15 Women in Uniformed Service Share What They Wish People Knew About Their Jobs

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Upon hearing the words “military” or “uniformed service,” most of our minds often instantly cut to a visual of a soldier vigilantly fighting for his or her country, adorned with medals and wearing a classic army uniform—and that is the word that seems to throw us all off: uniform. We tend to assume that everyone who ends up serving the country is inherently the same, whether it be in what they wear, what they believe, what they do, and why they do it.

The reality of the matter is that the duties and roles that people in the military fulfill are as diverse as the people who implement them. The classic image of a youthful 1940s “army man” coming home to his lady after fighting in the war is no longer relevant as the image for uniformed service anymore. Our heroes now range across the board, and encompass men and women of various races, ethnicities, ages, and so much more. They carry out a plethora of types of roles and responsibilities, gain expertise through intensely crafted training, exercise their assets and specialized knowledge in specific fields, and constantly deal with shifting positions literally and mentally. 

To gain a better understanding of what it really means to have a job in this type of discipline, we connected with 15 women regarding what they wish people knew about their roles in uniformed service, what they often tend to assume, and what advice they could offer for any young women who would be interested in this sort of career path. Here’s what they had to say: 

 

The opinions expressed here are those of the individual women.

 

Elaina Wanamaker

 

 What are three things/features about you that you think serve you well in your current job?  

 

Three things that serve me well in my current position [are] work ethic, pride, and strong will.

 

 What led you to your current job?  

 

After graduating from high school in 2013 I enrolled in college, like so many of my friends, with the hopes of finishing school and getting a good job. After a few semesters at Lebanon Valley College, I realized that college wasn’t for me. After exploring my options, I decided to join the Pennsylvania Army National Guard in 2014. I enjoyed the military atmosphere and disciplined lifestyle during my initial training so much so that I realized I wanted to serve in a full-time capacity. I applied for a full-time position near where I grew up and now have a rewarding career in the armed forces.

 

 What advice would you have for young women, in particular, who are interested in uniformed service? 

 

I would highly encourage them to go for it! The advice that I would give to young women would be that if a career in the military is something they want to pursue, they need to take their physical and mental health seriously, and don’t let others discourage you from pursuing your dreams. Military service is challenging, and can be a rude awakening for some. Get in shape and take care of yourself and never stop working towards becoming stronger. Even though it seems intimidating and can be demanding at times, there are a lot of benefits to military service. Joining the military really allowed me to grow and learn a lot about myself. I’ve also had some great experiences and met some wonderful people who have become a second family to me.

 

 What’s one thing you wish people knew about uniformed service?  

 

One thing I wish more people knew is just how many opportunities, resources, and benefits are available not only for service members, but also for their families. Military service opens so many doors, and really can change a person’s life for the better. The military provides a sense of community and support even after you’ve completed your service and can allow you and your family to live a great life, whether it be by providing educational assistance, a steady income, job security, and the opportunity to serve and retire after 20 years.

 

 What’s something that a lot of people tend to get wrong about uniformed service or the people who serve? 

 

People tend to believe or assume that everyone in the military has been in and seen combat. While we regularly train and prepare for combat operations, there are many other important jobs in the military that don’t involve combat.

 

 What’s your go-to self-care technique when you’re busy or stressed out?  

 

My go-to self care technique[s] for when I am busy or stressed [are] physical fitness, eating right, and spending time with loved ones. I recently joined a Crossfit gym and really enjoy the camaraderie. The workouts are intense and the gym is full of friendly and supportive people. I also feel much better when I eat healthily and get a good night’s sleep. I appreciate being able to come home to my boyfriend, Thomas, who also serves in the military and does a great job of helping me relax after a stressful or busy day.

 

 What advice would you give your 22-year-old self?  

 

I would tell my 22 year-old self to challenge myself further and step more outside of my comfort zone. Don’t pass up opportunities or make excuses. Find a good mentor and learn from my mistakes. You may need that extra push, but what is the worst that could happen?

 

Patricia Fields

 

 What are three things/features about you that you think serve you well in your current job? 

 

1. Being a minority. Because my job is to support, I come in contact with a lot of people, I think diversity is important. Most of who I work with/support is the same demographic of people, so I feel a Black younger female is a great addition to add diversity to the environment.

2. The ability to be flexible. Military life calls you to be flexible already, but when the job you have is one that everyone looks to in order to supply their needs so that they can get their job done, you have to be extra flexible.

3. Communicator. I don’t just work with these people, I build morale. This helps me to network and make connections for many different reasons outside of work.

 

 What led you to your current job? 

 

It kind of just fell in my lap. I took the ASVAB and out of what I qualified for, my recruiter suggested this would be the one I enjoy the most.

 

 What advice would you have for young women, in particular, who are interested in uniformed service? 

 

  1. Have tunnel vision and work hard.
  2. Fitness education and your career.
  3. Take advantage of the opportunities and tools you will be provided. Then excel at all three.

The military will give you the tools needed to be successful in your career, to get a free education, and to become physically fit. These three things will take you far in life, in the military as well as the civilian world—especially as a woman. In the military, which is male-dominated, we have to work 10 times as hard to keep up and be considered equal to our male peers. 

 

 What’s one thing you wish people knew about uniformed service? 

 

It’s nothing like the movies, especially depending on your job.

 

 What’s something that a lot of people tend to get wrong about uniformed service or the people who serve? 

 

We are our individual selves first, and we wear the uniform second. At the end of the day, we all take the uniform off, but you will forever be your race, gender, etc. We do not all think the same or come from the same background. When there are controversial issues going on toward our country, you should not reference the military as a whole and say how we feel or think.

 

 What’s your go-to self-care technique when you’re busy or stressed out? 

 

Take advantage of your leave. Mental health days are important.

 

 What advice would you give your 22-year-old self? 

 

Enlist now. I didn’t enlist until I was 26 and my only regret is I didn’t jump into this great decision sooner.

 

 

Mariah Klingenberg

 

 What are three things/features about you that you think serve you well in your current job?  

 

Three things that serve me well in my current job would be confidence, quick learner, and always willing to take on something new, whether it be a task, new project, etc.

 

 What led you to your current job?  

 

What led me to my current job is the connections I have. I was part of a vanpool group of people that rode together to and from work every day, and was the only female in the van. But every guy in the van worked in a different area on the base. This Technical Sergeant works as the ROS (Recruiting Office Supervisor), and I knew he had connections with hiring new people because he always had an ear on what was open almost anywhere on the entire base. So I got my recruiting assistant job through him calling me one morning asking if I wanted a job!

 

 What advice would you have for young women, in particular, who are interested in uniformed service? 

 

Advice I would give is to just stay confident in yourself and the work that you do. The Air Force is one of the hardest branches to get into … There is an initial test to pass when entering the military and then when you are officially in the Air Force there are tests to take to level up and to receive a higher rank. A lot of fields within the military in any branch will be male-dominant. But I do not see that as a means to not join or feel intimidated. You have the power to be strong and confident. Everyone that I have worked with thus far, male or female, have all been welcoming. There is always a bad egg in any career, but definitely my biggest advice: stay confident, be yourself, and you will succeed!

 

 What’s one thing you wish people knew about uniformed service?  

 

One thing I wish people knew about the armed service is that not everyone is put into a combat field or mission. Especially women. Unless you want to be an Aero Med, which you fly wherever medical is needed and that could be in a combat zone, but you are trained well if that is something you are very interested in. But there are so many different career fields you can do and a solid majority of them do not involve being in any danger at all.

 

 What’s something that a lot of people tend to get wrong about uniformed service or the people who serve? 

 

Something that a lot of people tend to get wrong is that when you deploy you are going to a dangerous location. This does depend on your career field, but if you are in Services, Personnel, Communications, etc. you will not be somewhere where your parents, family, or friends should be nervous. I deployed to the United Arab Emirates back in 2017 and this deployment was the best time of my life. We got a day off a week to travel off base and yes you work long days, but you meet many cool people, try new foods, workout frequently, have famous people hold concerts where you are stationed, and just so much more! Such an amazing experience and something you should try to do at least once if you serve in the armed forces. 

 

 What’s your go-to self-care technique when you’re busy or stressed out?  

 

Oh my goodness, I feel like I am always stressed, mostly for no reason, but my best self-care technique that I use is going to the gym. Whatever kind of sweat sesh I can get is so important to me. Whether it is trying a new workout class, doing a workout my fiancé has set up for me, stair climber, going for a walk/run with my pup, anything at all! Just being active in some type of way really helps me calm down and relax.

 

 What advice would you give your 22-year-old self?  

 

Advice I would give my 22-year-old self would be to just focus on yourself! Figure out what you are passionate about and do anything you can to reach your goals! I was way too focused on my relationship at the time and it failed and it made me feel like a failure. If you find the man/person of your dreams while you are going towards what you want in life then that is great! But definitely to find your passion and do whatever you can to do that one thing for life!

 

Chae Reid

 

 What are three things/features about you that you think serve you well in your current job? 

 

Kindness, dedication, and sincerity! I am a mental health technician in the U.S. Air Force, and I am always advocating for individuals seeking mental health services. If I am not kind, dedicated, and sincere, why would they come back? It is mine and others’ duty to create a friendly, helpful experience for clients.   

 

 What led you to your current job? 

 

I was previously an intelligence analyst, but I soon realized that my passion was people. I love taking care of people, counseling them, and helping them work through their challenges. I was given an opportunity to apply for retraining, and after a lengthy application process, I was selected!

 

 What advice would you have for young women, in particular, who are interested in uniformed service? 

 

Prepare for the journey of a lifetime! You will get discouraged from joining and you may find yourself on the first day of basic training wondering “what was I thinking?” It’s never easy, but trust me, it is worth it! Whether you serve for four, six, or 20 years, you will be better. You will discover new things about yourself, you’ll go to new places, and make new friends. It is a whirlwind adventure with ebbs and flows, highs and lows.

 

 What’s one thing you wish people knew about uniformed service? 

 

It’s not a normal job. There are requirements you must meet in order to be considered fit for military service (what we call “readiness”). There’s always training to be done, fitness assessments, immunizations, and other tasks that you will complete regularly. Once you become a supervisor, your mission is to take care of your troops and help them manage their careers. You will be a leader and a follower, from the start of your career to the end. 

 

 What’s something that a lot of people tend to get wrong about uniformed service or the people who serve? 

 

There are six different branches [of the military], now including the newly formed Space Force! We are not all “soldiers.” The correct terms are soldiers for those who serve in the Army, an airman for the Air Force, a sailor for the Navy, a Marine for the Marine Corps, and a Coast Guardsman (or “Coastie” colloquially) for the Coast Guard. A term has not yet been specified for the Space Force. If you are referring to military members regardless of branch, “service members” or “military members” are more general terms.

People expect us to always be “tough” and not to display “weakness.” If that were possible, we wouldn’t be human. Just like everyone else, we experience fear, sadness, anxiety, loss and grief, and other emotions. The uniform does not enable us to cope with these feelings any better than someone else. We are human and life is challenging, no matter your chosen profession. 

 

 What’s your go-to self-care technique when you’re busy or stressed out? 

 

Dancing! I am a dancer and teacher of Cuban dances, which have given me so much life in times of stress.

 

 What advice would you give your 22-year-old self? 

 

Uncertainty is a given. Your plan may not work. Things may take a while to come together. If you stay the course, you will win in a way you could have never have imagined. 

 

Michaela Connally

 

 What are three things/features about you that you think serve you well in your current job?  

 

I am super outgoing, sometimes too outspoken, but I think this has allowed me to thrive in an aggressive, fast-paced, and often male-dominated workplace. In order to take care of your Marines, you have to speak up for them. I am also crazy about staying organized. I live by my planner. This is the only way to manage my ever changing schedule. Lastly pull ups. Growing up doing gymnastics, this was a skill I could always do. It’s not really the best measure of strength, but because it is part of the USMC Physical Fitness Test, it’s one that can get you a lot of credibility. Especially if you can do the male standard. As my grandad always said, “if you want to play with the big boys, you gotta play by the big boys’ rules.”

 

 What led you to your current job?  

 

My dad was a Marine for 30 years, and my mom was a Navy nurse. I went to the U.S. Naval Academy, so it is mandatory that all graduates serve five years in either the Navy or Marine Corps after graduation.

 

 What advice would you have for young women in particular who are interested in uniformed service? 

 

You can be yourself and be a great leader.

 

 What’s one thing you wish people knew about uniformed service?  

 

Women are capable, and we don’t have to be the same to be equal. We don’t want special treatment, we just want to do our jobs.

 

 What’s something that a lot of people tend to get wrong about uniformed service or the people who serve? 

 

All the time I get told, “you don’t look like you’re in the Marine Corps.” [I’m] not sure what that’s supposed to mean, but I think a lot of people think it’s not possible to be feminine and be a good Marine.

 

 What’s your go-to self-care technique when you’re busy or stressed out?  

 

Working out and/or going to the beach.

 

 What advice would you give your 22-year-old self?  

 

Do the hard things and don’t complain about it.

 

Sara Greco

 

 What are three things/features about you that you think serve you well in your current job? 

 

I am adaptable, diligent, and a learner.

In my role specifically, every day looks different. One day we could be coordinating for an event a month from now and another we receive a task that morning that has to be done within the hour. My adaptability allows me to transition quickly if and when needed.

I am very diligent in how I perform any task. I learned throughout my career that I am a big picture thinker and like to know the reasoning behind why we do anything. Once I learn the why, I can apply those reasons to future tasks.

I love to learn all the time. I constantly listen to podcasts [and] read books and articles. I’m always striving to be my best at what we do and grow as an individual.

 

 What led you to your current job? 

 

As a reservist, I get the opportunity to help out our men and women who currently serve full-time in the military. This gives me the flexibility to help where I am needed and in a location I desire.

I knew I wanted to work in the office I’m currently in. I asked a friend if there were any openings, even though I saw there weren’t. It so happens there was an opening available! The director had me do a “test run” to see if I was a good fit and then offered me the role after a few days.

 

 What advice would you have for young women, in particular, who are interested in uniformed service? 

 

You can do it! Yes, it’s intimidating to think about boot camp or even the possibility of deployment, but if you are passionate about joining the military, you can get through anything. It has made me a stronger person and I am grateful for what I’ve been able to accomplish, including boot camp.

 

 What’s one thing you wish people knew about uniformed service? 

 

A lot of people ask me what it is like being a woman in the military. I am fortunate enough to say that I am treated the same as my male counterparts. I think even a generation before me had to work three to four times as hard to prove that they were “strong” enough to be in the military. I’m so grateful for all those [whose work] paved the way to establish what we know today.

 

 What’s something that a lot of people tend to get wrong about uniformed service or the people who serve? 

 

People assume we are all soldiers in the Army. Uniformed Services include airmen, sailors, and Marines. We actually love it when people take a second to ask what branch we serve [in] because we can advocate for the amazing contributions that all the branches provide. 

 

 What’s your go-to self-care technique when you’re busy or stressed out?  

 

Exercise. I wake up early and work in some sort of cardio or weight-lifting. There were times in my career where I didn’t make exercise a priority and I felt it emotionally. I make it a priority now and notice a huge difference in my mood throughout the day.

 

 What advice would you give your 22-year-old self?  

 

Make sure you set yourself up for success and you can do anything you think you set your mind to.

I was fortunate enough that my first leader truly cared about my success and growth. As my career progressed, it became apparent that not all leaders are created equal. Now I take the necessary steps to ensure my leaders and I are on the same page with my goals and what growth opportunities I’m pursuing.

When I first joined the military, I was very timid and hesitant. I felt like everyone was better than me (imposter syndrome by definition!). As I look back, I wish I realized I was just as capable as my peers. I’ve become so much stronger in the past several years and while I can still have moments of self-doubt (I’m only human), I’ve learned how to overcome them.

 

Anna Arias

 

 What are three things/features about you that you think serve you well in your current job? 

 

Ability to adapt to change: In my opinion, the faster I can adapt to change, the better employee I will be. I tie adaptability to flexibility, which I learned the hard way in the military. When I first joined, this was a challenge for me, being that I am [a] person that likes to stick to what I know and am a bit resistant to change. I had to learn to adapt and overcome in a constantly-changing environment because my squadron depended on me. So, I learned, the faster [I] accept change, the better equipped I am to face challenges. 

Listen more than I speak: I truly think listening is undervalued. People often focus more on what to say or their response, than what is being said. Reflective listening allows me to first understand a point of view so when it’s time to give feedback, I can be better understood. 

Reliable team member: Let’s be honest, no one likes to work with a person they can’t count on, so being reliable is an important quality for being successful at work. Actions like following-up promptly, assisting with team workload management, and having a serving attitude [make] me a valuable asset to the team.  

 

 What led you to your current job

 

Location was very important to me after separation. In the military, you are told where you are going to live and for how long. I wanted control back in my life; and being in a place that matched the energy and diversity of my hometown, New York City, was important to me. Houston, Texas checked the box, and I moved to Houston. My passion is people, which led me to an undergraduate degree in human resources, but I felt that I was lacking the business skills needed to enter the corporate environment. At [that] point, I decided to pursue an MBA at Baylor University. During my time as [a] graduate student, I realized wherever I went, I needed to be a part of a company that had a culture that encourages creativity and provides leadership opportunities to women. I wanted to find a meaningful purpose and make an impact at my first career job post-Navy. So now I work for a leading company in the energy industry that embraces veteran experience and optimizes the skills I learned in the service to the corporate environment.

 

 What advice would you have for young women, in particular, who are interested in the uniformed services?  

 

JOIN! Sometimes in life you must make a decision and go for it. As long [as] you are doing it for the right reasons, have a plan, and—most importantly—the right attitude, you will succeed in the service. I promise! The military provided me with a tremendous amount of benefits such as world travel, leadership opportunities, and covered education, just to name a few. I owe a lot of my success to the Navy, but [I recognize] that I went in with a plan from Day One. I would say, go in, plan on getting out after your first enlistment, and re-evaluate every year, so when it is time to separate or re-enlist, you are comfortable with your decision. This will help you stay on track towards your goals. Goals? Yes, everyone should have goals when they are in the military—and not just goals to advance (that’s everyone’s goal), but goals that allow you to grow personally and professionally outside of the military!

 

 What’s one thing that you wish people knew about the uniformed services?  

 

The military is not like the movies! There is the screaming and working out part, but that is only for your first few months in boot camp. After you leave basic training, the military will give you more freedom until eventually you have all the same expectations as you would a job in the civilian world. Now, one  major difference is that you are representing the United States of America 24/7, 365, and that comes with additional responsibilities, but as long as you conduct yourself honorably, you should have no problem living a normal life.

 

 What’s something a lot of people tend to get wrong about uniformed service or the people who serve? 

 

We all do not have the same experience, so stop making judgements! Everyone has a different experience and perspective, so ‘her’ story will most definitely be different from mine and that’s the beauty of it. Anyone’s experience in the military is what they make of it. Granted, some given situations are worse than others, but is all about perspective. When you meet someone who served, talk to them with an open-mind and ask a lot of questions—about everything! If you are interested in learning about military experiences, check out my Youtube channel, Letsallhateana, where I speak about my experiences in the military and transitioning to civilian life. 

 

 What’s your go to self-care technique when you are busy or stressed out? 

 

I started to put down the TV remote and began opening up books. Reading for about 30-45 minutes about a topic I enjoy helps me relax and learn at the same time. Whether I am reading a personal development guide, or a drama-filled fiction story, it’s a great tool for me to get my creative juices flowing, pick up some new ideas, and relax—all while drinking a glass of wine, of course! 

 

 What advice you would give your 22-year-old self again?  

 

Oh 22 again, how nice! Well, actually, at 22 I had no idea I was going to join the military, [let alone] that I would be where I am today: 30 years old with a house and two pups, working for a top Fortune 500 company. I would advise myself that every challenge that is headed my way will make me a better person, even if it’s not obvious. I know it sounds a bit cliché, but there is a silver-lining [to] every failure and will make you a stronger person in the long run. There were many times that doubted myself and questioned my journey. ‘If I would’ve just done something different (insert sucky situation), I wouldn’t be in this mess or vice versa,’ but as time went by, I realized I had to go through those challenges to be where I am at today. Every decision I made was because of prior choice, so it’s [a] cycle! At times when things are falling apart or not going your way, it’s so easy to blame the past, because there isn’t anything that can be done about it, so instead of asking ourselves, ‘why did this happen to me?’ we should be asking, ‘what got me here, and what can I do moving forward?’ Having this mentally back then would have made so many things much easier to understand.

 

Celi | @fitbreezylife

 

 What are three things/features about you that you think serve you well in your current job? 

 

I am computer savvy, I work well with other people, [and] I work well under pressure.

 

 What led you to your current job? 

 

Things just fell into place at the right time.

 

 What advice would you have for young women, in particular, who are interested in uniformed service? 

 

Do your research, do your research. Ask a lot of questions, perhaps to someone who is in service already.

 

 What’s one thing you wish people knew about uniformed service? 

 

We are more than just the uniform. [W]e are mothers, spouses, sisters, daughters. We serve the role in uniform and still have to take care of everything else A-Z back home.

 

 What’s something that a lot of people tend to get wrong about uniformed service or the people who serve? 

 

That we all do the same things or that we all are only trained with a war mentality. Most of us would not choose war. [W]e know the negatives that come with war.

 

 What’s your go-to self-care technique when you’re busy or stressed out? 

 

I stick to the basics, drink plenty of water, workout, and try to catch up on my sleep. Working out is my go-to, especially when I am stressed.

 

 What advice would you give your 22-year-old self? 

 

[T]o not loose focus, good things take time. We all want instant gratification, however we need to remind ourselves that hard work and dedication [pay] off.

 

Christina Sears

 

 What are three things/features about you that you think serve you well in your current job?  

 

An open mind, discipline, and a great daily planner! I have been blessed to meet so many other men and women from uniformed services from not only the U.S., but also Malaysia, Egypt, Japan, South Korea, Canada, Australia, and so much more. Having that exposure to people from all different experiences and lifestyles is incredibly eye-opening. As Americans, we tend to go about our days feeling we have a good grasp on what the world is like, but until you get the chance to meet someone completely different from you, you [don’t] really realize how big this world is. You learn to not assume with others and that their perception of the world may be vastly different from your own. For example, I have done training exercises with countries where I was the only woman in the room, since they did not let women serve. Their mini freakout on which bathroom I could use was a bit entertaining from my end.

My planner is essential. [W]hile I am always trying to be more disciplined, I am one of the most scatter-brained people you will ever know (a coworker once called it the “Christina SQUIRREL! Complex”), so having a detailed planner and about a thousand Post-its helps me keep my life in order. It is also a way for me to show my personality a little bit more in my workplace. My coworkers know that if an item has a pineapple on it (little piece of my Hawaii home) it is probably mine!

 

 What led you to your current job?  

 

Funnily enough, the military was not a career I had ever imagined doing—despite the fact that my father served for 30 years. I remember my junior year of high school; my dad (who had always impressed upon me the importance of independence) looked at my grades and said I was smart enough to be able to figure out how to pay for college on my own. By him putting that unexpected pressure onto the situation, I had to get creative (quickly!) and really start to make serious decisions about where I saw my life going in the next few years.

I did know that whatever I was going to do after college had to be part of something bigger than myself, so I looked into programs like Teach for America and the Peace Corps, but the military offered an opportunity to pay for a great university and give me a job right after graduation. I graduated in 2010, when many students were coming off the deserted job market following the recession so to have a job lined up was rare—most of my fellow students actually put small buzzwords from their resumes on their caps at graduation to advertise that they were looking for jobs to any parent in the audience.

 

 What advice would you have for young women, in particular, who are interested in uniformed service? 

 

Do not let anyone intimidate you and stick to your gut. Being in a predominantly male profession, there are women that come into the military feeling as if they have to prove something to others and justify why they should be there. As long as you know why you are there, that is the most important. This is not an easy job and once the romantic notion of being in the military wears off, you must ensure that you remember what made you want to join in the first place.

I used to tell my sailors all the time that as an officer, I was not earning half of my paycheck unless I was their advocate and leader. While I was off making friends and having a good life at college at 18, many of these women are enlisting and going right into highly skilled jobs, long hours, and stressful deployments. If you are interested in doing this job, know that it will demand a lot from you, but remember to show compassion and a helping hand if needed. If you excel, you will get to travel the world, meet some of the most interesting people, and get to make a difference (no matter how small it may seem).

 

 What’s one thing you wish people knew about uniformed service? 

 

You get the chance to have some cool experiences you never would have thought you could have done. I have given Powerpoint briefs to some of the highest-ranking people in the Department of Defense, [have swum] in the Dead Sea, [and was] an extra in a Transformers film, all of which I was able to do with this job. Sometimes I get a little sad thinking of all the experiences my friends are able to have because they have the stability that most of us do not have in the military between deployments and moving. They remind me, however, to take as much advantage as I can when I’m home to have those experiences and to appreciate everything I have been able to do that they will never get the chance to do. 

 

 What’s something that a lot of people tend to get wrong about uniformed service or the people who serve? 

 

For women: That we all live in a hyper-masculine existence. I have worked with women that dress and act more masculine and I have worked with women that are considered extremely girly once they change out of their uniform. Just because we work in an environment that endorses toughness and discipline doesn’t mean we all have one kind of personality. If you work with people that all act the same, it can get boring after a while.

Also, I personally have not had the experience where I had to prove myself as a woman to my male counterparts, but I do know other women that have felt that way. As the military can be a very competitive environment, I have had to prove myself to both men and women in order to show I am competent and capable.

 

 What’s your go-to self-care technique when you’re busy or stressed out?  

 

Let me be the first one to tell you, for days that we call “holiday routine” (or Sunday afternoons) on deployment, they were fully dedicated to self-care. I’m talking deep conditioners, Nutella, face masks, yoga—the works. Having just a few hours to allow for that indulgence let us relax for a bit and embrace that feminine side. Friends filled care packages with the latest products from Sephora or goodies from Trader Joes and IT. WAS. HEAVEN.

Not to sound like I’m sucking up, but reading sites like The Everygirl, The Golden Girl Blog (shoutout to Jess!), Rachel’s Good Eats, and several others is usually the first thing I do when I need five minutes to myself to unwind or de-stress. Reading articles about issues that matter to women, travel, shopping, politics, or even just awkward life experiences helps me feel like I’m not alone. Just like venting to a girlfriend, realizing that other women are going through similar things that you are is almost quasi-therapy and a little bit of validation.

 

 What advice would you give your 22-year-old self?  

 

To quote Cher, “If it doesn’t matter in five years, it doesn’t matter.”

Yes, I just quoted Cher. I spent so much of my 20s worrying about what other people thought (still do a bit) and overanalyzing text messages from people. There are so many other things you can focus your energy on, like your amazing girlfriends, career, the family, your quest for a dog (still working on that one), and mastering the perfect roasted salsa. Stop wondering what his “OK” text meant. You will forget his name in a year anyway. 

The other piece of advice is to take advantage of any opportunity that comes your way—better to say “yes” and try it than to say no and spend your life wondering “what if?”

 

Devyn Mitchell

 

 What are three things/features about you that you think serve you well in your current job?  

 

I have always been the textbook over-achiever, which has led to me to taking on a ridiculous amount of roles and responsibilities. This has allowed me to have a large variety of knowledge in different portions of my career field. I also am super sassy and headstrong. [T]his has allowed me to stand my ground and stand up for my members and their right to appropriate and fair medical care and treatment.

 

 What led you to your current job?  

 

My story is a little different than some. I always wanted to be an attorney and law school was my dream, so flight medic was never in my plans. However, I found myself in an extremely abusive relationship with my boyfriend at the time and I felt my only option was to escape. One day, when I woke up after being unconscious in the bath tub after [having] the life choked out of [me], I realized I should not still be alive and I needed to take control of my life again and truly live, not just exist and I used the Air National Guard as my way out—it truly saved my life.

 

 What advice would you have for young women, in particular, who are interested in uniformed service?  

 

Never let the fear of intimidating others or not being the feminine role that others feel you should play [stop] you from achieving your goals or being yourself.

 

 What’s one thing you wish people knew about uniformed service?  

 

We’re multi-faceted and under the uniform we’re just like everyone else. We’re silly and happy and sometimes we mess up too.

 

 What’s something that a lot of people tend to get wrong about uniformed service or the people who serve?  

 

I often get coined as being a lot more rough and tough than what I am. Even though I have done incredibly difficult things that qualify me as a badass, it doesn’t mean I can’t be nurturing and compassionate as well, which is what I mostly lean on.

 

 What’s your go-to self-care technique when you’re busy or stressed out?  

 

I love painting, but I also love working out [and] the gym. I blast my music and I hit the weights or the paint brush. I also love hot yoga and vegging out to The Office and 90 Day Fiancé.

 

 What advice would you give your 22-year-old self?  

 

Everything you are is enough. You are never going to be everything to everybody, but you are more than enough and nobody else will know that until you realize it as well.

 

Rochelle Rieger

 

 What are three things/features about you that you think serve you well in your current job?  

 

I am a Public Affairs Officer in the Navy—the easiest way to describe that title is I am a spokesperson for the Navy. You know when you listen to the news, and they say, “A spokesperson for the Department of Defense said…” that is someone like me! I work with the media to tell the Navy’s story and make sure my Navy leadership is aware of public perception of our organization.

This job is definitely unique in the Navy, and it requires a lot of confidence. It can be nerve-racking to talk to reporters! I wasn’t very good at first; I stumbled over my words and was scared to go on the record. You have to be confident and well-spoken. The same applies when talking to senior admirals in the Navy. They can also be intimidating! But, knowing your job well and being confident is essential in this job.

Second, I like to think I am extremely organized. I am currently the Public Affairs Officer at the U.S. Third Fleet, in San Diego, California. My boss, Vice Adm. John Alexander, is in charge of the entire West Coast Navy, including over 100 ships and submarines, four aircraft carriers, over 400 Navy aircraft, a Seabee mobile construction group, and an explosive ordnance disposal group. Third Fleet as a geographic location spans the entire West Coast of the United States and out to the international dateline. To manage all these commands and Navy assets, it takes some serious organization. Calendar invites, stick notes, my planner, and a handy Moleskine notebook are my best friends to make sure I have [everything] covered.

 

 What led you to your current job?  

 

I started in the Navy as a Surface Warfare Officer, or in layman’s terms, a ship driver. I was a journalism major in college, and while I loved driving ships, I wanted to find something else within the Navy that piqued my interests even more. When I found out about the Public Affairs community, it completely met the mark. I applied and was approved to transfer to be a PAO, and have loved it ever since. It is a fast-paced environment and you have to stay up to speed on national policy, international affairs, and foreign policy and be able to advise very senior officers even when you yourself are very junior. The confidence the Navy has placed in me is something I never want to lose.

 

 What advice would you have for young women, in particular, who are interested in uniformed service? 

 

Do your research! The military is not all weapons and tactics. True, those are some core facets of the military, but the military is so much more than that as well. There are a multitude of jobs really for anyone interested in anything. I didn’t know the Navy needed creative people, photographers, graphic designers, writers, and spokeswomen, until I did my research, talked to more people, and found my niche.

Also, don’t be deterred. It takes time and a lot of paperwork to do things with our government, but stick with it if you are truly interested and passionate about joining the military and serving our country. As I mentioned, I also don’t think in stereotypes. The military needs more women! I think sometimes the military is stereotyped as a “man’s job,” but that just isn’t true. To continue breaking that stereotype, we need more strong, confident women to join the service. It is the most rewarding feeling to know I am contributing in some small way.

 

 What’s one thing you wish people knew about uniformed service?  

 

Everyone’s job is important. I am not on the front lines as a PAO, but I do some very important strategic communication to ensure the American public knows what is going on with the Navy. That, to me, is extremely important and something the Navy as an organization owes the public. We are funded by your taxpayer dollars.

 

 What’s something that a lot of people tend to get wrong about uniformed service or the people who serve? 

 

I don’t think this is something that is wrong, but like I mentioned, I think a lot of people—especially women—simply don’t know of all the opportunities uniformed service offers. That ranges from the variety of jobs (photography, construction, engineering, intelligence, special warfare, doctors, nurses, etc.), to programs paying for undergraduate or masters programs (in full!), other education benefits, healthcare benefits, travel opportunities, the list goes on. I know I am a professional communicator for the Navy, but I will admit we don’t always do a great job marketing our organization and all the awesome things you can apply for or receive while serving. The military really strives to take care of its soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines.

 

 What’s your go-to self-care technique when you’re busy or stressed out?  

 

I have a couple that may be a bit cliché, but here we go: The gym is my first choice, always. I think that applies to a lot of people, not just those who serve. Working out is such a great way to relieve stress and anxiety, and it is always my first choice. I also take my dog for long walks, will lose myself in a good book to get my mind off work, or simply turn on my oil diffuser and stretch/meditate. While I can’t bring my dog on deployment (I wish!), most of my stress relief techniques are pretty mobile—I want things I can do anywhere, especially when I have to travel for work or go on deployment.

 

 What advice would you give your 22-year-old self?  

 

Don’t be deterred, and welcome this new family you are about to gain! I turned 22 four days after meeting my first ship on deployment in the middle of the Persian Gulf. The ship had been on deployment for four months already and we had another four months to go. I flew out to the Middle East to meet my ship, and to say I was intimidated is putting it lightly. I was so nervous, and right when I got there was put in a leadership position of over 40 sailors. I had to learn so much in a short amount of time and I didn’t think I was getting anything right. But, I didn’t give up. I studied, talked to as many other young officers as I could, and became a good ship driver and leader. My sailors and the other officers on my ship became my family, especially while on deployment. I didn’t think I would like anyone, share interests, or make friends on the ship (I am pretty introverted), but we came home from deployment a solid family ready to help one another with anything.

While I have moved around commands since then, the lessons I took from my first ship have resonated for years. I’m 30 (!!) now, but every new command I go to, I know I am about to meet some new family members who understand what my job is like and who I can talk to about military life and work.

 

LeeAnn Chase

 

 What are three things/features about you that you think serve you well in your current job?  

 

Three things/features about myself that serve me well with my current job would definitely be my patience, work ethic, and leadership skills. Patience is needed because of the constant new airmen in-processing the squadron who haven’t had their OJT (on the job training). Work ethic is key simply because we have a very important job to do and McGuire’s Aerial Port is so busy. It’s almost required in order to keep things moving at a steady pace with little-to-no error. Finally, leadership skills are the most important because that’s entirely what the Air Force is based on… leadership tier. Eventually, I will climb further up the ranks and need to be prepared.

 

 What led you to your current job?  

 

I was given a list of jobs that my ASVAB (placement test) score qualified me [for], and as bad as it sounds, I chose the shortest tech school because the sooner I got out of training, the sooner I could take leave to see my three favorite people in the world! My parents and sister are quite dear to me!

 

 What advice would you have for young women, in particular, who are interested in uniformed service? 

 

I have had many young women contact me through social media asking for advice or looking to find answers and the best advice I can give them is do it! The military has amazing health benefits, sends you to school for free, and shows you the world… not to mention, you find yourself a part of a whole new family. What more could you ask for?!

 

 What’s one thing you wish people knew about uniformed service?  

 

One thing I wish people knew about the military is it can be very difficult, not only on us but our families as well. We go on deployments and TDY’s that can sometimes last longer than a year, so don’t just support the troops, support their families holding things down back home as well!

 

 What’s something that a lot of people tend to get wrong about uniformed service or the people who serve? 

 

A lot of people don’t understand that there are five branches of the military (Army, Air Force, Marines, Navy, and Coast Guard) so when I’m thanked for my service, I’m often called a soldier. Some people get so bothered by it, but not me! I’m just thankful to have their support!

 

 What’s your go-to self-care technique when you’re busy or stressed out?  

 

Self-care is the most important thing in the world to me and since I’ve been so stressed with work, school, and volunteering, I’ve been finding a lot more time for it lately! My go-to is definitely a hot bath, face mask, and smooth music. Cliché, I know, but there’s a lot of hustle and bustle in my life right now and if I can take even just an hour to do some home spa-ing… I’ll take it!

 

 What advice would you give your 22-year-old self?  

 

If I were able to give my 22-year-old self some advice, it would be to buckle down, lose the attitude, and focus on your career. I had an entitled mindset then—only I didn’t have the job skill to back it up. I learned the hard way to shape up after constantly getting reprimanded by my leadership and you know what? It’s exactly what I needed! I’ve gotten into the regulations to really dissect our job and what it takes to be exceptional and that’s what I’m striving for!

 

Avery Skipalis

 

 What are three things/features about you that you think serve you well in your current job?  

 

I feel like my patience, my drive, and my commitment to excellence serve me well in my job.

 

 What led you to your current job? 

 

I wanted a challenge and I also wanted to develop a new skill … I am a firearms instructor for the Air Force … I’m not, like, really into guns and I didn’t have a lot of knowledge on it, so I wanted to develop that skill and challenge myself.

 

 What advice would you have for young women, in particular, who are interested in uniformed service? 

 

I would tell them to go for it. They can always reach out to someone who’s already serving and ask for their advice, but they can do anything that they put their mind to and I just want to remind them that their mind will always give up before their body will.

 

 What’s one thing you wish people knew about uniformed service? 

 

I wish that more people knew that there’s so many different opportunities that they can take advantage of within the military. We’re just like everyone else: we have jobs, we have promotions, and we also have families—husbands, wives, and kids.

 

 What’s something that a lot of people tend to get wrong about uniformed service or the people who serve? 

 

I think everyone thinks that everyone in the Air Force flies planes and they don’t. And everyone in the military does not carry a firearm daily. We all have our distinct specialties.

 

 What’s your go-to self-care technique when you’re busy or stressed out? 

 

I love to meditate, I feel like that helps me stay grounded. And I love doing what I call taking a mental health day. And when I take a mental health day—this may sound bad—I just relax on the couch and I do whatever I feel like doing and it can be binge-watching Netflix all day, or napping, or going and getting a massage.

 

 What advice would you give your 22-year-old self? 

 

I would tell my 22-year-old self, you are absolutely unstoppable, and don’t worry about keeping up with the Joneses because they don’t actually exist, and read more books.

 

Bianca W. | 

 

 What are three things/features about you that you think serve you well in your current job? 

 

I would say being resilient, being able to bounce back from the good and the bad and being flexible, because being in the military, you have to be flexible because things change like every day … I am determined, if I want to go after something, or even when it comes to nursing in the military, I’m determined to take care of my patients and do what I need to do for their needs and health, but I’m just a determined person, determined to get the job done. Whatever I have to do, I’m just determined to get it. And then three, I would say, empathy, would be my third one. Being an empathetic person in my job… well, so I have two jobs—the military and nursing—it helps a lot in nursing because I can better understand my patients’ feelings and needs better to help get them good and ready to go back home to their families. And then with the military, actually being an officer, I would say empathy helps when it comes to leading and working with other people from different backgrounds that need different things, so being able to empathize with my followers and also those that I just work with in general, it makes the relationship better.

 

 What led you to your current job? 

 

What led me to the military, as far as [the] Air Force, I joined … because, I did ROTC in high school, but I was scared of the thought of war and all this stuff, and even though that depends on the job that you have within the military, but being young I thought, ‘no, I’m not going to do ROTC in college,’ [I decided to] go to college first. But I realized that the discipline and the structure that the military provides my life, sometimes it can be a lot, but I need that. I kind of like having that structure and that discipline because it helps me to be, in a sense, a better person to society … I remember, when I graduated college, I was working job to job and I just felt like I was waking up and I wasn’t doing anything …it’s gonna sound cliché, but I really wanted to do something that was like bigger than myself, be a part of an organization that I can like basically help save the world or be a protector.

As far as nursing, my grandmother was a nurse when I was growing up and I had no idea what nursing was really about—my first degree was in journalism. So I ended up going back to school for nursing. I became a med tech in the military, I was enlisted and I became a med tech and then I just realized, actually, my senior year in college in my first degree, I realized, ‘I think I want to do healthcare,’ and I didn’t want to start over, so I also joined to be a med tech and I ended up … cross[ing] over to the officer side as a nurse and I just love taking care of people. I love healing people. I just enjoy it. And to me, it’s a great feeling to be a nurse in the military, especially when I get to work with our veterans and active duty or their dependents, even though I’m already giving back because I’m serving the country, it’s like another way to [give] back to people, especially our veterans who I love so much.

 

 What advice would you have for young women, in particular, who are interested in uniformed service? 

 

My advice would be A) go to my YouTube, I give a lot of information [laughs]. But all jokes aside, I would say, if you’re thinking about joining the military, just do as much research as you can on what you want to do. When I talk to people that want to join, they don’t really realize that, OK, you’re in the Air Force, or you’re in the Army or the Navy, but you have to have a job. So, you have some that come in that say, ‘hey, I’m here.’ Well, if you know what job you want, if you know you want to come in as a … surgical tech or a journalist, just do your research and reach out to different people.

I would definitely say YouTube. YouTube is like the new school for anything. You can learn anything off YouTube. You have different people that are giving you different advice. Do your research. Just search the internet. Reach out to people. I have people all the time reaching out to me through Instagram about the same question, like, ‘hey, I want to join…’ and stuff like that. So just try to reach out and do your research and don’t feel like it’s a rush. It is a rush, but in a sense, once you get in this job, if you hate your job, you’re gonna be in that job for a while before you can cross-train to another job. So just, do your research.

 

 What’s one thing you wish people knew about uniformed service? 

 

Going back to that flexibility and resiliency, just knowing that when you’re in the military, regardless of your branch, you’re gonna have to definitely understand that it’s always moving, something is always happening. For example, you can leave your family within, like, you can get a tasking to deploy within a week and you have to be out in two weeks, you know? 

… Just knowing that it’s very flexible. You have to be very flexible and flexibility is very hard for me—it still is—but every year or every different base I go to, I get better and better, so you don’t have to be perfect coming in, but just know that this organization is a moving one. The military moves and you have to be … prepared, just understand that concept. Not saying that when you join you have to be ready or flexible, I’m not saying it’s not possible, but just know that you don’t have to be perfect coming in. You don’t have to be flexible right when you come into the uniform, but just know that flexibility is definitely something that you need.

 

 What’s something that a lot of people tend to get wrong about uniformed service or the people who serve? 

 

A lot of people think that when they see me, or anybody that has the uniform that says Air Force, that you fly. I don’t fly. Now, I’m not saying that there’s not different opportunities for me to become a flight nurse, but everybody that’s in the Air Force do not fly, OK? [laughs]

 

 What’s your go-to self-care technique when you’re busy or stressed out? 

 

Physical health is important, but mental health is very important. I, for one, am a huge advocate for mental health. So self-care. One of the things that I do for self-care is, if it’s not too hot out, I’ll go for a walk …. sometimes [run]. I bought a bike. Especially with all of this quarantine and isolation stuff going on, just finding ways to get outside and get that vitamin D and get that sunlight. So going outside.

I just got into planting flowers, so I love planting new flowers, just having something else alive in my house … [W]orking out. I love getting massages. So I just came in from a really, really intense training, so I’m going to be booking my spa day very soon, even if you wanted to do it at home, depending on your financial situation. I have a pedicure system and a gel nail UV light that I use if I don’t want to leave. So just find that time to disconnect, unplug, listen to some music. Journaling. I love reading self-help books and feeding my spiritual side as well. So those would be my top ones.

 

 What advice would you give your 22-year-old self? 

 

I would say the advice that I’d give my 22-year-old self would be—I feel like it was just yesterday when I joined—to just go with the flow. I guess it goes back to that resiliency piece and flexibility, but knowing that you cannot control everything. It’s just being more lucid—if that’s the right word—it’s just being more free-flowing, not taking life so serious and everything so serious. There’s a time and place to be serious, which, depending on your job, could be all the time, but there’s a time and place to take care of your mental health, your physical health, doing self-care, disconnecting, it’s not always work, work, work.

I would also probably tell her, ‘you’re amazing, don’t ever let anybody make you feel different, because you do have a lot of people out there that will make you feel like that, but just knowing that you are who you are and don’t ever let anybody get you down, and if you do get down, pick yourself back up and dust yourself off and say, ‘OK, it’s a new day, let’s go.’ So basically, being more free-flowing, like, ‘OK, I messed up or made a mistake in this area, but it’s OK.’ Just bouncing back.

 

 

Andrea Stooksbury

 

 What are three things/features about you that you think serve you well in your current job?  

 

Compassion: At the beginning of my career, I thought that compassion was a quality that didn’t fit in the military and could be seen as a weakness in a female. I wasn’t completely wrong in that assumption—many people in both the military and civilian world mistake kindness for weakness. However, I learned that to really connect with others, particularly those you lead, you must have, and consistently demonstrate, compassion. As military leaders, it is imperative that we understand our men and women so that we can enable them to become their most capable selves. I don’t think we can do that without understanding where they came from, what their strengths and weaknesses are, and how they respond to different situations. I love getting to know my Marines—what motivated them to serve, what they enjoy doing both at work and outside, and what their goals are—and I think that has made me a better leader for them.

Being comfortable in discomfort: I have learned that the space in which I grow the most, both personally and professionally, is when I am outside of my comfort zone. The military promises to make you uncomfortable 95 percent of the time, so training myself to lean into those uncomfortable spaces has helped me make the most of the experiences instead of just trying to get through it. In doing so, I think I’ve turned what could have been really negative experiences into opportunities for growth. This has helped me understand my values and priorities in order to become a better leader.

Confidence: It took a long time and a lot of self-reflection for me to develop my self-confidence, but it is paramount to being a successful leader. I think self-confidence for women is particularly difficult to cultivate because culturally, we tie so much of our self-worth to physical appearance (but I think that is also changing!). However, it was definitely the case for me for a long time. It was only through quite a few of those uncomfortable experiences forcing me to articulate my own values that I felt confident in who I was as a person, woman, and leader. I finally realized that confidence is not something that can be bestowed upon you by another person through their words or actions, it’s something we grow inside of us. We will constantly seek affirmation from others if we don’t know our own values, and knowing yourself is the only way to have confidence in yourself. Making mistakes is part of life, but knowing your decisions were backed by your values enables you to move on confidently and learn from that mistake instead of allowing it to cripple you.

 

What led you to your current job? 

 

My dad was a Marine—we moved around a lot when I was younger, but settled down in Tennessee when he retired. The strict and structured mindset didn’t really vibe with me, but I wanted to broaden my horizons and be part of a bigger community. I thought that would mean going to school in a different state, but financially, the Naval Academy made the most sense. I didn’t particularly enjoy my four years there, but I did learn how to operate outside of my comfort zone. My goal had always been to become a pilot, but I found out I was medically disqualified from flying during my junior year. With limited options, I chose to apply for a Marine Corps commission because I saw from my dad and other Marines on campus that Marines are tight-knit; they do more with the least amount of resources, they work hard, and they care immensely about each other and their community. I’ve learned so much and worked with many amazing men and women in this field, so although it wasn’t my first choice, I’m thankful that this is the path I’ve chosen.

 

 What advice would you have for young women, in particular, who are interested in uniformed service? 

 

Do your research! Each branch of the military is unique. They all have different cultures, operate in different geographic areas, and have different physical requirements and different job opportunities. Know whether you want to enlist or become an officer, and the difference between the two. I often meet young service members who join and are assigned a job without knowing exactly what they were getting into. There are so many opportunities in the military that anyone who is willing to work hard and have an open mind can benefit from. 

Do your research in yourself too. I joined the military because I wasn’t exactly sure what to do after high school and was intimidated by student loans and the prospect of having to find a job after college. While I’m incredibly grateful for the learning experience this has been, if I had taken the time to know my priorities at a younger age, I would likely be doing something completely different. Know what your values are and find a job that aligns with them.

 

 What’s one thing you wish people knew about uniformed service?  

 

We’re a cross-section of the American culture, which means that we have people from every type of background and motive for joining. It would be great if people outside the service didn’t pin us all into one construct.

 

 What’s something that a lot of people tend to get wrong about uniformed service or the people who serve? 

 

A common misconception is that we are all the same—a lot of times people only see the uniform. This can mean that they have huge respect for us, or could mean that they inherently hate what we represent.

 

 What’s your go-to self-care technique when you’re busy or stressed out?  

 

My go-to self-care technique is to do a RomWod or meditate with Headspace or Waking Up. RomWod is a daily 15-20 min stretching routine app that helps me reconnect with my body and focus on breathing. I love Headspace and Waking Up because I can sneak out to my car and throw one on if I need to. I also love the sleep section of Headspace as I tend to have a racing mind at night!

 

 What advice would you give your 22-year-old self?  

 

Pretty much the lyrics to every Taylor Swift song… just kidding. But in all honesty, I would tell myself the most cliché, but true quips ever: that I have so much to offer the world, I can do whatever I set my mind to, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, be bold and courageous, everything happens for a reason, and the best is yet to come. I also tell myself those things today.

 

Interviews have been edited and condensed for grammar and clarity.

The post 15 Women in Uniformed Service Share What They Wish People Knew About Their Jobs appeared first on The Everygirl.