen when were are activated is answering emails or texts on each other’s behalf," Curis added. "Because we're both Major Tuggle, and until people figure out there are two, they just assume there is one so we are always getting calls or emails for the other Major Tuggle.”
As for the time serving in the Army, Patricia said she would do it all over again.
“I was not ready to leave that military connection, which is why I like the D.C. Guard," she said. "I would have loved to have stayed active duty, but that personal life balance sometimes active duty is hard for families.”