Rojan joined the Air Force through a Reserve Officer Training Corps scholarship. A guidance counselor had recognized her love of math and science and recommended she attended a math and science camp at the Air Force Academy. From that, she learned about ROTC and received a four-year scholarship, but had to get her degree in Physics.
She completed ROTC and gained her degree in Physics. Next, she was assigned to Albuquerque, New Mexico to work in a lab. After that, she went to the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) and got to go to the launch sites and learn about rockets. She loved that job and had so much fun. That job was followed by five years at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. She had met her husband in Virginia and they began their new life together. He was not in the military but was able to continue his career while following Rojan's military career.
At Wright-Patterson Air Force Base she became a mom and enjoyed the flexibility the CDC provided on the base. And she felt like life was going pretty well. Next, she went to Command and Staff College with the Army at Fort Leavenworth. Upon arrival, she learned there were no childcare spots for her children. To find childcare she ended up driving the opposite way from work to drop her children off at childcare each day. Although she enjoyed the experience of attending CSC, it was hard to manage her work-life balance.
Her next assignment was to DC and she began planning for childcare once she found out about her assignment. And with that preparation things seemed to be going better. But then her third son was born. And life changed. She was struggling to get through it and one day when she had to leave work early to take care of her sick son she started a blog. She began talking about the challenges of work-life balance. This led to her book, Working Moms How We Do “It.” In the book, she interviews women who are moms in the military and women with high-level careers who are also moms. From the experience, she learned four pivotal things that she put in an acronym she termed as SOAR.
Today, Rojan continues to serve as a Colonel in the Air Force while balancing life as a mom and wife. She hopes to change the conversation around women in the military. She hopes to see a day, where women are not forced to sacrifice their families so they can continue to serve in the military.
Working Moms How We Do It
A Developmental Engineer in the Air Force
The Story of An Air Force Civil Engineer
How Depression Led to Healthy Changes
Check out the full transcript here.
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Welcome to Episode 119 of the Woman in the Military podcast. This week my guest is Rojan Robotham. She was actually in Episode 115, which was released earlier this month talking about women, veteran authors and women who have written stories about military women. And so if you haven't had a chance to check that out, either on YouTube or on the podcast, I highly recommend going to check that out. Rojan is part of that episode because she wrote a book called, "Working Moms How We Do It." And after we did the podcast interview, we did a book exchange and I really enjoyed her book and was excited to share my book with her. She currently serves in the Air Force, and she joined the Air Force through the Reserve Officer Training Corps Scholarship, a guidance counselor had recognized her love of math and science and recommended she attend a math and science camp at the Air Force Academy. From there, she learned about ROTC and received a four year scholarship with the caveat of getting her degree in physics. This has led her into a role in science and technology. And so we talked about what she's done in the military and how she came to write her book. So it's another great interview. So let's dive right in. You're listening to season three of the women on the military podcast Here you will find the real stories of female servicemembers. I'm Amanda Huffman, I am an Air Force veteran, military spouse and mom. I created women in the military podcast in 2019. As a place to share the stories of female service members past and present, with the goal of finding the heart of the story, while uncovering the triumphs and challenges women face while serving in the military. If you want to be encouraged by the stories of military women and be inspired to change the world, keep tuned for this latest episode of women on the military. Welcome to the show. Rojan, I'm so excited to have you on the podcast.
Thank you. I'm excited to be here also.
So let's start with why did you decide to join the military?
I decided to join the military when I was 17 years old. And I had received a ROTC scholarship to go to really any school in the nation as long as I studied physics. And so I did it. And that's - I didn't even want to study physics. I wanted to study chemistry. But people I talked to you said, well just try it. Like it for a year. And you can always switch. That year was so hard. At the end of that year, there was another female and I in the program. And we agreed that we weren't quitting. I said, if you don't quit, I won't quit. And the two of us made it through the whole way.
Wow, that's really cool that you had someone to go through it with because I can only imagine my degrees in engineering, which is pretty challenging. And I took physics. So I know a little bit of how hard physics is. But that's crazy.
Yep. So I essentially joined the military because they offered me you know, free school.
So how did you find out about ROTC to even get on the path of joining the military through the ROTC program.
I had a great guidance counselor. I love her still today. Her name was Linda Thompson. And she knew that I loved math and science. And she nominated me to go to a summertime program that the Air Force Academy had. So I spent the summer building rocket gear. And at the end of that, you know, my name was in the Air Force system. And so they kept mailing me stuff. And I kept mailing it back, though, I kept mailing it back. And then in the end that's why I ended up with a scholarship.
That's really cool. And so where did you go to college? And did you do a four year degree program to get your degree?
So I ended up going to Georgetown University and majoring in physics there, and I did complete it in four years, it was intense. But I didn't want to be there any longer or really incur anymore because I still had other things I had to pay for. And I really didn't want to fall behind others. So I just put down some time. And I don't know if everybody saw me, but I was getting school done. And I had to take a full load of ROTC classes. So I was just busy.
Yeah, I can't believe that. I got my degree in five years, the ROTC classes and engineering, like the math and science make it a really heavy load. So way to go. That's awesome. So where did you go after you graduated from college?
The most people were like you and have engineering degrees. And they all got to go to LA Air Force Base at twenty one. It will Rojan that he of course sign so I needed as far as Albuquerque, New Mexico, to spend my time in a research lab. So my first assignment was doing a base vehicle that was a research laboratory.
That sounds really interesting. But also Albuquerque is kind of a interesting city and I don't really know what it was like when you were there. But it's got like an interesting dynamic, but I know they do lots of like research and lab work on the base. Yeah, that's really cool start but sounded like you would have rather went to LA.
Mostly because all my friends like everybody I knew like the LA like the place to be when you are twenty one. And I went to Albuquerque, but it turned out to be a great experience.
That's awesome. So how long were you in Albuquerque before you move to your next assignment?
I was in Albuquerque for three years. And then I moved to Washington, DC to work in intelligence organization. And I work on launching.
That is really cool.
I had fun.
Yeah, I know about the NRL because I know people who work there. And so that's pretty cool. I'm sure there's not really anything you can tell us. Except that it was a really cool job.
When I worked on launch. Rockets rocket really kind of a breeze. Who knows now, I hope I'm not too old. Or maybe I'll be on the geriatric crew, and they signed up to be kind of fun.
Yeah, my husband just got selected for spaceforce. And we're really excited about it. Because it's just it's an exciting time to be in the military and to be part of a brand new branch and be on the cutting edge of all the new technology. So it's, it's really exciting.
Thank you. Did you get to go down to like Cape Canaveral and then Vandenberg? Were those like the main launch sites? Okay. Yeah, no, my space stuff. I learned a little. That's so cool. So do you have like a favorite memory from that time? Or was it just all like, you just loved all of it?
I think he allowed me to just work, I got tagged up with a massive heartbeat. He explained everything to me. It was a great experience. Don't ever get to do again.
That's true you get to do a lot of cool stuff as a lieutenant and captain and then and then you get to do paperwork.
For the rest of your life.
Yeah. So after you left there, how long were you there?
Less than four years and work on the creditor and researching.
That's pretty cool. And that's like, that was new for you. It is still new technology. But you were helping create like all the computer programs behind it, or what was that?
So, I did the ground trailer box on the ground. And it was an exciting time. People forget about that now, but looking at body count on TV every night.
Yeah, that's true. I don't think people remember we're really good at forgetting, like how new technology comes in. It changes how we operate and we forget like the difference between before and like how we operate today. Yeah, sounds really cool. How long were you at Wright Patt
I ended up spending five years at Wright Patt. And then I went from there to school. And I have an incredible oppurtunity to go to the school with the Army. They sent me to school. Which was crazy because I am super Airforce. Not really Army. And all of a sudden I was with a group of people that all come back overseas, and they were talking about land battle. And I was like, we just need air power, air power is the answer.
Yeah, that's funny. I deployed with Army and I was like, I don't understand how that's happened. I joined the Air Force. There's like a reason. And the cultures are so different.
They really are. And at that time I was like, running with this. You know, like they would just look at me like, Airforce it was fun though. It was great experience. I actually learned a whole lot that actually used to work in my career. But at the time, like why me, why am I here? But it was great.
Yeah, I think getting to see the different culture and learning from a different perspective, especially like military side is a really important and great thing to do. So that's awesome that you got to do that. So is that a year that's a year long course.
That was a year long one. Then I came back to the DC area with airstat working in the pentagon papers from left to right every day. Very unexciting, but important work that had to been done. Went from there to my O5 command, acquisition, then from that job, I went back to the Pentagon and served Dr. Burns. Then from that job and back to the NRL where I am now and spending a year here as my first system. And then next summer, I'm going to go over to Poland and work with the RCF wrap up a great culmuniaton go to my Lieutenant years where I actually get to lead.
That is super exciting. And that's so amazing to see like your whole career path and how you like went to the NRL and then you bounced around and then you ended up back there as a colonel. And that's just so amazing to hear about all the different things that you got to do. But I think the thing I find most interesting is that you're a colonel but you're also an author, and you're working to like start a business on the side on top of doing all the things you're doing for the military. So how did you end up writing a book while on active duty? And in what was the importance of doing the book?
By that time I had three sons and when I went to the NRO that secodn time my youngest son was right are coming up youngest one right on one. And there was one day, I ended up back at home, daycare, and I was just as low as one of those mom moments for older babies. And I started blog, this writing started off like today's the day just talk about being a mom working and how hard it is. I know. And there's not a lot of support people are looking at. And so I just started writing. And I would write once a month, some stories from that time, active duty and trying to raise a family. And from there at some point, I was like, I should just put it all into a book and put it out there for more people back. And that's ultimately, what I did.
That's really cool. So let's backtrack into your career a little bit and talk about when did you get married? Or are you married now?
So I got married when I moved. There's nothing left on here. Wright Pat? not married, and sort of our life and we were young and naive. Easy, great. Awesome. And it was for too long. And when I had my first one, right. It was a CDC five minute walk from my office, I did go there applying. I had my second son there. And then we left six months after he was born to go play with the Army. And that's when the shock when I PCS assumption I would get it. And they told me there was a year wait. And I was like it's a 10 month school, right? Like that doesn't add up and baby more comfortable with the work like over to you to figure it out. But fortunately telling me about macro at that point, we're announcing childcare aware. And so with their health, I was able to find childcare off. This incredibly stressful, I was driving opposite directions with tutors and places to drop my kids off, then go who were in a challenging environment. Okay, so from there, we moved here to DC. Now I have an 18 month old with a three year old, and I'm looking for hip to the game. So I've called ahead I've found childhood, I think we got back to DC. And now I decided to have a third child. And that's when things really blew up again. Because now I was at a place where I knew before and after care for my oldest child I needed to care for the middle fun. And I needed infant care and trying to find all of that at one facility is nearly impossible. And then trying to find quality and not be driving all around where it snows the traffic is bad. There's really that the timeframe to pick your kid up when they are sick. So it's a lot. So I finally get all that figured out, you know taking the bus to and from work doing all these different things. And then I got to that point, you know and that's where I was telling you to just like on the floor, hold your baby. And I said, Okay, you know, this is the moment to express my feelings because I can't be the only one out there.
Yeah. And your husband did you guys meet? Was he active duty as well? So are you dual military added to having kids and a family and all that?
So we're not. And you know, sometimes people think it's easier to military or to have a spouse, I don't know. My husband has not been an author, he has his own career, he has his own goals. And sometimes civilian life is even less understanding about what I do and how I'm in fact, so climbing as military that's kind of accepted and okay, so pluses and minuses on both ways, but for our whole career.
Yeah, I agree. I think that you can't say one's easier than the other because they both have just different challenges. And it's like apples and oranges. And yeah, and there's no point to compare, because I have it harder. like, Who cares? It's hard for both of us. Yeah, we did do a military for six years. And then when we had kids, we can't do this dual military thing anymore. That's great that he's been able to, like move around the country and have a career. I'm sure it's been challenging to make it all work. But that's, that's good that you're able to do that. And so you wrote, so you wrote a blog, and then you were like, I'm gonna write a book. And now you have a business. And you're a mom of three boys. How do you and you're working to? Or you're the title of your book is working moms, how do we do it? So how do you do all of these things, and survive?
You know, so who books is a survey of many women in all different services, all different lifestyles, whether they're the four, single military or military and civilian service. And then I even have some women who are of the same caliber, but not in the military, and just kind of going through all of their stories. And really, what I discovered through that process is kind of four concepts and I call it soar. S-O-A-R, everyone has support, everyone's organized or working to be better organized. We're all continuing to aspire, they're like in the hunt, want more, and the R is resilient. And each of us in our own way, practices are coated with lean techniques to make it through. And so that's really what the book goes through. And it tells people tells others their stories, and walks through the four principles so that others can incorporate them in their life. Because ultimately, my whole goal in all of this is for more women to stay in it. You know, stay in the military and do it married, if, if that works out for you. But definitely with your family, you should be able to have kids answered. Wrong that people are forced to get out or there's that life decision that after that happened to many of my friends, I'm using your group for when it was all because of those choices that the military ultimately put on their family, about the female's ability to stay in to be with their husbands. And I just think that now in 2020, and beyond, we can be more creative. We can reimagine the future. We can reimagine childcare, we can reimagine how we look at families together, so that we keep families together, and everyone can keep serving in the military.
Yeah, that's really great. That sounds like a really interesting book. And I'll link to it in the show notes so that people can find it if they want to order it. And it's, it's just so interesting, because I feel like that's the perfect way to find out how women do it is to interview other women and hear their stories and then take a pocket take like the four main concepts. So that and that makes a lot of sense. And I know the military is working to try and make changes to make it more friendly. It's really hard for me, I knew that at the time. The deployment window was six months after my son was born. And I knew that there was a higher chance that I was going to deploy and I didn't want to leave my six months behind and go off to war. I don't know what it would have been like had I had a year it would have been a different conversation. But I think they're trying to make things better. But it's really hard to be in the military and then to be a woman in the military is I think in a way somewhat even more challenging, especially being a mom.
I agree. But I think there's definitely a place for women in the military. There's a place for moms in the military and I really want to see more women make it higher in the ranks as moms And Mary knows, we look at the jungles, I'm so often so excited about the number of females. But I really am excited now that there's some that have young kids, you know, and that they're married. And I think that sends a great message to the rest of us. You don't have to sacrifice being a mom. You don't have to sacrifice being married in order to serve your nation. I think that's an unfair app.
That's so true. Yeah. And it is starting to change so that that is a positive thing to see. Because Yeah, before, a lot of the times, if it was a woman who was a general, she wasn't married, she didn't have kids. And that was like what was expected when it's never been expected a male's to not have families and to be at the same rank. So was there anything from your time and service or that I missed that you wanted to cover? In this part of the interview? I have one more question. But I wanted to give you one more chance to cover something in case I missed it.
I want to encourage everyone who's listening, to continue before, to think about those principles. Think about how you can incorporate into your life, and to find a way to keep on keeping on. I know, it sounds like a platitude. Sounds like oh, you make a counter movie, but it's not. But I want to believe that the joy and the satisfaction of achieving it was worth it. And bringing your family along with you. And bringing other women with you is what we're here to get. Right. I love serving my nation, I have some food to offer. But I also love my husband and love my boys. And I want both worlds to work together. And so I just want to encourage everyone to find that path for you find someone who can find a way to work together so that you can together.
I love that advice. And it really ties in well with my last question, which is what advice would you give to young women who are considering joining the military?
I would say go Airforce. Or maybe even goes spaceforce. Now, I would say do it, you know, do it, jump in, go at it, do your best. Give it all and at every point, never make a decision before. I have probably been getting out of the air force for as long as I've been in, almost I can at least think of two separate times where I'm like, I'm getting out, I can't do this. I'm done. And it was actually a male bosses who sat down with me like Rojan let's talk about this, you know what's going on. And we were able to come up with a solution. And here I am, you know, 21 years in. And if I had stepped out many years ago, I wouldn't be here. And I want to encourage everyone to just go for it as best you can. And don't make a decision as to this opportunity and really talk to lots of people about that. Because there's often an answer that you just don't know about your there's options that I didn't think I could ask for or things I could do that will right there all along. And that's how I've been able to stay here, you know, be here for 21 years.
Yeah, that's really cool. That's great advice. I think sometimes we limit ourselves by not asking questions or going to mentors to get help and to see if like, we feel like this is the only way forward, but maybe there is actually another way. So I think that's great advice. And I think I agree. I think it's the space force is so exciting. Well now I'm a Space Force spouse and I'm just so excited about what's coming and I think Air Force, Space Force, they're both great. All the other all the branches are great, but you know, we'll be the habit of I thank you so much for being on the podcast. I really enjoy getting to hear your story and just hear about your experience. I haven't talked to anyone who did like lab specific work and so I find that really fascinating. Thank you for listening to this week's episode of women of the military podcast. Do you love all things women in the military podcast become a subscriber so you never miss an episode and consider leaving a review. It really helps people find the podcast and helps the podcast to grow. Are you still listening? You can be a part of the mission of telling the stories of military women by joining me on email@example.com slash women of the military or you can order my book women in the military on Amazon every dollar helps to continue the work I am doing. Are you a business owner? Do you want to get your product or service in front of the women of the military podcast audience get in touch with the woman of the military podcast team to learn more all the links on how you can support women in the military podcasts are located in the show notes. Thanks again for listening and for your support.