‘Coming home’ U.S. Army retiree returns to Missouri to prepare for second career

Ott is pictured above in 2003 rappelling from the rafters at the Omni Center in Atlanta, Ga., as part of recruiting initiative intended to strengthen the community relations between the U.S. Army Recruiting Command and Georgia communities. Courtesy of Susan Hogue

By Jeremy P. Amick

When graduating from from second careersecond caree(Mo.) High School in 1984, Susan (Ott) Hogue realized she was lacking a sense of direction and that there might be something missing in her life.

U.S. Army retiree
Enlisting in the U.S. Army in 1989, Lohman, Mo., veteran Susan Hogue completed a two-decade career, retiring at the rank of sergeant first class in 2009. She is pictured above with her son, Kameron. Courtesy of Susan Hogue

Four years later, she enlisted in the U.S. Army, igniting a two-decade journey that would help instill a drive for success and shape her desire to become the best mother possible to her young son.

“I looked at all the services, but the Army was the only one that guaranteed what I wanted in writing—to serve in Hawaii,” said Hogue, 48, Lohman, Mo.

During the summer of 1989, she attended basic training at Ft. Dix, N.J., before traveling to Fort Gordon, Ga., to receive advanced instruction as a single channel and radio teletype operator.

“We were taught to send and receive different types of messages using specialized communication devices,” Hogue explained.

With her initial training completed, she traveled to Hawaii and was attached to an engineer battalion located on Schofield Barracks, an Army installation tucked within the city of Honolulu.

It is here, Hogue noted, that a sergeant major within her battalion became her mentor, encouraging her to enroll in college courses and “instilling a sense of responsibility and focus within me.”

For the next 5-1/2 years, she remained in Hawaii and made the transition from working in communications when reassigned as a photographer to cover notable events within the battalion.

U.S. Army retiree
Ott is pictured above in 2003 rappelling from the rafters at the Omni Center in Atlanta, Ga., as part of recruiting initiative intended to strengthen the community relations between the U.S. Army Recruiting Command and Georgia communities. Courtesy of Susan Hogue

During this time, Hogue said, she also attended “every school I could,” completing rigorous programs such as the Army’s Air Assualt and Airborne schools, and becoming “the first female from our battalion to graduate from them.”

Her photography soon provoked an interest in journalism and in 1994 she left Hawaii to attend a military journalism shool at Ft. Benjamin Harrison, Ind. Soon after, she reported to her new assignment with the 31st Air Defense Artillery Brigade at Ft. Hood, Texas.

“A year later, the brigade deployed to Saudi Arabia and I spent the next six months as the public affairs officer writing articles for military and civilian newspapers about our training activities as a Patriot missile unit after the Gulf War ended,” she said.

“I also had the opportunity to cover training in Alaska while the unit was firing mounted Stinger missiles. I was never home; I was always out covering some event.”

While deployed, the unit relocated to Ft. Bliss, Texas; however, in 1997, Hogue received orders that resulted in yet another career shift—this time in recruiting, serving the next 12 years in assignments at locations in both Florida and Georgia.

In late 2008, she transferred to Ft. McPherson, Ga., to work in a personnel assignment, but  the curtains on her Army career soon closed when she retired December 31, 2009.

“I had enough time in,” she said. “And there had been people I served with who told me that they regretted having sacrificed watching their children grow older so they could continue their Army career.

“I had already sacrificed my marriage … my family,” she continued, “but my son, Kameron—who was five at the time—I was not willing to sacrifice.  I was going to raise him, watch him go to school, witness the milestones in his life.”

Hogue stayed in Georgia to work as a civilian in a position identical to the one she had worked while in the Army. She later relocated to North Carolina, but in 2013, returned to Missouri to fulfill a promise made many years previous.

“When I decided to join the Army years ago, no one but my father really supported my choice,” Hogue said. “At that time, he said to me, ‘Go do what you need to do, have fun, but when you’re finished, it’s time to come home.’”

Pausing, Hogue added, “It was time to come home.”

Now living in Lohman, Hogue’s son attends school in Russellville while she is enrolled full-time with The Art Institute of Pittsburgh in pursuit of a degree in photography.

“My sister and I are in the process of opening a (photography) studio together, but my ultimate goal is to work in public affairs for a company or government agency—similar to what I did in the service.”

Acknowleding the strains that a career as a soldier places on a mother, Hogue believes her years spent in uniform have provided many valuable lessons.

“When I was preparing to attend Airborne and Air Assault schools, some people told me I would never be able to do it,” she said. “It was very challenging—both mentally and physically—and the training took everything I had.

“But if there was one thing that I learned from those experiences, it is that if you tell me that I can’t do it, I’m going to show you that I can … and I did just that.”

Jeremy P. Ämick writes on behalf of the Silver Star Families of America

Jeremy P. Ämick
Public Affairs Officer
Silver Star Families of America
www.silverstarfamilies.org http://www.silverstarfamilies.org Cell: (573) 230-7456