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Student teacher prepares for deployment to Iraq
Bryan Oliveros gets some help from 2nd Lt. Tia Peters, left, and Denice McConnell, as he puts on Peters’ Army gear during a presentation Friday at Fair Street International Baccalaureate World School in Gainesville. Peters, who is a student teacher at the school, is being deployed to Iraq in November. - photo by Tom Reed

Tia Peters is nervous.

In November, she takes her first deployment oversees — and she’ll land in Iraq for duty.

On Friday, 2nd Lt. Peters, 22, toted her equipment and uniform into a classroom at Fair Street International Baccalaureate World School, where she is a student teacher, and encouraged the children to ask questions.

“I’ll be far, far away from home, and that makes me nervous,” Peters told a student who asked if she was scared.

“But I can’t cry or be sad. You have to be tough and strong, no matter what you do. You have to be smart and think about what you’re doing in each situation.”

She showed the students where Iraq is on a map and described her equipment item by item.

“Can you imagine walking 10 miles with all this on your back?” she asked the class while decked out in a camouflage bulletproof vest, helmet, water pack and large backpack.

Several students walked up one by one and tried on the uniform.

“Imagine how hot it gets when the weather is around 100 degrees,” Peters added.

Peters became interested in military service as a student at White County High School, and she joined the National Guard at age 17.

She started the ROTC program at North Georgia College & State University in Dahlonega, and then decided to study middle grades education at Brenau University and pursue Officer Candidate School.

“The noncommissioned officers are the backbone of the military who do everything for their troops, and after I served as a medic for a few years, I wanted to be an officer and make a difference for our troops,” she said. “I struggled through some of the training, but I’ve become a strong person and kept up with my health. More than anything, I’ve learned to never stop trying.”

Peters, as a part of the 1148th Transportation Company at Fort Gordon in Augusta, will help with escort missions and moving supplies in Iraq. She explained road traps, security and navigation to the students.

“There are mean people being rude to families like yours over there,” Peters told them while pointing at the map again. “The civilians want help and protection. It’s like when you tell your teacher about a bully at school.”

The children asked wise questions, including what it’s like to be a woman in the military, especially a petite one.

“You know how it feels when people say you’re too little?” she said. “And when they tell you that you can’t do it? You just keep trying hard.”

Despite the nerves, Peters said she is ready to take on the new adventure.

“I tell the students I’m scared because I want them to know it’s OK to be afraid as long as you are strong,” she said. “I’m open to the new experience, and it’s something I can tell my own students and have pictures to show and teach them.”