When Jake and Abbie first met and started dating in Flagstaff, Arizona, they had a mutual friend, Stephen Brooke. In 1999, Stephen married Elizabeth Zid. This tribute comes from our old friend about his beloved wife. What we love most is his storytelling voice, detail, and general sense of humor. We hope you can appreciate the memory and groundbreaking contributions that Elizabeth made for our nation, mostly from the otherwise sleepy looking Camp Navajo off of desolate Interstate 40 in Northern Arizona.
Elizabeth Marie Zid was born outside of Chicago, IL. When Elizabeth was only 2 years old her parents and 11 year old brother moved to Phoenix, AZ. She attended public school and graduated from Apollo High School in 1972. While only a freshman she found herself having to take care of her father, a WWII Veteran of North Africa and Italy, who had been diagnosed with emphysema. Because her mother felt she was not fit to take care of him herself, Elaine divorced Peter Sr. to go live in San Diego, CA.
After High School, while working the early morning shift at the local Dunkin Doughnuts shop, Elizabeth was approached by an Army Recruiter and told about how she could do a lot better for herself if she joined the AZ Army National Guard and that the Sergeant would get her a job at the recruiter’s office after she completed Basic Training. She talked with her best friend Katherine Buchanan and her father about it and decided to give it a try. Elizabeth and Katherine decided to go to basic training under the Army’s “buddy system”. They graduated from the Army’s Clerk-Typist 71L course given at Ft. Dix, NJ in May of 1974, one of the Army’s last Women’s Army Corps (WAC) classes. When she returned to the Recruiter’s office and asked for the Sergeant, she found that he no longer worked there and that they did not have a position for her. So now feeling cheated by the Recruiter, she wrote a letter to AZ Senator Barry Goldwater informing him of the injustice she was now facing. Sen. Goldwater was able to get a hold of the Commander of Recruiting in AZ and he found her a position within the State Recruiting Command. So began the career of a strong and willful citizen soldier.
Elizabeth worked for one year in the Recruiter’s office and then found a position at AZ ARNG HQ as a personnel clerk. She stayed at state HQ until her initial 3 years were up and obtaining the rank of Specialist 5 (SP5, E-5). It was at this time she was hearing stories from others in the Command that there were more opportunities, especially for women, in the Flagstaff area at the US Army Navajo Ammunition Depot. She arrived there in the summer of 1977 and soon found herself learning to be an Army Ammunition Specialist (55B). Within a year she was promoted to Staff Sergeant (E-6) working as a Platoon Sergeant, and as a State technician Monday thru Friday. In 1983 Elizabeth was promoted to Sergeant First Class (E-7) and was now the inventory and accounting NCOIC for the Depot. In 1985 Elizabeth was asked to attend the US Army Ordnance Warrant Officers School in Savannah, GA. When she returned to Navajo Army Depot as a fresh WO1, she was immediately placed in Command of the 1057th Ordnance Detachment, becoming one of the first women to command troops in the AZ ARNG.
In 1989 Elizabeth was now the Transportation and Inventory Officer, Navajo Army Depot came up on the DOD short list for Base Realignment and Closure. The AZ ARNG HQ decided they wanted to keep the Depot if possible and went looking for customers who needed the kind of storage Navajo Depot had to offer. The US Air Force just happened to be a little short handed on space due to the updating of the Minuteman Ballistic Missile which are a reportable item under the Strategic Arms Reduction Talks (START) Treaty. Navajo Army Depot, now having been renamed Camp Navajo, could fill the need with all the space the Air Force was willing to pay for. With this Elizabeth was sent to Washington D.C. to begin training in top secret START Treaty aspects and comings and goings. Camp Navajo AZARNG thus became and still is the only operation within the US Army having anything to do with the START Treaty.
From 1989 to 1991 construction was performed on about 100 earth covered storage igloos to add lighting and environmental controls. August of 1991 saw the first Minuteman Missile motors arrive at Camp Navajo. During this time the final loads of Federal ammunition were sent out and all that was left were 1.2 million 3.5” Bazooka rockets. These rockets were pretty well damaged from sitting in the moisture of the earth covered magazines since the Korean War era. With Federal funding and a bunch of eager National Guardsmen and women it only took a couple years and all 1.2 million rounds were blown up safely at Camp Navajo’s demolition grounds. Elizabeth received an Army Achievement Medal in 1992 for the safe disposal and cost saving measures she instituted during this demolition mission. In 1993 a team of Army Officers descended on Camp Navajo to check the records of the equipment and material shipped out during the Base Realignment and closure, Elizabeth was awarded an Army Commendation Medal for maintaining excellent records and meeting all Depot Command goals.
Camp Navajo continued to receive Minuteman Missiles, and the Ballistic Missile Organization (BMO) at Camp Navajo tirelessly worked to put them to sleep in the igloos. In 1995 because of her dedication to the Minuteman Missile project as well as other ammunition missions at Camp Navajo, Elizabeth was named as the Employee of the Quarter 2nd Quarter 1995 by the Arizona State Department of Emergency and Military Affairs (AZDEMA). She also was promoted that year to the rank of Chief Warrant Officer 3. 1996 saw 2 START Treaty Inspections, where the US and their Russian counterparts come to inspect the storage and accountability of the reported Minuteman Missiles. Elizabeth acting as the Officer in Charge (OIC) was the one to institute the call list and see to it that the START Treaty Escorts (Camp Navajo employees) were where they needed to be, with the proper equipment (snow shovels) and vehicles to shuttle inspectors, when their buses from Luke AF Base arrived.
In November 1995 the US government found itself without a budget and it looked like President Clinton was going to have to close National Parks in order to save a little money. AZ Governor Fife Symington said “no way” to closing the Grand Canyon, so he came up with a plan and called up the AZARNG to keep the doors open. Elizabeth was second in charge for what Old timey Guardsmen call “The Battle of The Grand Canyon”. This was an Operation where personnel were notified early in the afternoon while at work that they would be needed to stay over and if you had a 5 ton license “go draw a truck from the motor Sergeant”. AZ State DPS troopers, AZ State Parks people and AZ ARNG personnel all came together and convoyed from Camp Navajo to the Main Gate South Rim of the Grand Canyon. What a fun time this was. MRE’s and bottled water were passed around when we got there, and then a helicopter appeared hovering over us but slowly descending. When it landed out popped Governor Symington and his aids. After a pep talk with the National Guardsmen Symington then proceeded to the office where he was met with the #2 guy for the National Parks informing the Governor that if he tried to keep the gates open the Feds would have to arrest him. So the Governor turned back to the Guardsmen and said “Thanks everyone for coming, but we all have to go home now”. So back in our trucks and back to Camp Navajo, and that was the Battle for the Grand Canyon 1995.
Elizabeth retired in 1997 with 23 years 8 months of service. For her service to the State of Arizona and the AZ ARNG Elizabeth was awarded the AZ State Distinguished Service Medal by the State Adjutant General in a ceremony at the State Capital. She continued to work as the Transportation and Inventory Manager at Camp Navajo as a civilian until she remarried and moved to California to be with her new husband Stephen in February 1999.
Elizabeth spent the next 19 years living in Southern California, studying and working and enjoying life in the Golden State. After a sudden illness, she passed due to complications on March 19 2018. She was cremated per her wishes and her remains were laid to rest on July 6th 2018 with full military escort and honors by the AZARNG and Camp Navajo Commander, Command Sergeant Major and staff. All of which had known and worked with Elizabeth during her years at Camp Navajo. Her head stone is located at the Veterans Memorial Cemetery at Camp Navajo, AZ which is located 12 miles west of Flagstaff on Interstate 40 at Bellemont, AZ.