Carrie Mehr is a fresh-faced 28 year old about to leave for war.---
She's in Fort Dix, New Jersey at the moment. When we spoke she was about to go out on a practice run with her soldiers for how to react to a roadside bomb. "It's good we're getting all the training here than over there, you know," she says.
Mehr, who was born and raised in Bountiful, is a staff sergeant with six men under her. She takes their well fare to heart. "I care deeply about my soldiers and as their leader I hold myself accountable for each and every one of them."
She enlisted in the reserves in 1999, hooked by a recruiter at her high school. Her passion is to travel; she's been all over the world with her sister, including six months teaching English in China. The military's taken her to Italy and Honduras. She's got two more years to go on her second six-year enlistment.
Mehr is scheduled to leave for Afghanistan before Thanksgiving. She and her squad work in the postal unit. They'll split up once they're in country. In the age of e-mail, post is relegated to things soldiers order on the Internet and packages from home. It's an oddly poignant role to play in a war fought with drones and triggermen holed up in bunkers in Nevada.
Despite her slender build, she's tough. She held off a 200 pound man in hand-to-hand combat in basic training for several minutes. "It seemed like ages," she says. The men, she notes, were told to go no easier on females than men. Back then, nine years ago, she was taught to fight with bayonets attached to rifles. That approach to fighting would appear largely redundant in today's firefights with insurgents.
With recent events in Fort Hood and a deadly attack on U.N. workers in Kabul, the danger in Mehr's world it seems can never be taken for granted. She feels apprehensive, she says "about going outside the wire, that's where people are getting hurt."
Mehr has agreed to share some of her experiences of life in Afghanistan in the coming weeks.