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Sunday 18 August 2019

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'Sometimes I have to stop myself and think. I'd be with some of the marines and I'd see something and say 'Aww, that's quare'n deadly lads'. They'd look at me funny and I'd say, 'I mean, that's awesome'.'

Her mother died when Statia Dobbs was only 19, and she moved to the US five years later. Yet, it was these experiences that shaped and helped the Wexford town woman prepare for the toughest challenge of her life... joining the Navy and serving as a medic on the front line in Iraq YOU CAN take the Wexford girl out of the Model County, but when it comes to Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Anastatia Dobbs you can't take the Wexican out of the girl.

Wolfe Tone lass Anastatia, or simply Statia as she is known in her home town, may now be a US citizen and a proud member of the United States Navy, but there's no place like home for the girl whose exciting career has seen her serve everywhere from Azerbaijan to Iraq.

'Níl aon tinteán mar do thinteán féin. Isn't that what they say? I have dual citizenship. I'll always be Irish, no matter what,' said the confident 38-year-old, who ensures that she has at least two trips home a year when she's not deployed overseas with the Navy's medical personnel.

Named after her late mother who sadly died when Statia was only 19 years of age, Statia credits her late mother's hard working ethic, sense of decency and strong moral compass for inspiring her own career path.

'She showed us right from wrong. There were eight of us growing up and my mother had to take two jobs to provide for us, but she always found time to love and look after us. She taught us well,' she said.

Statia moved to the United States 14 years ago. Itchy feet had overtaken her then 24 year old body, and as her brothers and sisters slowly got married and moved on with their lives she decided to pack in her job at Sola Lens and head to the US with an open ended three-month return plane ticket. She never looked back. Statia, who had only ever holidayed in the US once before, flew into New York initially but moved south of the Mason/Dixon line to Virginia to take up her first job working 'in an Irish bar for a Jewish owner. 'The only authentic Irish thing in the place was me,' laughs Statia who says that it was 'a grand way to meet people'.

From there she started child minding and was a popular Nanny for many monied families, one of them Molly Ward who went on to become the Mayor of Hampton City in VA.

Through this association, Statia managed to successfully apply for her green card. 'I worked for them for five years. They sponsored me,' she said adding that she is still very good friends with the Ward family. 'These are people who really made a difference for me. They are my family away from home,' she said.

In the US she was also friends with another former Sola Lens employee and Wexford man, Brian McGovern, who had started a career with the US Navy. Brian is currently based with the US Navy at their embassy in Rio de Janeiro.

However it was the horror of September 11, 2001 that was a deciding factor for Statia to step up to the plate and sign up for the US Navy herself.

'I was taking college classes at the time. I was going for nursing, hoping to become a physician's assistant,' she said.

She went to a draft office with her green card and a copy of her Leaving Cert results - a requirement needed to sign up. After background checks, an as ASVAB (apptitude) test she was approved as good Navy potential and given a spectrum of areas she could enter. She picked the medical field. 'I already had some training, and I was thinking if I left the Navy after six year or so, I'd have something useful to fall back on.'

Education through the military was 'hard core'. Classes from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. peppered with strength and fitness training. 'The curriculum was vast and the schedule was tight. Study, study, study. If you fail you are out. There is no margin for error.'

Happily for Statia she sailed through recruitment in Illinois and then initially returned to Virginia where she was stationed in the military acute care department at their branch medical clinic. In 2005 she moved to the Great Lakes of North Chicago, and also spent a period in California at a combat medical school. It was here that she learned 'deal

very savvy in combat, very smart'.

As a Navy medic Statia has to train with these marines. When they launch head on into danger zones, she's only yards behind as a vital medic, ready to patch up wounds in terror zones.

Her first overseas deployment was not so hairraising in that she was sent with the marines on their Thailand Cobra Gold Operation, a type of humanitarian assistance in the wake of the tsunami.

'I was there to give immunisations and eye examinations to young local children. Never did I imagine when I was looking at lens in Sola Lens that I'd be giving glasses to young children in Thailand a couple of years later,' smiled the kindly Wexford woman. From there she was assigned to an aircraft carrier which was 'like something out of Top Gun'. In 2009 she got the call to go to a real war zone - Iraq. 'Call me crazy but I loved it,' she said, nonchalantly mentioning that as well as her first aid equipment she also packed an M9 pistol and an M16 semi-automatic rifle as she shadowed a bomb squad unit. ' Don't worry, I didn't shoot anyone,' she smiled. Unbelievably Statia wasn't scared by her overseas assignment. 'I wasn't terrified, not at all. The way I look at it you

could be killed crossing the street,' she said.

Still single and with her own apartment in Chicago, being deployed with a few days notice is 'no big deal' to Statia, but admits it can have a strain for young married marines who are separated from their families for six months or more at a time. The support from the public in the US is, however, one of the plus sides.

'There is big support in the US for the military. When we have our marine corps ball and we go out in dress uniform we are treated like VIPs. The public are very grateful for what we do.'

Statia says almost mournfully that she was never dispatched to Afghanistan, although last November she was deployed with the Black Sea Rotational Force II to Romania. From here she worked assisting marines in Azerbaijan, Macedonia and Serbia.

While in Romania Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Dobbs went one further step in her career when she became a US citizen, and became the first US Navy member to pledge allegiance to the United States on Romanian soil.

'I was the only one. The ceremony was deadly. One of the immigration officers few from Vienna to Romania to carry out the ceremony. A while load of us went out to celebrate it.'

Statia is very proud of being a US citizen. 'I do feel proud. I've put so much into the country and I've served for that country. I really feel I deserve it. There are regular American citizens who have not done as much for their country as I have.'

Of course she still loves Ireland and Wexford - and frequently points out to her marine colleagues that Commodore John Barry hails from her homeplace. 'Oh and I tell them that Saving Private Ryan was shot here too,' she said.

The big draw at home, of course, are her siblings Matty, John, Denis, Leo, Willie, Patrick and Mary.

Statia is frequently in contact with them all and makes her return visits to Wexford twice a year.

On her most recent visit home she spent best part of her evenings ensuring that her marine fitness hasn't wilted and has been out running and training with her fitness guru brother Patrick.

Patrick, her younger brother by only a couple of years, looks up to his sister with the greatest admiration.

'We are all as proud as punch. She's amazing. We all think fair play to her, she's brilliant,' he said.

While she joined the Navy 10 years ago, withe the idea that she might 'get out' in six years, Statia has now had a change of heart.

'I got hooked. I'll retire out of it.' YOU CAN take the Wexford girl out of the Model County, but when it comes to Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Anastatia Dobbs you can't take the Wexican out of the girl.

Wolfe Tone lass Anastatia, or simply Statia as she is known in her home town, may now be a US citizen and a proud member of the United States Navy, but there's no place like home for the girl whose exciting career has seen her serve everywhere from Azerbaijan to Iraq.

'Níl aon tinteán mar do thinteán féin. Isn't that what they say? I have dual citizenship. I'll always be Irish, no matter what,' said the confident 38-year-old, who ensures that she has at least two trips home a year when she's not deployed overseas with the Navy's medical personnel.

Named after her late mother who sadly died when Statia was only 19 years of age, Statia credits her late mother's hard working ethic, sense of decency and strong moral compass for inspiring her own career path.

'She showed us right from wrong. There were eight of us growing up and my mother had to take two jobs to provide for us, but she always found time to love and look after us. She taught us well,' she said.

Statia moved to the United States 14 years ago. Itchy feet had overtaken her then 24 year old body, and as her brothers and sisters slowly got married and moved on with their lives she decided to pack in her job at Sola Lens and head to the US with an open ended three-month return plane ticket. She never looked back. Statia, who had only ever holidayed in the US once before, flew into New York initially but moved south of the Mason/Dixon line to Virginia to take up her first job working 'in an Irish bar for a Jewish owner. 'The only authentic Irish thing in the place was me,' laughs Statia who says that it was 'a grand way to meet people'.

From there she started child minding and was a popular Nanny for many monied families, one of them Molly Ward who went on to become the Mayor of Hampton City in VA.

Through this association, Statia managed to successfully apply for her green card. 'I worked for them for five years. They sponsored me,' she said adding that she is still very good friends with the Ward family. 'These are people who really made a difference for me. They are my family away from home,' she said.

In the US she was also friends with another former Sola Lens employee and Wexford man, Brian McGovern, who had started a career with the US Navy. Brian is currently based with the US Navy at their embassy in Rio de Janeiro.

However it was the horror of September 11, 2001 that was a deciding factor for Statia to step up to the plate and sign up for the US Navy herself.

'I was taking college classes at the time. I was going for nursing, hoping to become a physician's assistant,' she said.

She went to a draft office with her green card and a copy of her Leaving Cert results - a requirement needed to sign up. After background checks, an as ASVAB (apptitude) test she was approved as good Navy potential and given a spectrum of areas she could enter. She picked the medical field. 'I already had some training, and I was thinking if I left the Navy after six year or so, I'd have something useful to fall back on.'

Education through the military was 'hard core'. Classes from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. peppered with strength and fitness training. 'The curriculum was vast and the schedule was tight. Study, study, study. If you fail you are out. There is no margin for error.'

Happily for Statia she sailed through recruitment in Illinois and then initially returned to Virginia where she was stationed in the military acute care department at their branch medical clinic. In 2005 she moved to the Great Lakes of North Chicago, and also spent a period in California at a combat medical school. It was here that she learned 'deal

very savvy in combat, very smart'.

As a Navy medic Statia has to train with these marines. When they launch head on into danger zones, she's only yards behind as a vital medic, ready to patch up wounds in terror zones.

Her first overseas deployment was not so hairraising in that she was sent with the marines on their Thailand Cobra Gold Operation, a type of humanitarian assistance in the wake of the tsunami.

'I was there to give immunisations and eye examinations to young local children. Never did I imagine when I was looking at lens in Sola Lens that I'd be giving glasses to young children in Thailand a couple of years later,' smiled the kindly Wexford woman. From there she was assigned to an aircraft carrier which was 'like something out of Top Gun'. In 2009 she got the call to go to a real war zone - Iraq. 'Call me crazy but I loved it,' she said, nonchalantly mentioning that as well as her first aid equipment she also packed an M9 pistol and an M16 semi-automatic rifle as she shadowed a bomb squad unit. ' Don't worry, I didn't shoot anyone,' she smiled. Unbelievably Statia wasn't scared by her overseas assignment. 'I wasn't terrified, not at all. The way I look at it you

could be killed crossing the street,' she said.

Still single and with her own apartment in Chicago, being deployed with a few days notice is 'no big deal' to Statia, but admits it can have a strain for young married marines who are separated from their families for six months or more at a time. The support from the public in the US is, however, one of the plus sides.

'There is big support in the US for the military. When we have our marine corps ball and we go out in dress uniform we are treated like VIPs. The public are very grateful for what we do.'

Statia says almost mournfully that she was never dispatched to Afghanistan, although last November she was deployed with the Black Sea Rotational Force II to Romania. From here she worked assisting marines in Azerbaijan, Macedonia and Serbia.

While in Romania Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Dobbs went one further step in her career when she became a US citizen, and became the first US Navy member to pledge allegiance to the United States on Romanian soil.

'I was the only one. The ceremony was deadly. One of the immigration officers few from Vienna to Romania to carry out the ceremony. A while load of us went out to celebrate it.'

Statia is very proud of being a US citizen. 'I do feel proud. I've put so much into the country and I've served for that country. I really feel I deserve it. There are regular American citizens who have not done as much for their country as I have.'

Of course she still loves Ireland and Wexford - and frequently points out to her marine colleagues that Commodore John Barry hails from her homeplace. 'Oh and I tell them that Saving Private Ryan was shot here too,' she said.

The big draw at home, of course, are her siblings Matty, John, Denis, Leo, Willie, Patrick and Mary.

Statia is frequently in contact with them all and makes her return visits to Wexford twice a year.

On her most recent visit home she spent best part of her evenings ensuring that her marine fitness hasn't wilted and has been out running and training with her fitness guru brother Patrick.

Patrick, her younger brother by only a couple of years, looks up to his sister with the greatest admiration.

'We are all as proud as punch. She's amazing. We all think fair play to her, she's brilliant,' he said.

While she joined the Navy 10 years ago, withe the idea that she might 'get out' in six years, Statia has now had a change of heart.

'I got hooked. I'll retire out of it.'

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