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Soldier fulfills her aspirations during Iraq assignment

By Staff Sgt. Letitia Samuels | 449th Theater Aviation Brigade | May 15, 2018

TAJI MILITARY COMPLEX, Iraq – U.S. Army Sgt. Ann Kelnhofer was selected to hold a greater responsibility than she anticipated because her leadership saw immense potential in her abilities as a junior enlisted Soldier.

Originally assigned to the 1st Battalion, 126th Aviation Regiment, 449th Combat Aviation Brigade, she is now assigned to the Signal Intelligence Sustainment Company, Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 10th Mountain Division.

"She is very squared away, a very intelligent Soldier," said U.S. Army 1st Lt. Tyler Donovan, the distribution platoon leader assigned to Company E, 1st Battalion, 126th Aviation Regiment. "She is one of our strongest noncommissioned officers. Once we knew what that job was there was no hesitation to send her."

The North Brunswick, New Jersey, native serves as the Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve Air Movement Coordinator Liaison Officer Noncommissioned Officer-In-Charge. She is responsible for processing personnel and cargo movement requests in various locations throughout the Baghdad, Iraq's area of operation, for U.S. and coalition forces. She also coordinates logistical communication and needs with the U.S. Embassy.

"I'm a mechanic by trade for my military job, but as a civilian I work in an office," said Kelnhofer. "I will say that I was looking forward to doing my MOS [Military Occupation Specialty] on this deployment. After spending most of mobilization with a bunch of mechanics at Fort Hood, I was looking forward to getting my hands dirty.

She said that the transition was easy after she mentally reset her own expectations. She admitted that she was a little disappointed that she would be leaving her original unit and friends but was excited by the challenge of learning a new job and meeting new people.

While in theater, the 449th Combat Aviation Brigade provides aviation strategic partnership training with regional military partners in order to conduct multi-national training and support throughout the U.S. Central Command's area of operation.

In Kelhnofer's new role, she acts as the customer service portion of a small airport by processing and prioritizing movement requests for two general officer headquarters, five task force elements and 19 coalition partner nations.

"Air movement is our main method of travel in country," said Kelnhofer. "AMR [Air Movement Request] coordinators facilitate this movement. I've processed hundreds of requests for movement and answered a countless number of questions about flights. We're the customer service between flight planners and personnel who need to move."

She also had the opportunity to fulfill a variety of unique requests.

"I've done everything from working the rotary movement for the 1st Armored Division redeployment and the 10th Mountain Division deployment into theater to getting the Green Beans manager around Iraq to check on his employees," said Kelnhofer.

She admitted the job can be difficult with investing 14 to 18 hours daily but is also rewarding.

"The work schedule can be tough for sure," said Kelnhofer. "The days are very long, because I won't leave until all requests are handled. I don't want anyone missing a movement opportunity. I've always had an internal motivation to hold myself to a high standard; I guess you could say my mom taught me well! What keeps me going are the people. They are always so grateful for the assistance or for me taking the time to explain to them what they need to know."

Kelhnofer's hard work and dedication has been recognized by senior leadership and she has been presented with numerous coins of excellence from U.S. coalition officers and command sergeants major for her flexibility and selfless service.

"Sgt. Ann Kelnhofer has been instrumental to the successful and timely relief-in-place of the Coalition Joint Forces Land Component Command Headquarters between the 1st Armored Division and the 10th Mountain Division, as well as the transition of the combined CJFLCC and CJTF staff," said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Trevor Morden, the CJTF-OIR CJ4 (Sustainment) and 1st AD mobility warrant officer.

Morden said her efforts resulted in the movement of over 1,200 personnel moving from eight separate locations over a very condensed movement window that met the Central Command commanders' intent.

"I have personally witnessed the individual attention that she provides each request and to the large number of customers she interacts with on a daily basis," said Morden.

Kelnhofer said that a mentor in college suggested that she speak with a recruiter to fulfill her need of wanting to be a part of something that was greater than herself.

"I'm meeting people from all over the world who are sharing their experiences with me. Knowing I'm helping so many different people move around the AO makes me realize that I am a part of something bigger."

She said that the best part of her job is people thanking her for her assistance once they return from mission and the team she works with daily. She highlighted the positive energy that her comrade Spc. Fred McLin comes to work with every day.

"She is representing the unit very well," said Donovan. "It is very gratifying and clear we made the right choice by sending her over there."