OWOSSO — Owosso native Jamie (Clayton) Peer isn’t quite ready to celebrate her silver anniversary with the Army, but she is celebrating a matching set of silver oak leaves.
Peer, on Dec. 22, officially will be promoted to lieutenant colonel during a ceremony with family and friends — highlighting a career that has seen her stationed around the globe.
Peer is already allowed to wear the insignia — silver oak leaves — on her uniform. In the U.S. military, when a commissioned officer is approved for promotion and already serving in a higher ranking position, they can be permitted to wear the higher insignia.
The 1994 OHS grad said it took a while to find her career path.
“I had no idea I might enjoy serving in the military until my cousin, Mike, from Durand, enlisted in the Marines in 1995,” she said. “I really looked up to him and his decision to enlist gave me courage when the opportunity presented itself to me.”
That opportunity came in the form of a random encounter with an Army recruiter.
“I went to Central Michigan University for one year after high school, and then I worked in Colorado for one year,” Peer said, “because I just didn’t know what I wanted to be. So I came back to Owosso, and started praying about what was next.
“It was August 1996, and I had enrolled and been accepted at Baker College because it sounded like a reasonable thing to do. Just weeks before fall semester was to start, I was rollerblading to meet a friend in town. As I cut across the YMCA parking lot here in town, I almost got hit by a car that was pulling out. I circled back to check if the driver was alright and, lo and behold, it was an Army recruiter. He asked me what I was doing with my life. I said I was rollerblading,” she said.
After the encounter, Peer decided to visit the recruiter the next day. She said the recruiter’s pitch resonated with her.
“When I talked to the recruiter, it was on a Saturday, and before I committed, I wanted to talk to my mom. I was kind of hoping she’d be like, ‘Oh no, don’t do that.’ But she said that looking back, it was something she would have liked to do herself. I joined later that day, after I received her support.”
Peer’s mother Marsha Innes recalled when Peer approached her about enlisting.
“I remember it vividly,” Innes said. “Had I had it to do over, I probably would have joined. I just wasn’t aware of the benefits or anything. She had my full blessing.”
Peer went to the Military Entry Processing Station (MEPS) in Lansing to do the pre-service physical screening and aptitude testing, which helps determine the occupation an individual selects in the military. After completing all the testing and requirements, “I raised my hand (took the oath of enlistment) Aug. 23, 1996, and left for basic Oct. 1,” Peer said.
Peer attended basic training at Ft. Jackson, South Carolina, and became an administrative specialist.
“South Carolina was hot, even in October,” Peer said. “Physically, I was up to the challenge from years of playing sports. The real challenge for me was both mental and emotional, and it was my real first real experience interacting with people from all over the country, and being that far away from my family for more than a couple weeks.”
At one point, then Pfc. Clayton asked her female drill sergeant if she could quit. “The answer was a definite ‘no’, so I just kept going.” Peer stated the decision to just keep going changed her life for the better.
Following basic training, Peer was posted to Fort Riley, Kansas.
“Before 9/11, I got the opportunity to deploy to Hungary,” Peer said. “In early 1999, within the first month of us being there, the U.S. started bombing Kosovo. We didn’t have enough military police to go around, so I’d have to get in a Humvee and go out on patrols. Sometimes I’d have to help them guard a gate by sitting behind a MK-19 (automatic grenade launcher) and keep an eye out.”
Near the end of her deployment, Peer received some good news from her superiors.
“When I was in Hungary,” Peer said, “I found out I’d received a three-year, fully funded Army ROTC scholarship to Kansas State University. In order to start college that fall, my commander let me come back a bit early.”
Peer said she was keenly aware of the importance of her studies. Officer training was tough in different ways than basic training.
“Officer training stresses the importance of leadership, taking care of soldiers, and making life and death decisions in a combat environment, in addition to placing cadets under many of the same physical demands of basic training.”
While in ROTC, she was appointed to several leadership positions in the “cadet battalion.”
“I was a cadet company commander in ROTC my junior year,” Peer said. “I then received the honor of serving as the cadet battalion commander my senior year.”
Upon graduation, Peer received a bachelor’s degree in history and a commission as a 2nd lieutenant.
“I was fortunate to receive my first choice to serve as a Army human resource officer. I was familiar with the work from my enlisted days, but now I was in charge of the soldiers who did personnel actions, processed awards and performance evaluations, and helped the Army keep track of its people through daily accountability reports,” Peer said. “And in 2009, I was deployed to Afghanistan, and worked in a three-star headquarters doing this type of work for all four services (Army, Navy, Marine and Air Force), as well as coalition and NATO forces.”
Peer’s husband Mark is an active duty Army major and they have three daughters, 15, 13 and 5. Mark is stationed at Offutt Air Force Base in Omaha, Nebraska, and has deployed to Iraq and Korea.
Peer is currently a professor of military science at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, where she now instructs ROTC cadets herself.
“Serving in this capacity is a huge honor because I get to help shape the next generation of military officers,” Peer said.
Peer has been decorated several times, including with a Bronze Star in Afghanistan, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Army Commendation Medal and the Army Achievement Medal.
Peer is happy with her professional duties and her family life, but admits that she does sometimes get homesick for Michigan at times.
“I left home at a young age,” Peer said, “and the support that I get from my family is awesome. I miss them, but I love making them proud and serving them by serving my country.”