Claire Dimler-Smith

Claire Dimler-Smith

Army veteran Claire Dimler-Smith

By Ruby Woods-Robinson, Librarian, M.S.L.S.

Claire Dimler was born in Ashland, Pennsylvania, which is a very small mining town. Once she completed her high school education, she discovered there was little to do in this town. While Claire was waiting for employment at one of the local coal mines, her mother became sick and Claire had to become the caretaker for her mother. Claire’s older brother had already joined the Army and was no longer living in Ashland. After Claire’s mother passed away, she went down to the local Army Enlistment Office and signed up. Looking for more than Ashland had to offer in 1976, Claire joined the Army and for Basic Training she was sent to exciting Fort McClellan, Alabama. After Basic Training, she was assigned to Fort Knox to be trained as a Tank Mechanic.

After Claire completed her training and certification as a Wheeled Vehicle Mechanic for Missiles Units, Claire was assigned to Nürnberg, Germany Military Community as a Tank Mechanic. Once Claire was in Nürnberg, Germany, she discovered females were not allowed to work in this field. The Army was determined to return her to a U. S. Post and Claire was determined to remain in Germany. Finally, she was assigned to the Wheeled Vehicle Mechanic for Missiles Unit as an instructor from 1977-1979.

When Claire reenlisted in 1979 she was sent to the Light Air Defense Missile Program which had just opened to women, after training at Fort RedStone, she was assigned to Uijeongbu, Korea- remember MASH, the movie series, which is where she was stationed. Claire found the assignment and Korea fascinating. The Army was just beginning to assign women to the 2nd Division.

After this tour she was sent back to RedStone Arsenal where she became an Instructor and at that time she was the only military female Instructor, the other females were civilian. She was admired at RedStone Arsenal because she was a female military personnel and she could take care of all problems involving the military personnel. This was 1981-to 1989.

When she became a Medical Retiree in 1989 she was frustrated. Later it was considered a blessing. The medical retirement qualified her to be able to live in the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Gulfport, Mississippi, and she came to live here in 2003.

At AFRH-G, she met the love of her life, Tech Sergeant Carl Smith. When Katrina struck, both of them were moved to the Washington campus, which is very large. Claire stated it appeared that they lived miles apart and to solve this problem, they decided to get married in 2006. Claire and Carl are enjoying their life together.

Still playing the role of a Trailblazer, Claire has recently joined the Mississippi State Guards. Presently she is in training and will probably be assigned during disaster to assist with the donated goods program. She feels honored to do this task, it makes her feel good that she is contributing to a good cause. She will also be assigned to provide security to the shelter as well.

Fun activities include traveling with her husband; they bicycle; and enjoy all of the wonderful activities available at the home. She also volunteers to be the coffee machine operator at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Biloxi, in the mornings.

Claire’s final words to the younger military personnel is, “Be all you can be.” Stay in the Army.