First Lt. Maria Castro said active duty Army service is helping her reach her career goals. The activated reserve officer is assigned to the 3rd Brigade Support Battalion, 1st Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division currently deployed to Baghdad, Iraq.
“I just wanted to do active duty work. I thought it would be a good career path,” Castro said.
The young officer went into the Army Reserves right after graduating college from the University of Colorado with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. She has three years of active duty under her belt, and plans to continue on active duty when she redeploys to Fort Stewart in December.
Her goal is to apply for acceptance into a clinical social work program at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, where she can earn a master’s degree in social work.
Castro said her ultimate goal is to become a mental-health provider and counsel soldiers.
“I’ve learned a lot from several different leaders,” she said. Castro said she has had good days and bad days in the military.
“That comes with it,” she said.
Castro currently serves as the 3rd BSB medical supply officer in Iraq. She was the evacuation (ambulance) platoon leader during the first seven months of her deployment.
“As evacuation platoon leader I was in charge of 24 soldiers,” Castro said. “We would respond to anything that happened on the FOB — if anyone got injured. If we were to be attacked, we would send out the ambulance team to bring them back here to FOB falcon. Our treatment squad would then take over and assess the injuries.”
Fortunately, her brigade did not experience any serious incidents, she said.
As evacuation platoon leader, Castro also coordinated logistical convoy patrols ensuring that a medic accompanied the convoy and vehicles were “prepped and ready, aid bags stocked and ready for any incidents.”
As a medical supply officer, the young officer is in charge of medical supplies for six units. She orders the supplies, coordinates distribution and inventories controlled substances.
“They’re a very touchy subject and under lock and key,” she said. Controlled substances in the brigade’s inventory include morphine, Xanax, Percocet and Vicodin.
Castro said she has not personally worked with Iraqi security forces, but has helped pack some convoys with vitamins and over-the-counter medications such as calamine lotion and bacitracin, which were delivered to about 300 local Iraqi women and children.
“I didn’t personally get to go but I saw pictures,” she said. “I hope to go out soon. I want to see how it’s done.”
Medics usually engage with the local people, Castro said.
“We’ve done six of these deliveries, and will do more in the coming months,” she added.
Castro comes from a family with a military tradition. Her father served in Korea, and her sister is currently in the Army reserves stationed in their home state of Colorado. Her brother is deployed with an Army National Guard unit to Talil, Iraq.
“Hopefully I can fly out to see him,” she said.
Editor’s note: The following is the fourth installment in a series profiling the men and women of the 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division now deployed to Iraq.