Hailing from Queens in New York City, New York, Cindy Gats was a student at Penn State University when she joined the ROTC. Upon graduating from Penn State in 1986, Cindy was commissioned as a lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps. Obtaining the rank of captain a few years later, Cindy was stationed at the El Toro Marine Base in California as a communications specialist and group leader of a paratroop squadron. In addition to her regular duties, Cindy was given a position where she assisted in managing and organizing religious services for the Marines.
An Orthodox Jew, Cindy is devoted to the Jewish dietary laws of kashrut, which "often presents a challenge when serving overseas." Cindy also attends religious services on a daily basis laying t'fillin and wearing a tallit over her captain's bars.
In the summer of 1990, Captain Gats was ordered overseas as part of Operation Desert Shield to prepare for the upcoming war with Iraq. Although separated from her paratroop squad, Cindy worked within 22 miles of the front lines of battle when Operation Desert Storm broke out in 1991.