As a U.S. Army Reservist serving in a psyops (psychological operations) unit in Iraq in 2021, Tina Knutson and her team got into the minds of Iraqi citizens while deployed to Baghdad.
As a police officer and hostage negotiator during her 21-year career in law enforcement in the Alameda County city of Newark, she once used her communications abilities to convince a troubled teen that life, indeed, is worth living.
Now retired from both careers—and as we close out Women’s History Month—Knutson has a message to all women veterans as they wend their way through the civilian world:
“I want to empower them with what they are capable of doing,” Knutson said. “You know how to approach things. You have all the tools. Adapt and overcome.”
She certainly did. After joining the Army right out of high school in 1991, Knutson stayed on as a Reservist when her enlistment ended, and she pursued her college degree in psychology. She joined the Newark Police Department in 2001. The passing of her World War II-veteran grandfather two years later inspired her to get her Army commission, which she did in 2004 through Officer Candidate School at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. There, she joined the psyops unit.
While blending her police and Army Reserve careers, she added a master’s degree before going on a 10-month deployment to Baghdad that began in January 2011.
“I was with a really good group of guys,” she said. “We replaced an active-duty unit and we blew ’em out of the water in terms of what we were able to do. In the beginning, it was dropping leaflets.”
Then they took it to other mediums and levels, using local newspaper advertisements and stories, and radio to create and establish a pro-U.S. dialogue with the Iraqis.
Knutson said. “It was all psychological.”
When her deployment ended in October 2011, she remained a reservist until retiring as a major in 2018.
Knutson, meanwhile, continued in her 21-year career as a police officer, which included time as a school resource specialist and hostage negotiator until her retirement last fall.
Now adding music to her resume as a student at Los Positas College in Livermore, Knutson played her saxophone to accompany national anthem singer Kylie Pickard at the 11th Honoring Women Veterans event at the college on March 23.
Now, as a retiree and veteran, Knutson hopes to plant the seeds of confidence in others like herself, who have served and are now returning to civilian life. So often, she said, women veterans feel underappreciated as they look for their next career. Their time in the military, she said, represents one of personal development and growth that makes them qualified to handle anything and everything the civilian world might offer. They are process oriented and prepared.
“Because of the military, we were given the skills the rest of the world typically doesn’t have,” she said.
So much, she said, simply comes down to having the right mindset going forward.
A reminder of all that military women are capable of, coming from an accomplished and confident woman veteran — an excellent way to close out Women’s History Month.
California is home to nearly 163,000 women who served in our U.S. military. They are veterans, family members, friends, business owners, professionals, community leaders, and advocates. Women Veterans served in every major U.S. conflict and in peacetime since our Revolutionary War. For this they are owed a great debt of gratitude. For more information on Women Veterans visit the CalVet’s Women Veterans Affairs page.
WELL DONE TINA KNUTSON! Thank you for your service. You and others are appreciated by me!