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SPRINGFIELD, IL (07/20/2017) (readMedia)-- TOWANDA, Ill. – Master Sgt. Cindy J. Singley, of Towanda, Illinois, senior culinary noncommissioned officer with the 404th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade based in Normal, Illinois, retires this month after nearly 24 years of service.
"I have enjoyed my career in the military," said Singley, who reminisced the thought of spending nearly half of her life in the military. "I think it made me grow up fast and look at priorities different."
In 1975, Wendy, Singley's sister, wanted to join the military out of high school but their father had one stipulation to her enlistment.
"My twin sister wanted to join and my father would not let her join unless I joined too," said Singley.
So the enlistment process began and an Illinois National Guard recruiter showed up to Singley's house. She chose a job in finance and started her career off by graduating school as a distinguished honor grad. She served various roles in multiple units, earned two military occupational specialties and became a recruiter for a short period of time before she took an 18 year break in service.
"It didn't matter that she had an extended break in service, she was dedicated enough to get back in so she can serve again," said Sgt. 1st Class Sean R. Harris of Bloomington, Illinois, brigade assistant operations noncommissioned officer for the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 404th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade based in Normal, Illinois."She didn't mind getting her hands dirty to get the mission complete."
Her decision to reenlist after so many years was unique.
"My daughter wanted to earn stripes for buddies, so I signed back up," said Singley.
Singley had a rare opportunity to deploy with her daughter from 2003 to 2004 with the 233rd Military Police Company, based in Springfield, Illinois, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
"I just got back from MP training and was asked to deploy," said Singley. "Deploying with my daughter was an adventure; first mother and daughter to cross a combat border (together), we were told."
Singley with Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 33rd MP Battalion, based in Bloomington, Illinois, returned home to her family and ILNG duties for two years before deploying to Iraq again in 2006.
The best part of deploying for Singley was meeting and making new friends around the world, she said. The toughest part was leaving her family for so long; however, she said her family has always been supportive of her military career.
"I could not have done this without their support," said Singley.
Many young Soldiers who never deployed before turned to Singley for her mentorship and guidance. She quickly gained an unforgettable nickname.
"She was known as 'mama Singley' to all of the junior enlisted and a particularly good mentor to the female enlisted," said Harris, who deployed to Iraq with Singley in 2006 and served the past two years together in the HHC, 404th MEB. "She emphasized safety, personal and professional development."
Gaining the nickname came as no surprise, as Singley truly was the person many came to with questions, she said.
"(I will miss) the mentoring of the younger Soldiers," said Singley. "I enjoyed being section sergeant during my deployments and detachment sergeant for HHD 33rdMilitary Police Battalion. I will also miss cooking food for the troops and training (the younger troops) in the culinary area."
Master Sgt. Tony Hodge, Senior Human Resources NCO for the Joint Force Headquarters based in Springfield, Illinois, said Singley also helped him improve his patience, compassion and empathy."
"MSG Singley was always mentoring troops," said Hodge, who knew Singley before her break in service and deployed with her in 2006. "Her mentoring knew no bounds... She encouraged everyone to overcome obstacles, to do the best they could do, she set the example for others to emulate."
While Singley will miss training new troops, she will never forget how rewarding her career has been, she said.
"People came to me for answers and I enjoyed that," said Singley. "If I did not know the answer I surely found out the right one. Soldiers' looking up to you makes you feel really good."
Having served in many different positions, some more challenging than others, Singley leaves a few departing words to the junior and newly enlisted Soldiers.
"(You) just need to stick with it," said Singley. "It can be rough. It can be fun. It is what you make it out to be. Enjoy the many possibilities ahead."
Those who served with her and knew her the best had nothing except positive words to say.
"Serving with Singley was an honor," said Harris. "She was a pleasure to work with. I will miss (her) awesome attitude. Although we rarely served directly in the same section, when we did work together she was the epitome of a team player."
"I am honored to have served with her, she has served honorably and left a lasting positive impression on so many Soldiers that will go a long ways toward the changes being made in the future of the armed forces," said Hodge. "She was ahead of her time and will be missed. I wish her all the best."
Singley looks forward to her retirement and said she will enjoy her newly free weekends and vacations with her family. Even though she is retiring, she plans to keep in touch with her military friends through social media.
After retirement, singly plans to invest time into her hobbies, which include sewing, crafts with her grandkids, and Tae Kwon Do.
Singley expresses special thanks to her family, David Singley (husband), her two daughters Ayrielle Ehlers and Laura Singley, as well as her three grandchildren Alexander, Madyson and Aleyna Ehlers.
Photo Cutline 1: Ayrielle Ehlers (daughter) and David Singley (husband), pose with Master Sgt. Cindy J. Singley, of Towanda, Illinois, senior culinary noncommissioned officer with the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 404th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade based in Normal, Illinois, retires this month after nearly 24 years of service, during drill, July 16, at the Normal Armory. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Deadria Meyers, HHC, 404th MEB)
Photo Cutline 2: Master Sgt. Cindy J. Singley, of Towanda, Illinois, senior culinary noncommissioned officer with the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 404th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade based in Normal, Illinois, retires this month after nearly 24 years of service, during drill, July 16, at the Normal Armory. (photo provided)