Claire Starnes, born in Biddeford, Maine, in 1944, joined the Army in 1963. She completed basic training at Fort McClellan, Alabama, and Advanced Individual Training at the US Army Signal School, Fort Gordon, Georgia. From 1964 to 1969, she served consecutively at the Communications Centers at Fort MacArthur, California; Camp Zama, Japan; and Fort Sill, Oklahoma.
In 1969, Starnes volunteered for duty in Vietnam. She initially served with the US Army Engineer Construction Agency Vietnam, at Long Binh, but was then hand picked to oversee the establishment of a publications section at Headquarters, Military Assistance Command Vietnam (MACV). Previously all newspapers and magazines published by the US Army in Vietnam were copy set and designed at considerable expense in Japan. Starnes trained with the IBM Corporation and then hired and trained Vietnamese civilians to do the copy setting and design work in-country. She also served as a reporter for the MACV Public Affairs Office and was tasked for special assignments as an interpreter, given her fluency in French.
She was next assigned, in 1971, to the US Continental Army Command Public Information Office at Fort Monroe, Virginia. Using the skills learned in her previous assignment, she automated the production of the command's newspaper. Staff Sergeant Starnes left the service in 1973 to pursue a career as a Department of the Army civilian, becoming Fort Monroe's first civilian Public Information Officer. Under her direction, the installation newspaper, the Casemate Chronicle, won the Army's prestigious Keith L. Ware Award. She took a break in service from 1976 to 1981 to earn her Bachelor of Science degree in Journalism at the University of Texas, El Paso, where she also directed the University's radio station, KTEP-FM. Following graduation, she returned to Federal service as assistant editor of the US Army Air Defense Artillery's professional journal, ADA Magazine.
In 1986, Starnes was personally recruited to move to Aberdeen Proving Ground to edit and manage the Ordnance Corps's professional journal, Ordnance Magazine. Under her direction, Ordnance Magazine was fully automated for in-house editing and layout, and she arranged for printing the magazine with the US Prison Industries. These measures cut the $100,000 a year cost of publication by three quarters. At the same time, she improved the quality of the magazine to the point where it set the example for Army professional journals, as evidenced by the frequent visits by other journal staffs to learn from Starnes' operation.
Her work was not limited to the magazine. She developed a computer-based graphics design package for the Ordnance Center and School's Graphics Department and also used the magazine's editing and layout capabilities to produce specialty publications to keep Ordnance Soldiers abreast of major programs and changes. Ms. Starnes retired in 1994 but continues to serve her country as an active participant in veterans' affairs, co-founding the Vietnam Women's Veterans organization.