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February 1, 1996

Staffer among reservists supporting U.S. presence in Bosnia-Herzegovina

Faculty and graduate students in Pitt's School of Education are not the only members of the University community who are working to ease the plight of the people of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Since early January, U.S. Army reservist Brenda Williams, a secretary in the Office of Budget Planning and Analysis since October 1994, has been in Baumholder, Germany, serving with the 115th Postal Company. Williams's assignment is the very important one, as anybody who has been in the military knows, of helping to maintain morale among the troops by making certain they receive their mail.

As far as the Office of Human Resources can determine, Williams is the only Pitt staff member who has been called to active duty and is serving overseas because of the U.S. involvement in Bosnia.

"There could be someone in a department who went out on leave and no one documented it or called us or told us," said Tammy Bach, a staff specialist in Human Resources. "But Brenda is the only person, so far, who has contacted our office." The University follows guidelines set down by the Office of Veterans Affairs for employees who are members of the National Guard or a reserve unit and are called to active duty, according to the Staff Handbook. Those guidelines call for a person to be re-hired once his or her tour of active duty ends.

Since leaving Pittsburgh for training at Fort Dix, N.J., on Dec. 26, Williams has written her friends in the Office of Budget Planning and Analysis. She reports that "this entire mission is overwhelming to me. To step out of a civilian capacity into a full fledged, active Army military regiment is mind blowing." One of Williams's worst experiences was the day she had to get the seven different inoculations given to all U.S. troops involved in the Bosnian deployment. Staff Sergeant Williams also admits to having some misgivings about her choice of a military career and tells her friends she is terribly homesick. According to Bill Madden, director of the Office of Budget Planning and Analysis, Williams and her husband, Chris, purchased a home in the North Hills that they had not yet settled into when the Pitt staffer was called to duty.

"I miss everything there is about civilian life," Williams writes. "In this capacity you're dealing with all types of folks, all types of personalities, types of everything. The bureaucracy in itself makes me ask myself sometimes [if] I have done the right thing." While acknowledging that she always was aware there was a chance of being called to active duty, she says, "that day always seemed so far away. Until that day turns into tomorrow and you find yourself looking back at your family waving good-bye." The Pitt secretary is now a postal supervisor with responsibility for a staff of 20, including five civilians. She does not expect to go to Bosnia, but will be at her post in Germany six days a week for 270 days, or until the troops return.

Members of the Office of Budget Planning and Analysis are putting together a "care package" to help the absent Pitt staffer combat her homesickness and keep in touch with everybody back in Pittsburgh.

For anyone who wants to write the address is: Staff Sergeant Brenda L. Williams, 115th Postal Co., APO AE 09034.

–Mike Sajna

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