| Karen Berger, an outdoor education major from Whitewood, spoke at a recent event about her yearlong deployment to Afghanistan with the 842nd National Guard Engineer Company of Spearfish, Belle Fourche and Sturgis.
Karen Berger’s year so far has been busy. She is in her final semester at Black Hills State University and currently interning at the Outdoor Campus West in Rapid City all while maintaining her duties as part of the National Guard.
But it is nothing she says she can’t handle.
Berger, an outdoor education major from Whitewood, returned last October from a yearlong deployment to Afghanistan with the 842nd National Guard Engineer Company of Spearfish, Belle Fourche and Sturgis.
“That deployment has helped me out a lot because I know I can handle it,” Berger told a group of women during a recent event hosted by BHSU President Kay Schallenkamp.
The unit deployed in September 2011 to provide construction and engineering support. Berger spent the majority of her time stationed in the remote Ghazni province near Pakistan.
During the event, Berger described the conditions she endured which included extreme temperatures, no running water, limited electricity and food. “It definitely puts a new perspective on things,” she said.
Although her platoon did not see much enemy fire at first, that all changed when the Polish military that were also stationed in Ghazni left.
“As soon as the Polish left the insurgents knew, and we started to get hit a lot more,” she said. Berger said the insurgents’ change in strategy came from the difference between Poland and the United States’ Rules of Engagement (ROE). Her platoon saw many vehicles come back that were hit with improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
“Luckily for the 842nd we left with 160 and came back with 160,” she said.
But that does not mean the soldiers came back unscathed. Berger said she sometimes receives calls from fellow soldiers who are depressed or are worried about another comrade who is having difficulty dealing with aftermath of the deployment.
“It’s a struggle for everyone,” said an emotional Berger.
However, for Berger it is something she would do all over again.
“It was a life-changing experience,” she said. “I would do it again in a heartbeat- to see the difference I made over there.”
Berger, despite opposition from her family, signed up for another six years.
“Being deployed not only as a solider but as a female you don’t realize how good you have it here,” Berger said. “(The deployment) has definitely made me a stronger person.”