Who is this mysterious military woman?
- Doctrine Command Instructor of the Year (2004)
- Felony Investigator
- Warrant Officer, graduated with honors, ranking 4th in a class of 82 candidates based on academics and fitness
Pamela M. Collins honorably served in the U. S. Army for nearly 25 years. She joined the army for opportunity when little existed for her in the civilian world of 1982 between the Cold War and a looming recession.
Her tale of transition takes us along with her from clerk to agent, enlisted to officer, field agent through leadership, education and supervisory special agent status.
The Army both offered and pushed education onto Collins when she entered the service. At the conclusion of her military career, she shone brightly as an instructor in the art and science of forensics. Currently, among her professional roles, Collins is an adjunct professor at Drury University,teaching criminal justice.
Her most difficult transition? Moving from being a Soldier to being a civilian.
Now Pamela M. Collins’ story… in her own words…
Many soldiers, particularly post 9/11 soldiers, will tell you they joined the Army to serve their country. That they felt they needed to do something in the fight against terrorism. They wanted to be part of something bigger than themselves.
I can’t say that.
I joined the Army in 1982. It was the middle of the Cold War, and the recession, and my options were limited. I was an average high school student with no vision and no prospects. My parents weren’t college graduates and did not see a reason for any of us to be, either. I was stuck. Joining the military looked like a way to get a better start in life.
As I entered the military, I had a plan, but opportunity and fate had a different set of plans for my life.
I enlisted as a clerk typist, and my first duty assignment at the 89th Military Police Brigade exposed me to the MP Corps. I was hooked. I wanted to be part of the law enforcement community and the US Army CID Command was looking for “non-MPs” to round out their ranks.
After my first CID assignment at Fort Benning, GA, I knew I would stay. I also decided I wanted to become a warrant officer, as CID’s enlisted ranks are promoted out of field work. They became administrators from the grade of Sergeant First Class and above rather than leaders or actual cops working to solve felony crime and I did not want that.
I enjoyed every assignment, some more than others.
Working in the field was exciting – no two days, no two investigations, were ever the same. There was something new to learn on every case.
As a leader, I learned how to motivate people. However, it wasn’t until the end of my career that I learned leading did not require me to slip on “manly” shoes. So many female leaders felt that leading with their natural strengths exhibits weakness. It does not. But that’s another story!
In all honesty, the desire to be a part of something bigger than myself did not take hold of me until I was a warrant officer. That was seven years into my career. It was at that point that I knew I was going to stay and stay I did.
Being a soldier, being an officer and being a leader was second nature. Maybe it was because I had a natural instinct to finish what I started. Maybe it’s because I’m a Leo. All I know is, from the time I was old enough to socialize as a kindergartener to this day, I find myself jumping into indecisiveness with a need to give direction, and get the job done.
I was also organized, meticulous and honest, often to the point of it working against my own self-interest. These behaviors made me a bit of an outcast with my brothers and sisters.
In the Army, I was a good fit.
I earned an undergraduate and three graduate degrees. The military certainly was more passionate about me getting a higher education than I had been.
It felt like I was part of the family I must surely have been separated from as a child. I can’t say I loved everyday, but I can say I grew and matured with the Army’s help, and am still grateful for the opportunities as well as the challenges.
After a year in Washington, D.C., earning my Master of Forensic Science degree and engaging in a Fellowship with the Armed Forced Institute of Pathology, I spent several years in Bavaria. My last assignment was as “Doctor Death”, teaching death investigations at the MP School. There, I was responsible for training all new and seasoned agents in the ever-evolving world of forensic science as it applied to death and homicide investigations. I couldn’t think of a better way to end my career, on a high point.
The transitions from clerk to agent, enlisted to officer, field agent to operations officer, supervisory special agent to instructor, were all challenging. But it was the transition from being a Soldier to being a civilian that I found most difficult. Having spent the majority of my adult life in service to my country, I found it difficult to not belong to that sacred brotherhood anymore.
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