Soldiers of the 64th CSG HHC Pay Tribute to Mama P
Story by Pvt. Crystal D. Eldridge
13th COSCOM Public Affairs Office
"She always puts Soldiers first - that's what everybody loves about her," said Spc. Ross Grimes, personnel actions clerk with the 64th Corps Support Group Headquarters and Headquarters Company.
"She's one of the first commanders I've had that's really involved with the Soldiers," agreed 1st Sgt. Antonio Hughes of the 64th CSG HHC.
"She's not like any other commander," commented Pfc. Michele Burnside, administrative clerk for the HHC's support operations.
"She's a person - she cares," added Sgt. Joseph Johnson of the HHC.
She is Capt. Arnym Pedraza, commander of the 64th CSG HHC. She is the "unit mother" according to Spc. Jonathan Nicholson. She is the epitome of a female Soldier in Hughes' eyes. To Burnside, she is like a friend, yet still remains professional. To Pvt. Tara Andrickson, "she's cool."
Hailing from Caguas, Puerto Rico, Pedraza was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Chemical Corps on June 14, 1997. The only child of Jose and Myrna Pedraza of Puerto Rico, Pedraza's eight-year career has already been marked with distinction. Having served as assistant S-3, plans officer, chemical officer and dual purpose platoon leader, Pedraza came to the HHC as a good leader who could inspire her Soldiers to execute without utilizing her rank, said Hughes.
"She takes pride in what she does," continued Hughes. "It's not about the rank on her collar - a lot of us hide behind our rank. It's about knowing who's in charge, and those who don't know … She lets them know. [But] she's approachable. That's a sign of a good leader."
"When she first came [to the HHC], I thought she was kind of quiet. She's not," said Staff Sgt. Carl Nelson, assistant platoon sergeant of the HHC platoon. "She's intelligent, really caring … Always there, like when you get hurt - like she's a doctor or something."
Nelson experienced her caring firsthand while washing trucks at the wash rack. He had a nose bleed and needed help stopping the flow of blood. There was a medic around, but he was nervous, Nelson said. Pedraza, however, remained calm and helped stop the bleeding from Nelson's nose.
"Capt. P just stayed calm. She doesn't lose her head," Nelson said.
"All I can say is, she's a good commander," Nicholson put in. "To me, she's a good Soldier. She's willing to get out and work."
Pedraza's willingness to work was evident to Nicholson during a recent field training exercise which lasted two weeks. Nicholson said the commander stayed in the field the entire time. Afterward, she worked beside her Soldiers so they all could return home after the FTX.
"She put on her wet weather gear and helped wash trucks after two weeks in the field," Nicholson said.
"She did the same in Kuwait," Grimes added. "She bought us supper, then got out there and helped us wash trucks."
"Even if I tried to say something bad about her, I couldn't," Nicholson continued. "She's always professional - that's important."
"I've been with her since she took command," Nicholson explained. "[And] I was with her in Iraq. She's good to have with you on the road. I drove for her [sometimes] - she swapped her weapon with me, took my M-16 and gave me her [9 mm]."
"She would give you the clothes off her back," Hughes agreed. "She's a different breed. She's awesome … A lot of leaders [just] observe - she executes."
"She tries to help," added Burnside.
"She goes out of her way - keeps on doing good things," Nelson put in.
"She [runs] a tight ship, but she's always there. Always has time for everybody - never cut anybody short. She's willing to talk about anything - [Soldiers'] kid's first steps, financial issues. She cares [about Soldiers] as if they were her own kids. She's caring," offered Grimes.
This caring side of Pedraza was especially evident in Iraq, Grimes continued.
"She was the unit's unofficial [combat life saver]. She didn't just take care of Soldiers, she took care of the local nationals as well. She did a lot of work with civilians and delivered humanitarian goods like food, personal hygiene products, soccer balls - she introduced feminine products to a lot of the women," Grimes explained.
"She bandaged Iraqi workers," Nelson added.
"She saved [a non-commissioned officer's] life - put him back together and got him medical attention. She stayed with him [as they transported him to the corps support hospital]. She kept in contact with him until he got home," Grimes went on.
"She made living arrangements, while she was still in Iraq, for [another wounded NCO's] family on post when [the wounded NCO] was brought back to the U.S.," Grimes continued.
The Soldiers of the 64th are not the only ones to recognize Pedraza's worth on and off the battlefield. She was awarded the Bronze Star which, according to Grimes, was well-deserved.
"She was always willing to go on convoys, give Soldiers a break. She was never afraid to go on a mission," Grimes continued.
"You want her to be on the plane," said Hughes, referring to deploying to a combat zone.
The result of her leadership, Grimes added, was that there were no casualties within the HHC.
Everyone who went to Iraq with her came back with her, he said.
"You can depend on her to get you there safely," Hughes agreed.
The Bronze Star, however, was not the only award Pedraza deserved for her services, said Grimes. She was wounded by shrapnel while supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.
"She declined putting in for a Purple Heart," said Grimes.
Requesting an award would seem out of character for Pedraza. A fun-loving commander whom everyone enjoyed having around, said Grimes, made the time under her command a privilege. Known as "Mama P" to many of her Soldiers, this young officer cried when she took command, said Nicholson.
"We've all called her mama - she's Mama P," added Grimes.
Now Mama P is preparing for a change of scenery. Going back to her roots as a chemical officer, she is relinquishing command of the unit that she has led by example. As the 64th prepares for yet another deployment, some Soldiers wish she would stay, said Grimes.
"I'm emotionally distraught and torn," said Nicholson. "I'll never be the same - I'm a changed individual."
Capt. Arnym Pedraza stands at ease during the 64th CSG’s latest deployment.
Capt. Arnym Pedraza and 1st Sgt. Antonio Hughes say goodbye following the 64th Corps Support Group Headquarters and Headquarters Company’s recent change of command ceremony.