U.S. Army Captain Jocelyn Hayes had never been on a plane until the day she took off for basic training in Fort Jackson, South Carolina.

The flight would be the first of many new experiences for the Dollarway High School graduate who now works for the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

Hayes, 34, graduated from Dollarway in 2002 and went straight into the Army Reserves. Her mother, Mattie Hayes, lives in Pine Bluff and served as a para-professional for more than 40 years, first at James Matthews Elementary School and finishing at Dollarway High School.

The soldiers in my platoon and my platoon sergeant took care of me and treated me as a little sister, and everything worked out. The base in Taji often came under rocket and mortar attack, which scared the heck out of me. I never told my mom about those incidents, it would have scared her too much, so I told her when I returned home.   U.S. Army Captain Jocelyn Hayes of Pine Bluff  

Jocelyn Hayes has been in the Army for 15 years (11 active duty and four in the Army Reserves). She first served as a logistician and is now a force manager in the Pentagon.

“Force Management is an important specialty critical to assisting the Army in transforming and modernizing the force to meet any challenge,” according to an Army news release.

Hayes describes herself in high school as “quiet, shy and reserved” and “wanted to get outside my comfort zone and grow.”

In addition to her duties in the Army, Hayes also the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. She graduated in 2007 with a major in sociology.

Basic Training at Fort Jackson in 2003 was her first time away from Pine Bluff. A year later, she was in Taji, Iraq, as a mechanic, repairing The High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV), commonly known as the Humvee, a four-wheel drive military light truck.

“I wanted to enlist in the Army as a truck driver. My mom had taught me how to change oil and tires on a vehicle before I graduated high school. While the Army didn’t have a driver slot, the next best thing was as a vehicle mechanic” Hayes said.

As the only female mechanic in her platoon, she said she wasn’t sure she could make the grade.

“The soldiers in my platoon and my platoon sergeant took care of me and treated me as a little sister, and everything worked out,” Hayes said. The base in Taji often came under rocket and mortar attack, which scared the heck out of me. I never told my mom about those incidents, it would have scared her too much, so I told her when I returned home.”

At Fort Hood, from 2007-2012, she was the platoon leader for a maintenance platoon with about 40 soldiers, and during that time, she deployed again to Balad, Iraq, which, due to regular insurgent attacks, was called “Mortaritaville.”

Hayes also deployed to Camp Afifjan, Kuwait, in 2011 for 11 months during Operation New Dawn.

At Fort Bliss, Hayes took command of 114-soldier Forward Support Company in 2012, part of a battalion assigned to the First Armored Division.

“It was one of the most rewarding experiences, but extremely challenging in that every decision you make affects everyone in the company,” Hayes said.

In 2013, she deployed to a war-zone again, this time to Shindand Air Base in western Afghanistan. The base had strategic importance being just 75 miles from the border of Iran, according to the Army news release.

After Afghanistan, it was back to Texas, Germany and then to Fort Belvoir, Virginia. In June, Hayes said she expects her next stop will be Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where she will continue her Army career as a force manager.

“If I can make a difference, I’ll make the Army a career,” she said, after four combat deployments and a bunch of stops along the way — not bad for a Pine Bluff soldier who started out “quiet, shy and reserved.”