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Face of Defense: Personal Motto Drives Army Officer

Army Pfc. Cody A. Thompson

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan, Aug. 7, 2009

Army Lt. Col. Mary Cheyne, knowledge management officer with Combined Joint Task Force 82 here, started as a West Point cadet and rose through the ranks to her current position with the Army in Afghanistan. Cheyne said her motto, “Make it happen,” enables her to conduct business every day with focused determination.

“If you asked me when I started at West Point if I would stay in the Army long, my answer would be no,” said Cheyne, a Kemblesville, Pa., native. “I didn’t have much exposure to the military growing up, and was not sure I had made the right decision.”

Cheyne struggled with academics in her first year at the U.S. Military Academy, but eventually realized she needed to make a decision about her future. “That was a defining moment that shifted me towards a military career,” she said.

The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, provided another defining moment. At the time, Cheyne was an administration assistant for Human Resources Command’s general staff, located in Alexandria, Va., near the Pentagon. Cheyne said she watched the tragic events unfold before her eyes.

“[Sept. 11] affected everyone in some way,” she said. “We lost a lot of good people that day, including my co-worker. That was a tough six months for me.” When dealing with tough situations, she added, she keeps in mind that she is part of something bigger than herself.

Cheyne continued her path to success, and was promoted to lieutenant colonel here Aug. 1. At her promotion ceremony, she made it clear that she knows she hasn’t succeeded on her own. “Today isn’t about me,” she told the soldiers assembled at the ceremony. “It’s about you guys working hard to help.”

From her time as a supply services officer in war-torn Bosnia in 1996 to her present deployment to Afghanistan, Cheyne has garnered praise from her co-workers and leaders.

“She is a hard worker, and I respect her determination and drive,” said Army Lt. Col. James Carpenter, director of the task force’s communications office. “She looks out for her people, and makes sure her contractors aren’t forgotten.”

Steven Kinder, tactical ground reporting software theater coordinator for the Defense Advance Research Program Agency, describes Cheyne’s support as “exemplary.” “The divisions rely on her leadership to get the information,” he said.

Cheyne said she has a message for those who may be walking the line between apprehension and action.

“Don’t let someone tell you [that] you can’t do something,” she said. “Know who you are, be true to your values and be willing to take some chances. Good or bad, it is our choices in life that make us who we are today.”

(Army Pfc. Cody A. Thompson serves in the 40th Public Affairs Detachment.)

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