First sergeants manage careers, family, married life
Six years together, 1st Sgt. Rachel Terrell, assigned to Headquarters and A Company, 369th Signal Battalion, and 1st Sgt. Donald Terrell Jr., assigned to E Co., 551st Signal Bn., were assigned to Fort Gordon in January this year. It’s the first time they have been stationed at Fort Gordon other than attending military schools here. He trained as a multichannel transmissions systems operator-maintainer, and she trained as a satellite communications operatormaintainer and later as a satellite systems/network coordinator.
They were recruited from the Joint Communications Support Element (Airborne), at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla. “The U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command needed first sergeants at Fort Gordon and had a hard time filling those positions,” Donald said.
“I like working with the Soldiers,” Rachel said. “I work mainly with radio operator-maintainers, cable systems installer-maintainer, and signal support systems specialists. I am always mentoring and preparing them to take my job when I retire someday from the Army.”
Donald is the first sergeant for more than 400 Soldiers.
”It’s my job to discipline and guide them, but I do it in such a way not to destroy their self-image. What I enjoy most about my position is watching Soldiers grow. I like seeing the light come on and watching them change from a teenager to a Soldier.”
While their jobs offer a lot of personal satisfaction, both admit balancing home life and dual careers is not easy. Donald has been deployed four times during his 21 years in the Army and Rachel has deployed once. The couple has three children. Hailey, age 4, Abigail, age 10 and Brittany, age 22.
“Donald works a lot of long nights and I work a lot of long days,” Rachel said. “Some nights we don’t have dinner until 7 p.m.”
What works for them is lending each other a hand with the chores around the house. “We share the cooking and cleaning duties at home,” Donald said. “Everything is a trade off – one cooks while the other does the laundry.”
“We also schedule time with our children,” Rachel said. “We took jobs at Fort Gordon to be near our families in North Carolina and often take the children and spend the day at the beach.”
“We also manage our careers,” Donald explained. “We are pro-active and we look for our next assignments. We don’t wait to be told where we are going to be assigned. We have found this practice improves our family life and our careers.”
Both trained here as AIT students, attended the U.S. Army Signal Corps Regimental NCO Academy for leadership developmental courses previously know as the Basic Noncommissioned Officer Course, now Advance Leader Course, and the Advanced Noncommissioned Officer Course, now Senior Leader Course.
The two met during a Special Olympics event held on the installation in 2006. Rachel was attending ANCOC at the time and her class elected to participate in the event as a community project for the class.
“He was one of the louder guys,” said Rachel. “He helped me manage one of the lanes during the softball throw event at the end of the day. We met and started talking.”
Rachel, a native of East Stroudsburg, Pa, was a staff sergeant and Donald, from Greensboro, N.C., was a sergeant first class at the time.
They both have attended basic airborne school and jumpmaster school at different times. The Terrells were classmates at the pathfinder school.
The Terrells also read memorandum of instructions and look at the direction the Army is taking in making decisions about their military careers and possible future retirement.
Should retirement become an option, Donald would like to work in law enforcement. “I would like to be a community police officer in Grovetown, where we have purchased a house,” he said. And Rachel wants to use her psychology background to work in the VA helping service members cope with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
In the meantime as first sergeants, both plan to keep their diamond as long as they can.