Sherry Sivret – Maine Army National Guard

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Representing four generations of women serving in the military is Sherry Sivret of Alexander. Sivret worked and served with the Maine National Guard for 35 years. (Photo by Lura Jackson)

By Lura Jackson

For the majority of the history of the United States military, women have not been able to serve on the front lines. While that limitation has recently been lifted, women have been dutifully serving the military for generations, in addition to experiencing the effects of supporting a spouse who has been deployed. With a family that now represents four generations of women serving the military and a husband who has served in Iraq, Sherry Sivret’s story embodies that experience.

Born in Calais, Sivret was raised in Robbinston. Her mother, Helen Brooks, had served with the Women’s Army Corps between 1955 and 1957, giving Sivret a foundation of military service to build upon. At 18, Sivret joined the Maine Army National Guard. “I had no idea what I wanted to do at the time,” she recalls. The National Guard had just become open to women, and as such, she felt compelled to join.

Sivret was the fourth woman to join the Maine Army Guard, and she was among the first women to participate in basic training in Fort Jackson, South Carolina, in 1970. “It was really kind of interesting, being at basic training at that time frame.” Women were just starting to be integrated into the Army rather than being part of the Women’s Army Corps, and the whole unit dressed in fatigues and combat boots and completed the same physical training as the men.

“It was challenging, but at the same time, it isn’t,” Sivret said. “It’s a phenomenal training program. If you do what you’re supposed to do, you progress along.” Sivret enjoyed learning first aid, but described the gas mask training less favorably. Recruits would walk into a building that would then be gassed, requiring them to equip their masks appropriately – but not before experiencing some exposure to identify what the smell was. “People would get sick.”

After receiving basic training, Sivret worked in the office and maintained personnel records in the Bangor office while training with the 262nd Engineer Battalion for the next five years. At that point, she was transferred to the 240th regiment in Waterville where she became a legal assistant after appropriate schooling. There, she processed paperwork and wills. After Waterville, Sivret transferred to Augusta and worked in the personnel office there.

“We typed all the orders for every individual of the Maine Army National Guard by hand,” recalls Sivret. Orders were needed for every promotion, discharge, travel, or award received. The number of orders were vast and they came in constantly, and the manual typewriters didn’t make the task any easier. “I had to retype them when I made a mistake.”

Sivret’s competency was noticed and she was promoted to Line of Duty Investigations, where she would assist soldiers that were injured while performing military duty. “That was my job for a very long time.” In total, Sivret worked full-time for the National Guard for 14 years.

While working in personnel as a non-commissioned officer, she met her future husband, David. “David worked for me. That was kind of romantic,” she remembers. “I didn’t pay much attention to him at the time, but he thought I was cute, and so, he pursued me.” They would later marry in 1982.

Sivret then enrolled in Officer Candidate School, experiencing its extensive training regime for the next fourteen months. She recalls completing four mile hikes with full gear, along with orienteering and leadership training, among other skills. Afterward, Sivret moved up the ranks until she reached Chief Warrant Officer 3.

Sivret stayed with the Guard full-time until David became an ordained priest in the 1980s. At that point, she retired from her full-time position while continuing to serve as a Chief Warrant Officer in human relations.

 After retiring, Sivret began offering Assertive Communications for Women training and otherwise promoting women in the military. “For a long time, to be a woman in the military you had to do 120 percent to be recognized for 70 percent because there were so few of us. I was really trying to promote the professionalism of women and how we could still be women and do our jobs. There was a lot of that work at that time.”

In the 1990s, the young couple had produced five children, and both were still enlisted. The conflicts in the Middle East affected Sivret profoundly. “After Desert Storm, there was a different reality for me. With young children, what would happen if I had to go? We didn’t have a family member that could take on five children, and I didn’t want them to be separated.” Sivret made the difficult decision to leave the Guard.

In 2003, the unfiltered reality of war knocked on the door of the Sivrets when David was called to duty in Iraq. He would spend a year there, returning in 2005. “I am grateful for my military experience because it’s helped me to be patient with my husband and his experiences in Iraq,” Sivret said. “They were horrific. It really has helped me.”

The legacy of women soldiers has continued in the Sivret family. Their oldest daughter, Sarah Walters, joined the Coast Guard Reserve, where she is now a petty officer. One of her daughters is now in the Civil Air Patrol for the Air Force. “She is a top-notch young soldier,” Sivret said.

 

Describing how much she enjoyed her time in the National Guard, it doesn’t take much imagination to see why her progeny have followed in Sivret’s footsteps. “It wasn’t easy, but it makes you who you are.”

 

Completing a belly crawl while equipped with a rifle is Sherry Sivret in this photo from Officer Candidate School. Sivret would attain the rank of Chief Warrant Officer 3 before leaving the service. (Photo courtesy Sherry Sivret)