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Home : News : News Features
NEWS | Jan. 15, 2016

Washington Guard Soldier dances through deployment, step by step

By Sgt. Ian Kummer 40th Combat Aviation Brigade

CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait – Spc. Megan O'Malley, a small-framed woman with an unobtrusive demeanor, might not immediately stand out from a crowd. Once she warms up to a new person, it does not take long to see a no-nonsense attitude for her work and a dry sense of humor.

After the day's tasks are done, just about any conversation with her will lead to one topic. She loves ballroom dancing.

O'Malley is a Washington Army National Guard automated logistics specialist deployed with Company E, 1st Battalion, 168th Aviation Regiment, 40th Combat Aviation Brigade, in Camp Buehring, Kuwait. Buehring is a military compound of faded wood and damp concrete jutting from the mud of the winter desert – not the first place that comes to mind when the word "ballroom" is mentioned. But according to O'Malley, all one really needs to ballroom dance is an empty motor pool bay and a nice shirt.

O'Malley grew up on a farm in Port Angeles, Washington. O'Malley and her older brother were first introduced to dancing in their living room by their mother, who used to be a professional dance roller-skater.

"We started dancing as a family, and branched out with our own interests as individuals," O'Malley said.

Shortly after turning 16, O'Malley found a new energy in her dancing interests when she saw the 1998 film Dance with Me. She fell in love with ballroom dancing.

"As a teenager, I had two passions, dancing and horses," O'Malley said. "In my twenties, every weekend I would drive two hours to meet up with friends and ride all day, then shower and change to go dancing."

In January 2012, O'Malley faced the darkest period of her life, losing her job and home in the same month. That May, O'Malley enlisted in the Washington National Guard and started basic training on her 30th birthday.

"My ex told me I wouldn't even make it through boot camp, yet there I was," O'Malley said.

After completing her training, O'Malley started drilling at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington. She had no problem fitting in with her fellow Soldiers and becoming a valuable team member.

"She really enjoys helping people," said Pfc. Logan Easton, a generator mechanic and Vancouver, Washington, resident in the company. "She acts like an NCO [noncommissioned officer]."

In October of this year, O'Malley deployed with the 40th CAB to Camp Buehring, Kuwait. Outside of work, O'Malley has turned her eye back to dancing. With the support of her company leaders and the local Family Morale, Welfare and Readiness center, she's started a dancing class for the other Soldiers. O'Malley looks forward to growing both as a Soldier and as a dancer during her unit's tour in Kuwait.

"With dancing, you have to love it, if you don't love it, you won't really get good at it," O'Malley said.