Senior Airman Phillip Carter renders a salute to his mother Brig. Gen. Carter during her promotion ceremony May 28. Carter is the Chief of Staff of the New Hampshire Air National Guard and the first female general in the New Hampshire National Guard. Photo: 1st Lt. Sherri Pierce 157th ARW-PA
From left to right: Senior Airman Phillip Carter, Senior Master Sgt. Carlos Cardenas, Brig. Gen. Deborah Carter, Chief Master Sgt. Kevin Carter, Chief Warrant Officer Dave Tibbetts, and Capt. Dana Lafarier.
9/12/2010 - 157th Air Refueling Wing -- Twenty four years ago as a second lieutenant, Deborah Carter recalls thinking she could make major before retiring. Today, she is a brigadier general and the first female general officer in the New Hampshire National Guard (NHNG).
"It is very humbling," Carter said. "It has clearly exceeded my dreams."
Carter joined the military in 1979 for the educational benefits and never expected to make it a career. After four years of active duty service and prior to joining the NHNG, Carter had an eight month break in service which made her rethink the idea. She missed the camaraderie. "The military felt like home to me," she said.
As the first female general officer in the NHNG, Carter has certainly inspired other female officers. "I had two junior officers in separate conversations tell me they want to be a general someday and now they know it is possible," she said. "I am glad to see junior officers, male or female, have big dreams for their future."
Being a general is definitely a new experience, Carter said. Since her promotion, "people's initial reaction is usually tenser then when I was a colonel." In one encounter a servicemember asked, "Is someone in trouble?"
"I tried to reassure him that no one was in trouble and that generals do not always come around when someone is in trouble," she explained.
On the upside, being a general gives Carter an opportunity to access decision makers on strategic issues like future missions and needed resources for current missions. "A lot of my time will be working at the national level to keep the NHNG ready, reliable and relevant in the future," she said.
Mentoring young officers is also key for the future according to Carter. "I believe that mentorship is a core responsibility of leadership," she said. "I listen a lot and share my experience. I am not afraid to share where I went wrong and what I learned from it," she said. "It doesn't mean I am always right but it gives younger officers a broader look."
"Those I mentor know I don't do it for free. Each one has to guarantee me they will mentor at least one person or more in their career," she added.
During her 31 years of service, Carter has had a lot of opportunities to serve in many different capacities. A big part of her career has been working on reunion and reentry. Carter recalled one deployment in 2004 when the Army National Guard sent 850 soldiers overseas to combat.
"It was a big eye opener," she said. "Soldiers and families in 'boots on the ground' combat missions willingly sacrificed on many fronts. I was proud of their professionalism and willingness to serve with many tours lasting 15-18 months in very dangerous situations."
One of her favorite trips was a deployment to Panama in the early 1990's as part of Joint Task Force Rushmore where she was the Services Commander. Her first experience in the joint environment, Carter said, "We did a lot of great humanitarian efforts with local villages and built some well needed roads...It was a great deployment."
Most recently, Carter returned from a six month deployment to Afghanistan where she worked with U.S. and NATO forces and the U.S. Embassy on civil-military efforts at the strategic level.
Carter was promoted in a ceremony May 28. Her daughter, Tiffany Lafarier, and husband, Dana, assisted in pinning on her stars. Her son, Senior Airman Phillip Carter, rendered her her first salute as a general officer. Carter acknowledged many people who have supported her during her career and without whom she could never have been as successful. Carter genuinely believes that 92 percent of a good life is picking the right mate. Carter's husband, Kevin, is her "biggest supporter, biggest critic and best friend." Also in attendance at the ceremony to celebrate the special day were Carter's sisters Rosey Gelinas and Maria Cardenas and brother Bob Gelinas.