Maj. Jean Marie Kratzer was the only member of the National Guard awarded the Army’s Joint Women’s Leadership in Excellence Meritorious Service Award last summer at the Joint Women’s Leadership Symposium, an annual gathering of military women from all branches of service in Washington, D.C.
“I am beyond grateful for the recognition,” Kratzer said. “It has been a busy decade for me. I’ve been away more than I’ve been home, but I have greatly enjoyed every stressful moment of it. The soldiers in the New York National Guard I have met and worked with have made it worth it.”
Nominated by both one– and two–star generals for the award, Kratzer ranks receiving the honor from the Department of the Army as one of her proudest career achievements so far. She also cites working with a group of soldiers establishing the first mailroom in Syria for a U.S. military base and being a positive influence in the lives of her fellow soldiers.
“As a woman soldier and an officer, a message I would share to other women wanting to join the Guard is: Every day you should feel empowered for the strong career choice you made,” she said. “In no way should it diminish our femininity, or our career choices, but remember to always be a little louder when you speak. It always catches the predominantly male audience in the room off guard.”
Kratzer, a civilian employee of the Army National Guard, serves as the command information officer for the New York National Guard’s Public Affairs Office in Latham, New York. She is also the public affairs officer for the 42nd Infantry Division’s Headquarters and Support Company in Troy, New York. She has volunteered for her last two out of three deployments because she simply loves serving. Now, she is readying for a 2020 deployment to Kuwait, where she and her team will be overseeing all of the public affairs work for more than 10,000 soldiers in several different locations throughout the Middle East.
“Our goal is to project a professional image of soldiers overseas, but also to instill trust, faith and confidence to our leadership and our families back at home,” she said.
Back home for Kratzer is Upstate New York, where she grew up interested in the military. In addition to an aunt who served in the early 2000s, one of Kratzer’s biggest inspirations was her grandfather, who served more than 40 years in the Air Force before retiring as a senior master sergeant. His service spanned World War II, Korea and Vietnam.
“Ever since I was a little kid I would see a military commercial and get chills,” she said.
Before Kratzer’s father passed away when she was 7, he told her that God put her on Earth to help people. Keeping his message close to her heart, in 2007 Kratzer followed in the footsteps of her grandfather and aunt and enlisted in the Army Reserve as a chaplain’s assistant. She became an officer in 2010 after earning a commission through the Reserve Officers Training Corps.
Kratzer has served as a platoon leader, public affairs officer, personnel officer, company commander, sexual assault response coordinator, equal opportunity officer and human resource operations branch chief. She conducts victim’s advocacy and counseling classes and equal opportunity training for New York Army National Guard units across the state.
“I believe the Army has always been the perfect career path for me,” Kratzer said. “I have been able to lead and work with soldiers as a company commander, but nothing gives me more self-fulfillment than being there to support, help, and mentor young soldiers in the Guard.”
When Kratzer enlisted she promised her mother she would earn a college degree. She graduated from St. John’s University with a degree in sociology with a minor in theology and Christian marriage counseling. She then earned her graduate degree from St. John’s University in criminology and criminal justice with a concentration in international social work and social development.
“The Guard has shaped me to appreciate life — from showering with shower shoes to having the opportunity to see my family on a regular basis. This is my third deployment to the Middle East, but it has also showed me independence, discipline, love of country, lifetime friendships, and the opportunity to travel,” she said.
Through the Guard, Kratzer discovered one of her greatest loves: running. An accomplished and dedicated long-distance runner for nearly a decade, Kratzer is a member of the National Guard Marathon team, which boasts the top ranked 15 women soldiers in the entire country. A self-proclaimed hyper person, Kratzer cites long-distance running as her best form of therapy.
“I can run for hours and just let the time pass; let my mind wonder,” she said.
For Kratzer, her teammates motivate her to run harder and faster than she could have ever imagined.
“To find that core group of friends that can push you, motivate you, and help you be the best runner you can be – that’s what I found in my National Guard teammates,” she said. “My last marathon I came in second overall for women in my age group and my teammates finished, turned around and motivated me the last two miles. Honestly, can you find more positively influential and motivating friends than that?”Read comments