Nightly News   |  October 07, 2011

Mother, grandmother, company commander

There are still nearly 100,000 American service members stationed far from home in Afghanistan. NBC’s Jim Maceda profiles Capt. Matilda Howe- a single mother of four, a grandmother and a company commander in Afghanistan.

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BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: As we were just reminded, as it's important to remember every day, there are still nearly 100,000 American service members stationed far from home in Afghanistan . One is an extraordinary woman. Our own Jim Maceda recently met a mother, a grandmother; and as if her sacrifice isn't enough, she's also breaking new ground on her own. Again, Jim Maceda tonight with more on her story.

JIM MACEDA reporting: From the first refueling of the day, Captain Matilda Howe takes charge of keeping this Army airbase in the fight.

Captain MATILDA HOWE: We need to submit and request for ammo.

MACEDA: Moving ammunition to troops on the front lines, loading up a steady flow of combat helicopters, Captain Howe -- Mattie as she calls herself -- is hands-on. But it's not just her drive that makes Mattie stand out.

Capt. HOWE: Oh, nail polish. Yay!

MACEDA: At 36...

Unidentified Soldier:

Capt. HOWE: Carry on.

MACEDA: ...she's the only female commander in her supply task force, and a Native American , a full-blooded Navajo . Her relatives still live on a reservation back in Arizona . You were the first in your family to break the mold.

Capt. HOWE: To break -- yes. To break away from the reservation and also the first to actually graduate high school and graduate college .

MACEDA: Mattie signed up for the Army 12 years ago at 24 on a bet, and she won.

Capt. HOWE: A lot of people didn't think I could do it after having, you know, four kids and me being a single parent. That's Faith right there, Adrian , Tyler , Alex and Aaron . That's the...

MACEDA: Today that family in Colorado Springs is even larger.

Capt. HOWE: So when was your graduation?

Unidentified Woman: It's on Friday.

Capt. HOWE: Romeo .

MACEDA: Faith , her fifth and adopted child, gave birth last year to Romeo . Mattie is a grandmother. What do you miss most? You miss most about her is her?

Unidentified Man: Yes. I miss her. That's what I miss about her.

Capt. HOWE: I try to communicate with them a lot, but it gets to a point where it is hard.

MACEDA: The latest crisis when teenage daughter Alex , a high school senior, told her mom she was pregnant and getting married.

Capt. HOWE: When I first heard the news I broke down. I did. I cried my eyes out, and I was sitting there like, 'What am I going to do?'

MACEDA: What she did was support her daughter just as her mother had done for her, raising Mattie 's kids during five deployments abroad.

Capt. HOWE: I could not have done it without my mother or my sisters. They've been my true foundation through all -- through my Army career.

MACEDA: A deep love of family, she thinks it's made her a better commander.

Capt. HOWE: I have soldiers. It feels like I have 79 children underneath me. Everybody has a different personality, just like my kids all have a different personality.

MACEDA: Captain Matilda Howe needs all the energy she can muster. Managing a war here...

Offscreen Voice: I love you, Mom. Hope you come home soon.

MACEDA: ...and a family a world away. Jim Maceda , NBC News, Logar, Afghanistan.