Cerro Gordo County Iowa
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 The Globe-Gazette
Mason City, Cerro Gordo County, Iowa
April 13, 2013

1133rd: From soldiers to husband and wife
by Laura Bird

ROCKWELL — People often think about how their lives would be different had certain events never occurred.

For Jenni and Ken Gauley of Rockwell, serving in Iraq together in 2003 was a defining time in their lives.

“We never would have gotten married,” Ken said if they hadn’t served in Iraq together.

Jenni agreed and said that they wouldn’t have had “a couple of awesome kids.”

Ken joined the Iowa National Guard’s 1133rd Transportation Co., headquartered in Mason City, in 1994 and Jenni in 2000. Both were deployed to Iraq in 2003.

They “kind of knew of each other” before being deployed, but had their own group of friends, Jenni said. It was in Iraq that they started to get to know each other.

“He did ... guard at night and sometimes if I couldn’t sleep I’d bug him,” said Jenni, who was a specialist with a truck platoon. Ken was a sergeant with dispatch, making their jobs reliant on each other.

They were also able to get to know each other during down time because the base wasn’t built up with very much technology yet, such as the Internet, Jenni said.

“That’s all we did was sit and talk to each other and play cards,” she said, noting why those in the first deployment became so close.

After returning home they remained close and in 2005 Ken proposed. They married in 2006 and have since then had two children — Ava, 5, and Vincent, 2. They were also deployed to Iraq again in 2008.

“Leaving Ava behind of course made it extra hard,” Jenni said, but she was proud to serve again with Ken and other 1133rd members.

While many of the 1133rd members of the first deployment have left the military, both Ken and Jenni remain active.

“I’ve always had military in my family including my grandpa in World War II and my dad, uncle and sibling have been in,” Jenni said. “It’s a lifestyle I enjoy doing. I take pride in our country, our flag and our freedom.”

“Many people have died for us to live the life we live,” Ken said. “If we can do our part for our short time on Earth, we should. I feel my part is in the military.”

Jenni is currently a staff sergeant with the 1133rd, and Ken was transferred this year to a unit in Perry as part of a promotion. He’s a first sergeant there.

Jenni is working on getting a bachelor’s degree in psychology and taking care of their children. Ken works for Northrop Grumman, a defense contractor. He teaches classes on the military decision-making process and facilitates military exercises.

Looking back on the past 10 years, they’re both proud of their service.

“We’ve gone through some good and we’ve gone through some bad, but I wouldn’t change any of it,” Jenni said. “It was a very eye-opening experience.”

They said the experiences have made them more thankful for the lives they have.

“We like talking to them (Ava and Vincent) about the freedom we have and appreciating the smaller things in life,” Jenni said.

“Looking back, any person that has ever been in a combat area probably has a greater appreciation for the little things in life,” Ken said.

Photograph courtesy of Globe-Gazette
Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, November of 2016



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