Spc. Brittany Gordon was a shy young woman with a lot to learn when she joined a military intelligence company two years ago at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
She left the company as a vital member of an intelligence team whose skill at making sense of threats in the volatile Afghan city around her compelled even full-bird colonels to seek her perspective in planning missions.
“It was like a light switch went on for Brittany” when she hit the ground at a NATO forward base in Kandahar city, said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Timothy Wilson, her mentor in Lewis-McChord’s 572nd Military Intelligence Company.
Wilson shared his memories Wednesday at a memorial to Gordon, a 24-year-old soldier from Florida who was killed Oct. 13 by a man wearing a suicide vest under the uniform of an Afghan intelligence officer.
Gordon was the first female Lewis-McChord soldier to die in combat since August 2010.
The attack that took her life also killed a Central Intelligence Agency officer, the Afghan deputy director of intelligence for Kandahar province, two of his bodyguards and another Afghan officer, according to press reports.
Soldiers said Gordon volunteered for her last assignment. She wanted to show a junior soldier how to operate outside the wire, and her tasks in Kandahar included working with local Afghan intelligence teams.
She was well-liked at Camp Nathan Smith in Kandahar, the headquarters for Lewis-McChord’s 2nd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. Her intelligence company is part of the Stryker brigade.
Her squadron commander, Lt. Col. Patrick Michaelis, filmed a video tribute to Gordon. It played during Wednesday’s memorial, showing soldiers saluting her at their base in Kandahar.
“Brittany had a certain grace that drew people to her,” Michaelis said.
Photos from the day of her death show her smiling, said her commander Capt. Josh Ball, in remarks he wrote for the memorial. She re-enlisted during her Afghanistan deployment, and wanted to serve in Georgia to be closer to her family.
“Spc. Gordon loved what she did and she loved the soldiers she served with,” Ball said.
Gordon grew up in St. Petersburg, Fla., where her father, Cedric, is the assistant chief of police. She is survived by her father, mother Brenda, two sisters and a brother.
Spc. Cansas Wilson cried during her tribute to her friend. Like the officers, Wilson remembered Gordon’s skill as a soldier but also recalled how her friend lifted her up in a low moment.
Wilson was depressed after giving birth and feeling low about her appearance.
“It was Brittany who came to check on me,” she said. “She looked me straight in the eye and told me I was beautiful.”
“Brittany has left a handprint on all of our hearts,” she added.
Chief Warrant Officer Wilson marveled at the responsibility Gordon took on during what was her first and last deployment. He noted that 2nd Brigade commander Col. Barry Huggins often sought her out for her analysis.
“He didn’t want to talk to me,” Chief Warrant Officer Wilson said. “He didn’t want to talk to senior leadership. He wanted to hear what Spc. Gordon had to say.”
Adam Ashton: 253-597-8646 firstname.lastname@example.org