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    Monday, February 26, 2024

    Sgt. Celia Crespo thrives in nontraditional career

    Connecticut Army National Guard Sergeant First Class Celia Crespo stands in the main hangar at the 1109th Theater Aviation Sustainment Maintenance Group in Groton Monday, September 12, 2022. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
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    Groton ― Even as a small child in New London, Celia Crespo wanted to join the Army, and she wouldn’t let anyone talk her out of it.

    Now 36, Connecticut Air National Guard Apache Platoon Sgt. Crespo supervises soldiers who repair and maintain Blackhawk and Chinook helicopters at the guard base at Groton-New London Airport.

    “What I tell my niece all the time, don’t ever feel defeated,” Crespo said. “Don’t ever feel like that (defeated). That just adds fuel to my tank. Personally, if someone says to me, ‘You can’t do that.’ I say, ’Well, watch me.’”

    Daughter of Puerto Rican parents, Crespo joined the National Guard a year before she graduated New London High School in 2004. The Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks “pushed me over the edge,” she said, to fulfill her childhood dream and to follow her brother, Samuel Crespo, Jr., a year older, who serves with the Guard’s 248th Engineers in Norwich.

    Celia attended helicopter mechanics school at Fort Eustis, Va. In 2009, she started volunteering as a victim advocate for soldiers who had experienced sexual harassment or sexual assault.

    Crespo was deployed to Baghdad, Iraq in 2006-07 and 2009-10, to Kandahar, Afghanistan in 2012-13, and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba in 2019-20. Her brother’s unit also was deployed to Baghdad in 2009, making it easier, she said. “The danger level” in Kandahar, was much higher and felt very different, she said.

    In Iraq and Afghanistan, Crespo handled human resources issues, she said. She went to Guantanamo Bay as a victim advocate.

    Crespo credited her mother, Elizabeth Rivera of New London, for raising her and Samuel right while working different jobs. If the children strayed, “that was quickly corrected,” Crespo said.

    “She is one of those parents who has so much pride for her children,” Crespo said.

    Crespo now feels she is a role model for girls and young women, especially her niece, Zaela Crespo, 16, a student at the Williams School in New London.

    “You don’t have to stay in those traditional roles that everybody in society expects you to do,” Crespo said. “We can make it in different roles outside of what is expected of us.”

    c.bessette@theday.com

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