Woman Warrior Wednesday: LT COL Teri DelBalso

DELBALSO Teri Delbalso was just like any other little girl growing up in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania. A childhood she describes as “very nice” included playing Barbie Dolls with her kid sister Nikki. Throughout her years at Hazelton High School and Penn State, where she graduated with a BS in Administration of Justice, Teri dreamed about her “perfect job”, but the dream was elusive. She thought about joining the military: Several dead-end jobs later, she took the plunge and joined the Army Reserves. Her training kept her away from home for nearly a year, first at Ft. Jackson, NC for basic training, then Officer Candidate School at Ft. Benning, GA, followed by a basic course for Quarter Masters at Ft. Lee, VA.

After five years posted at the Army Reserve Center in Williamsport, PA, that dream job started to come in to sharper focus. She applied for and was accepted to an advance course to become a Military Police Officer. “It was something I always wanted to do”, she says, “I just had to work my way up to it”. Upon successful completion of her training, Teri was transferred to the Military Police Unit in Ashton, PA, where she’s been serving, and moving up through the ranks, for 16 years. Today, Teri holds the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and is Commander of the 424 Military Police Detachment.

Those years of service have included two tours of duty in Iraq, in 2003-04 & 2008-09. Teri describes the first deployment as being “on the cusp of the invasion” and the conditions as “a harsh environment”. It was also extremely dangerous. Driving back to the base, after dark, through Baghdad, their convoy came under fire by RPG’s. “The guys firing at us were bad shots”, so between their return fire and defensive driving moves, Teri and her team stayed safe. Many others did not. “Our base was bombed every night; I mean every night there were incoming mortar rounds. People died around me.”

The second deployment was calmer; there was more security, better living conditions, and superior radar that detected anyone approaching the base.

Teri’s training and experience in the military led her toward that dream civilian job she’d thought about years before. For 7 years she held the distinction of being the first woman police officer in the history of McAdoo, Pennsylvania. In 1994, she joined the PA Department of Corrections, working out of the Hemlock Creek Medium Security Prison, where she is the State Prison Department Superintendent in charge of programming and treatment.

With four years to go till her goal of retiring from the military with 25 years of service, Teri says, “It’s been a great ride. I’ve been all over the world, all over the US; I’ve seen places I would have never otherwise seen”

She encourages other women to think about a military career. “Don’t run away from it. You can discover yourself, finding talents and strengths you didn’t know you had. The Army is what you make it…if you can carry your own weight and be a team player, it can be a good life”.