Army Command Sgt. Maj. Marilyn L. Gabbard
Iowa soldier killed in helicopter crash in Iraq
By Henry C. Jackson, The Associated Press
JOHNSTON, Iowa — The first woman promoted to the rank of command sergeant major in the Iowa Army National Guard was among those killed when a Black Hawk helicopter crashed in Iraq, guard officials said Jan. 24.
Command Sgt. Maj. Marilyn L. Gabbard, 46, of Polk City, was a passenger on the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter when it crashed Jan. 20 northeast of Baghdad, officials said. She was the first woman in the history of the Iowa National Guard to be killed in combat, Iowa National Guard spokesman Lt. Col. Greg Hapgood said.
Military officials said Gabbard’s helicopter might have been shot down, but the investigation was continuing. Twelve National Guard soldiers from seven states and the U.S. Virgin Islands died in the crash.
Gabbard was 19th Iowa National Guard member and the 50th service member with Iowa ties to be killed in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Gabbard was born in 1960 in Boone and graduated from Boone High School in 1979. She served in the National Guard for 27 years, starting in 1979, ascending to the rank of sergeant major. In her most recent post, Gabbard served as state operations sergeant major at the Iowa National Guard’s Joint Forces Headquarters in Johnston.
Gabbard’s long tenure with the Iowa National Guard made the pain from her loss acute, Hapgood said.
“She touched so many people in so many different areas of our organization,” he said.
As the first woman promoted to her rank, Gabbard was in a position to serve as a role model to other woman soldiers in particular, Hapgood said, but Gabbard never saw herself as a trail blazer, just a soldier and a leader.
“She didn’t take it as a burden,” Hapgood said. “She embraced the fact that she had gone places other people hadn’t gone before. I think she relished having soldiers look up to her.”
Gabbard deployed from Iowa on Dec. 16. She served as the noncommissioned officer in charge of the National Guard Affairs Team in Baghdad. It was her first deployment to the region, Hapgood said.
Gabbard leaves behind her husband, Edward Gabbard; daughter, Melissa Danielson; mother, Mary Van Cannon; brothers, Mark and Mike Van Cannon; sister, Marla Noren; two grandchildren, five stepdaughters and a stepson.
When I read this article I just knew I had to post this on my blog. Because CSM. Gabbard touched so many people in so many different ways I felt it was my duty to pass along her achivements to all my visitors. She has brought great honor upon herself and the United States National Guard and will be forever missed.