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"Most of the kids I saw over there, most of the kids I worked with, were younger than my kids. And they had their body parts blown off and that bothered me." (Video Interview, 7:10)

   Cookie Avvampato
Collection image
Cookie Avvampato [detail from video]
War: Persian Gulf War, 1991; Iraq War, 2003-2011
Branch: Air Force; Air Force
Unit: 752nd ASES; 944th Aeromedical Staging Squadron (ASTS)
Service Location: March Air Force Base, California; Carswell Air Force Base, Texas; Luke Air Force Base, Arizona; Kuwait; also: Kuwait; Iraq
Rank: Major; Lieutenant Colonel
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Three months after Cookie Avvampato, a professional nurse with two late-teen children, joined the Air Force Reserves, she was called into active duty to serve in Desert Storm as a backfill medical specialist in Kuwait. Having grown up a self-described military brat, with her father an Air Force enlisted man she had little trouble adapting to life in the military. Some fourteen years later, she volunteered to go to Iraq to serve in that conflict. Daily life in the two wars was a study in contrasts; her medical facility in Kuwait had many amenities, with little sense of danger, while conditions as her base in Balad, Iraq, were very confining and dominated by the Big Voice, a public address announcer who warned of incoming mortar attacks usually after they had started.

Interview (Video)
»Interview Highlights  (9 clips)
»Complete Interview 
Download: video (38 min.)
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»Women of Four Wars
 Video (Interview Excerpts) (9 items)
Casualties in her unit when she served in Iraq, where they were mortared daily; dealing with regulations on sending on patients for further treatment to Germany; stationed on a base that had taken over Saddam Hussein's Olympic training facility. (01:18) During the Persian Gulf War, learning under fire how to do her job; most of her patients with serious injuries were younger than her own children. (01:17) Having difficulty with the food served, because she was a vegetarian; supplies of toilet paper and paper towels sometimes ran short, but never bottled water; tension associated with the Big Voice. (02:16)
Caught in the shower once when the Big Voice came on; her tent was two blocks away; despite the heat outside, tents were so cool she slept in pants and long-sleeve shirt inside a sleeping bag. (00:53) Her view of the military didn't change just because of her service, as she had a clear picture of war from her father, who served in WWII, and others; her views on how Iraqis live in terror. (02:38) Contrast in living conditions during the Persian Gulf War and serving in Iraq; weather in Iraq was like back home in Tucson; she had to serve in Desert Storm, but she volunteered to go to Iraq; had been in the reserves briefly before getting called up. (03:17)
Her communications problems stemmed more from her age than her gender; being used to the military culture, which the reservists weren't; told by Air Force in Iraq to stay away from the Army side of the base, where there had been sexual assaults. (02:09) One encounter with Iraqi citizens: a mother and daughter injured during arrest of the father; he was not allowed outside of the base's razor wire; not having much time to make friends. (03:04) People who say they support the troops in Iraq but don't support the war don't understand that the troops don’t see that distinction; minimizing the stories of bad behavior among U.S. troops. (02:32)

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  The Library of Congress  >> American Folklife Center
  October 26, 2011
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