How an Airman Used Her Life Experiences to Forge a Path in the Air National Guard

By Staff Sgt. Victoria Hanson

In March, we recognize and celebrate Women’s History Month, highlighting the outstanding achievements of women throughout our nation’s military history and the sacrifices they make for our country. Airman 1st Class Debra Herold, a command post controller at the 132d Wing, has drawn from her life experiences and enjoys the variety of activities that have helped shape her into the woman she is today.

Debra is a multifaceted woman who wears many hats. She is a wife, mother, nursing director at the University of Iowa, volleyball coach, manages a hobby farm and is currently working on her doctorate in nursing administration.

“Sometimes, when you have a lot to do, you prioritize better because you don’t have down time,” said Debra.

Their family has a hobby farm near Solon, Iowa, with horses, cattle, chickens, goats and turkeys.

“We call it the Herald Petting Zoo,” she shared.

In addition to serving in the Iowa Air National Guard, she balances work, school and her life at home. Her two daughters, ages 10 and 12, stay busy with 4-H and sports, and her husband, a former NFL player, works in insurance and has always been supportive of the extracurricular endeavors they take on as a family.

Photo credit DVIDS/Staff Sgt. Victoria Hanson

Airman 1st Class Debra Herold, a command post controller at the 132d Wing, smiles with her family upon graduation of Basic Military training at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, San Antonio, Texas.

“Communication is key,” said Debra. “Especially with transporting our kids’ for their activities, what needs to be done on the farm and in the house.”

Debra earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Nebraska Omaha, studying biology and chemistry. She also studied environmental toxicology research and went on to finish her master’s degree in nursing at the University of Iowa in 2009.

Currently, her full-time job is as a nursing director for the University of Iowa, where she oversees 45 offsite clinics that are located all over the state of Iowa. Her job includes a lot of traveling and it can take her anywhere between the Mississippi River and Missouri River.

“I make fun that my office is in my backpack,” she said.

Debra enlisted in the Air National Guard in May 2022, and initially thought that joining the military was something she wanted to do after high school, but she decided against it when she was offered a full scholarship to run track in college. After graduation, she considered joining again, but the timing was not right for her family.

She thought she had missed her chance. But when a friend who had just re-enlisted shared that the age limit was 39, she realized it was not too late. The encouragement at that time led her to finally enlist.

“It was now or never, and I did it,” she said. “Everyone, my husband and family were supportive.”

During her training experiences, Debra was able to draw from her wide range of life experiences and be a mentor to the younger airmen, finishing training in June 2023.

“I actually found a lot of joy in that,” she said. “And tech school was fun too, because I’ve been through a lot of colleges.”

Debra said that she chose to enlist in a job outside of the medical field, so she could learn something different. As a command post controller, her role deals with trainings, emergency management preparedness and system function checks, among other duties.

I wanted to grow,” she shared. “I’ve learned a lot about a different career field and the opportunities that the military provides.”

Her experiences have proved helpful as she has brought some of her civilian world optimization tools to her role at the Wing. She said that she has no regrets about joining when she did, as opposed to earlier in life.

I do believe that everything happens for a reason,” said Debra. “I’m just grateful that I had the opportunity.”

-This story was originally published on It has been edited for

More Stories Like This

Every day, America’s service members selflessly put their lives on the line to keep us safe and free. Please take a moment to let our troops know how much we appreciate their service and sacrifice.


Sign Up for Updates

Be the first to learn about news, service member stories and fundraising updates from USO.

By participating, you agree to the Mobile Messaging Terms for recurring autodialed donation messages from USO to the phone number you provide & to the Privacy Policy. No consent required to buy. Msg&data rates may apply.

Take Action

The USO relies on your support to help service members and their families.

Ways to Support