Paganetti left for Kuwait two days after college graduation
When Kristen Paganetti, 22, was a freshman at UNCC, she wanted to add more adventure to her life so she joined the Army National Guard.
She said the decision to join the Army was a actually random thought because she was bored. “I asked myself, ‘why not join the army?’”
“My parents had a fit,” Specialist Paganetti said. They soon became her strongest supporters and still are.
She joined the Guard as a member of the 505th Engineer Battalion out of Gastonia.
With three years of college remaining, Paganetti kept up with her studies and was able to do the weekend training once a month and her two weeks of summer camp.
She graduated from UNCC on a Saturday in 2012 with a degree in accounting and finance and two days later was sent to Virginia for three weeks to train with the National Guard in preparation for her deployment to Kuwait and Afghanistan.
After Virginia, she spent a month in Dallas, Texas for more extensive training before going to Kuwait where she spent seven months.
“Training was actually fun,” Paganetti said. “I got to do a lot of things and I qualified for a lot of firearms including a MP and a 50 cal during the weaponry training.”
After seven months in Kuwait, she spent two months in Afghanistan before returning home last month.
In both places, Paganetti worked in human resources where she was accountable for 800 soldiers. By the end of the deployment she had processed over 1,000 awards for the soldiers.
She had an 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. job and after work she usually went to the gym and then had dinner. She skyped with
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her family when there was an Internet connections.
Although her work duties were the same at both places, living conditions were drastically different.
In Afghanistan the battalion lived in tents and slept on box springs.
In Kuwait the living quarters were in a large warehouse where each solider had more privacy and their own areas.
“It was 130 degrees during the day and 110 at night,” she said of Kuwait. It was colder in the mountains of Afghanistan.
“We had the bare necessities, but I am glad to be home safe,” Paganetti said. “It was stressful at first but Kuwait was a nice surprise. I didn’t know how rich they were. I was shocked and I didn’t expect to see it there.”
When Paganetti returned to Texas for an aggressive two week out-processing regiment, the Boston Marathon bombings occurred.
“This makes me appreciate my job more and trying to make an effort to make it safe as possible for others,” Paganetti said.
Back home in Rutherfordton for the time being, Paganetti is looking for a job in the Charlotte area. She has had several interviews and plans to remain in the National Guard. She is planning to re-enlist and is considering Officer Candidate School.
“I enjoy the Army. I enjoy being out there to try to help people,” she said.
The Paganetti family moved to Rutherford County a few years ago to be closer to family who live in Hendersonville.