By Mark Diamond
Hq. SDDC Public Affairs
SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. – For Col. Ines White, joining the Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command headquarters staff is the culmination of a 24-year U.S. Army career sharply focused on military transportation.
On Aug. 6, White assumed duties as Hq. SDDC chief of staff.
If her name sounds familiar to some SDDC employees, it’s because this isn’t her first assignment with this command. From 2009 to 2011, the colonel commanded SDDC’s 841st Transportation Battalion (597th Transportation Brigade), in Charleston, S.C.
THE AMERICAN DREAM
Born and raised in Brussels, Belgium, White immigrated to the United States with her family, and became a naturalized American when she was 14 years old.
As a teenager, she said joining the military never entered her mind. However, a few years later, while attending the University of South Dakota, the reality of college tuition had her looking at all her options.
“My parents aren’t wealthy, but they would send me whatever money they could,” said the colonel. “It was hard on them. I heard about the GI Bill, so I called my brother ( a sergeant serving in Germany at the time) and told him I was going to quit college and join the Army. I was the first member of my family to go to college. He said he would never let me quit.”
She said her brother offered a second suggestion; the Reserve Officer Training Corps.
Her grades were good and she was a member of the cross country and track teams; in other words, she was in pretty good shape. “[The ROTC department] couldn’t wait to sign me up,” said White.
To make up for missing the first two years of ROTC, White attended basic camp at Fort Knox, Ky.; not a problem for a cross country runner with a huge competitive streak.
“I loved [basic camp]. I would have stayed another six weeks,” explain White. “I loved firing my weapon, I loved PT … I loved it all.” Her enthusiasm was evident. After six weeks, she was awarded the ROTC Gauntlet Award, which is presented to cadets who score above the company average on a variety of events, including the Army Physical Fitness Test, land navigation, and basic rifle marksmanship.
After completing basic camp and returning to South Dakota, White met her husband, Chris. And by the time she attended ROTC advanced camp – between her junior and senior years of college – they were also planning a wedding. She and her husband celebrated 25 years of marriage just days before she took over as chief of staff here.
“My husband is a military brat, so when I told him I had a four-year commitment to the Army, he didn’t even blink,” added the colonel. “He’s been by my side ever since. He’s my rock.”
AN ARMY TRANSPORTER IS BORN
She graduated from the University of South Dakota in 1988 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in French and English, and she was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army Transportation Corps.
Following Transportation Officer Basic Course, White’s transportation career started at Fort Hood, Texas, as a truck platoon leader with Bravo Company, 124th Main Support Battalion, 2nd Armored Division.
Aside from a 1991 deployment to Kuwait and her attendance at the Transportation Advance Course at Fort Lee, Va., she remained at Fort Hood until 1996, when she took the job as Assistant Professor of Military Science at Creighton University in Omaha, Neb.
The colonel described her Creighton University assignment as a welcomed and necessary break from the fast-paced life of an Army transportation officer.
During her second tour in Texas, her son, Sam, was diagnosed with autism.
“When we found out our son had autism, all our research told us we should get him into a program early,” explained White. “For me, the ROTC assignment was the equivalent of ‘taking a knee.’”
In Nebraska, White and her husband encountered another problem. While finding personal time was difficult at Fort Hood, money was the No. 1 issue in Omaha. To get their son the support he needed, they would have to pay for that support out of their own pockets.
“The educational system said [my son’s autism] was a medical issue and the military should pay for it, explained the colonel. “The military said it was an educational issue … and the school system should pay for it. We knew we couldn’t wait for them to work it out, so we paid close to $50,000 to fly someone out from California every couple of months to teach our son … and on a captain’s salary. We had a lot of support from our family, [but] money was tight.”
Although faced with huge educational expenses, the colonel credits this time for her son’s success today.
“My son wouldn’t be the success he is today if it wasn’t for the time we invested in him early in his life,” she added. “Sam graduated high school with a diploma and he truly earned every single credit.”
BACK ON TRACK
The colonel said taking a break from the hustle and bustle of Army transportation was the right thing for her and her family. “My gut told me to do it. I was really worried my career would be completely derailed, but I believe everything happens for a reason.”
After Omaha, the colonel’s career continued without missing a beat.
In the summer of 1999, White was assigned as the motor/rail officer in Kaiserslautern, Germany. For the next several years, the colonel was assigned a number of positions, including S3 (operations officer) and then executive officer for the 28th Transportation Battalion in Mannheim, Germany. During that time she also completed her third tour at the Port of Rijeka, Croatia, in support of unit rotations into and out of the Balkans (KFOR/SFOR).
In 2002, the colonel returned to the United States where she was assigned to U.S. Army Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla. At CENTCOM, she was deployed three times in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.
In 2005, White was once again called to Europe where she served as the V Corps transportation officer in Heidelberg, Germany, and in 2006 she deployed with the Corps as part of Headquarters Multinational Corps – Iraq, also known as MNC-I.
She returned to the United States in 2009 when she was selected for battalion command. For nearly two years, she commanded SDDC’s 841st Trans. Bn.
“The 841st Trans. Bn. Is one of the busiest battalions, shipping and receiving equipment to and from Iraq and Afghanistan,” explained White. “Charleston was the very best choice for me, and the people there are just fantastic.”
Although she said she would have never left Charleston, in June 2011 she was selected as the military director for the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services, also known as DACOWITS. Established by the secretary of defense in 1951, DACOWITS provides advice and recommendations directly to the SECDEF on matters and policies relating to the recruitment and retention, treatment, employment, integration, and well-being of highly qualified professional women in the Armed Forces.
After a year at DACOWITS working high-level military issues – like the integration of women into combat units and the health support of women in combat zones – White got the call to join SDDC again; this time on the headquarters staff.
She said joining SDDC again is a culmination of everything she’s done before this.
“I come from a very diverse background. My first career choice should have been military intelligence, but I love being where the action is, seeing things move and being part of the solution. Whether it’s by air or by ground, the whole architecture of transportation really interests me.
“From second lieutenant to colonel, every job I’ve had has revolved around SDDC in some way or another. It’s the heart of logistics for me. I couldn’t be in a better place, and I couldn’t be more excited to be here. I’ve been training my entire career to do this job.”