Rockwell ‘grateful’ for the experiences and friends the military gave her

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Army veteran Sgt. Brittany Rockwell has always been super competitive with her older brother, Brandon. Whether it was chasing after her brother and his friends on a playground in Wisconsin in elementary school or playing flag football because he was playing flag football, she always felt that she had to prove itself.

“I remember one time some guys were bullying me on the court, and I didn’t say anything, because I didn’t want to look weaker than my brother,” Rockwell said.

She even went on a big canoe adventure in the border waters of northern Minnesota, as Brandon had gone with his scout troop for a big backpacking adventure in New Mexico the year before.

Rockwell, 28, and his brother have come of age in the post-9/11 world, and American patriotism has saturated everything from newspapers to television and movies to music.

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“I remember my brother had the (Toby Keith) album with the song ‘boot in your ass,'” Rockwell said. “I don’t know, it’s a very important memory, and my brother and I used to listen to this album, like, all the time. So I think, like, I knew he was going to join, and I am a very competitive little sister.

So when Brandon joined the military after high school, Rockwell was forced to follow.

“I didn’t really want to join the military, I didn’t think so,” Rockwell said with a laugh. “I wanted to join the Navy, because I grew up in Wisconsin, I grew up on Lake Michigan, I always saw the Coast Guard. So I was thinking, “Marine,” and then Brandon joined the military and shined. So I was like, ‘Well, I can’t let him get over me, so I’m going to join the army too.’ So I joined the army.

In the military, Brandon was a military police officer, a role he “was absolutely terrific in,” Rockwell said.

“Everywhere you went everyone who knew my brother always praised (him),” she said. “Being the competitive little sister, I can’t let him outdo me.”

While his brother went down the law enforcement route, Rockwell took a slightly different path in the military.

She enlisted as a high school student in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and attended monthly Army Reserve training. After graduating in 2012, she went to boot camp.

“That was before Governor Branstad allowing veterans and military to have in-state tuition, for example, within a year,” Rockwell said.

She moved to Davenport, Iowa, where she had family, worked part-time, and attended community college at Scott Community College while waiting to establish residency.

She had originally wanted to attend the University of Iowa. The paternal side of the family lives in the Quad Cities area.

“From a young age, my grandfather said I was going to be a Hawkeye,” Rockwell said.

However, as fate would have it, while living in Davenport, she had started seeing a guy who was going to be dating Iowa State, so she applied to go there too.

The relationship didn’t last, but “I loved Iowa State,” she said.

After Rockwell earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Iowa State in 2017, she enrolled in the JAG School.

“I always thought I wanted to be a lawyer growing up,” she said. “I took law classes in high school, pre-law type classes in high school. I really loved history, and so I wanted to be a lawyer, and that’s kind of the path I wanted to take. And then I became a paralegal and realized I didn’t want to be a lawyer.

Rockwell realized that “really, it’s the paralegals who do all the fun stuff and all the information (gathering), and the lawyers just make the case in court,” she said. . “It’s really, ‘if you have a good paralegal, you have a good lawyer.'”

Armed with this new knowledge, Rockwell deployed to the Middle East in 2019 and worked as a JAG paralegal in Kuwait, Iraq and one day in Syria.

“I did a bunch of different things,” Rockwell said of his time on the court. “We conducted legal reviews on payments to support the Iraqi military. We did some training with the Iraqi army and some of their legal assistants to teach them the law of war. I supported that. We worked with the Red Cross on a couple of things, on some legal issues. It was a bit, less military justice stuff and a bit of everything else, when I was there.

Rockwell visited a few military bases in Syria just before Christmas with “a three-star (general)”, which landed her in the pages of Stars and Stripes, the US military newspaper.

“I came back (from Syria) and walked into the dining room the next day, and everyone was calling me ‘superstar’ and I was like ‘what are you talking about? “And they’re like, ‘didn’t you see the paper?’ And I was like, ‘no, I’m trying to eat breakfast, not see the paper.’ And they ran and grabbed a copy, and I was on the front page of Stars and Stripes.

When Rockwell returned to the United States — a complicated return delayed by COVID-19 — she realized she was ready to try something new.

“In 2019, I spent more time in a hotel room than in my own apartment,” she said. “And with the kids, I didn’t want to do that.”

Rockwell had met future husband Kyle in Iowa in 2017. They married in June 2019, and soon after his deployment ended and he returned home, they were expecting it.

Having fulfilled her commitment to the military, Rockwell was discharged in December 2020 and she gave birth to twin girls in January 2021.

“I really felt like I signed the dotted line to do really cool things, and I have to do really cool things,” Rockwell said. “So I decided I was, like, ‘Okay, I gotta do this, now I’m going to be a mom. I want to focus on being a mom,’ so I walked out.

When she started looking for work after the twins were born, Rockwell decided she had had enough of the law.

“I just wanted a break, I think,” she said. “I was a bit exhausted after my deployment with legal work.”

Rockwell briefly worked on probation across the river in Nebraska, but she quickly recognized that she was not cut out for this kind of work.

“I thought that was the path I wanted to go, but I’m getting too emo,” she said. “I don’t know. The mommy side comes out of me…I brought home work, I brought home emotion, and you can’t do that.

In short, in college, Rockwell had thought about majoring in animal science, but “I don’t have a scientific brain,” she said.

But when she saw a job open at Pottawattamie Conservation, “I thought, what the hell is this? What does it hurt to apply? »

Being from Wisconsin, Rockwell was familiar with the agricultural industry, particularly dairy farming, and conservation work seemed to suit.

“I consider myself more of an Iowan than a Wisconsinite, but sometimes I like to claim Wisconsin, so I claim the dairy side of Wisconsin,” she said. “I’ve always had a passion for conservation and agriculture, and I saw an opportunity, a vacancy, to work there.”

Rockwell works as a conservation assistant, managing state programs for her district — she works at the Malvern Conservation Office in Mills County — and she works as a county conservation board staffer.

“I really like it,” she said. “I enjoy coming to work every day. I can’t wait to come to work.

Rockwell also has strong ties to the local veteran community. She serves on the Pottawattamie County Veterans Commission and is grateful for the friendships she was able to make with other veterans in the area.

“Everyone compares the military to a brotherhood and, like, your brotherhood or your brotherhood, and I really think there’s some truth behind that,” she said. “You get to bond with people that you normally would never know. You get thrown into situations and instantly become best friends with people because it’s like you sympathize with them on some level. I think that being a veteran allows for that.I’ve met a lot of great people and great friends in Pottawattamie and Mills (counties) being a veteran and being involved in the community, and I probably never would have met them otherwise.

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