WHEN the ground war started, Nancy Souza's unit was deep in the heart of Iraq, transporting ammunition and equipment to the 3rd Brigade and the 82nd Airborne. As company commander of the 1058th transportation unit, a National Guard unit out of Hingham, Mass., she oversaw 111 men and nine women.
Now she is providing support of another kind: In September the petite, athletic woman with short, dark hair returned to her pre-wartime job as a high school physical education teacher and girls' basketball and volleyball coach.
"There were a lot of strong-willed women," she recalls. "I think we hung in there a lot better than some of the men. I don't know if it's because women feel that they have to show that they're strong and they put an air up about them that 'I can hang in there.' A lot of guys - it hit them hard."
Souza got along well with the men in her unit and says they are like a family. The job she found most challenging was keeping morale up among the troops.
Souza came home to a brand-new house, one she just barely got started on before the war. "I saw [the builders] dig one hole, and that was it," she laughs. Fortunately, her family oversaw the process for her.
As Souza looks back on her experience, she says: "It gives me a feeling of accomplishment.... People in the military, not that they're looking for a war, but they're looking to do their mission and to show that they can."