Women of the Military

Civil Engineering in the Air Force

Episode Summary

Civil Engineering in the Air Force is a great career field. The hands-on opportunities that AF Civil Engineers find themselves can lead to a great career in the military or open doors to your future after you leave military service behind. Kristina Selstrom is sharing her experience in Civil Engineering in the Air Force this week on the Women of the Military podcast.

Episode Notes

Women of the Military would like to thank Sabio Coding Bootcamp for sponsoring this week’s episode! Sabio Coding Bootcamp is a top-ranked coding Bootcamp that is 100% dedicated to helping smart and highly motivated individuals become exceptional software engineers.  Visit their website www.Sabio.la to learn how you may be able to use your GI Bill benefits to train at Sabio.  Your tuition and a monthly BAH stipend may be paid during your training period.  They also are 100% committed to helping you find your first job in tech.  Don’t forget to head over to www.Sabio.la to learn more today.

Check out the full show notes at https://www.airmantomom.com/2021/08/civil-engineering/

Check out the full transcript here.  


Thank you to my Patreon Sponsor Col Level and above:
Kevin Barba, Adriana Keefe, Lorraine Diaz

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Episode Transcription

Amanda Huffman00:00

Welcome to Episode 146 of the women in the military podcast. This week my guest is Christina cell strum she and I served in the Air Force together. She was a major when I was a first lieutenant. And she was the first woman that I met who was higher ranking than me in the civil engineering career build. And she helped me when I left for my deployment by connecting me with a previous podcast guest Stacey shafran, where she was able to give me information about what it was like to be on a prt. So Christina has been a mentor in my life, and I really admired her while I was in the Air Force, and it was really fun to get to talk to her about her experience in the Air Force. So let's get started with this week's interview. 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 Korean 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. Women on the military podcast we'd like to thank saburo coding boot camp for sponsoring this week's episode. Sabio coding boot camp is a top ranked coding boot camp that is 100% dedicated to helping smart and highly motivated individuals become exceptional software engineers visit their website at www.sabio.la to learn how you may be able to use your GI Bill benefits to train at sabya your tuition and monthly BAH stipend may be paid during your training period. They are also 100% committed and helping you find your first job in tech. So don't forget to head over to www.sabio.la to learn more. And now let's get started with this week's interview. Welcome to this show. Kristina, I'm so excited to have you here. 


Kristina Selstrom  02:23

Thank you for having me. I really appreciate it. Good to see you again. 


Amanda Huffman02:26

We served in the Air Force together. So it's like a reunion party that you guys get to listen in on. So if you enjoy it. So let's start with something that I don't know, which is why did you decide to join the military?


Kristina Selstrom  02:40

Oh goodness, my father served in the Air Force for two months shy of 30 years old, but 30 years and so I grew up an Air Force brat and moved around and kind of had that lifestyle already a little bit ingrained. I graduated high school at our alconbury and England, I was at Ramstein high school as well. So a little shout out for those two D schools. You know, I did joke when I graduated high school, and I had an ROTC scholarship. I did tell my dad that I'd already served 18 years and I was ready to go see the world. And he said and how are you going to pay for that? I was like, Oh, no, it's probably a good thing. I have an ROTC scholarship. So that wasn't the sole reason. But that certainly got got me to university Colorado in Boulder, detachment 105. And while I was there, one of the big things I found was a sense of community. And right away, I was kind of on the fence of whether I was going to continue or not. But I found a sense of community a sense of home, because, you know, having grown up on Air Force bases around Air Force bases, being around people who were Air Force or want to be Air Force, it was very familiar to me. So it helped, being 5000 miles away from my family to have a second home and instill friendships and something familiar. So that kind of probably started it. But there was always a sense of service and patriotism that I'd grown up with that I still wanted to continue. So it wasn't really that hard. Even though I did joke with my dad about having already been there done that growing up in Europe, especially as able to observe the US and America from outside the fishbowl and see kind of some of the great values that we have and how we help nations across the world and a democracy kind of thing on that piece. So I've continued one to continue serving in that capacity as well as just service I think it's important to give back to those who have gave so much on that part and do and do your part from there. So and then adventure keep referencing that lifestyles of military brat, but the Air Force afforded my family an opportunity to instill a sense of wanderlust and adventure and to see new things and go new places and meet new people especially that were different from me or different from where I'd grown up and I just kind of want to continue that as well. And I saw that as an opportunity in the airforce to be able to afford that lifestyle. You know one way or another either because they stationed me somewhere or because I was somewhere and could easily get somewhere else. So kind of the whole of it started from you know, maybe Just having the funding, if you will to do ROTC to just really embracing it and wanting to be a part of it and continue to do they need, you know, a certain point you obviously can quit, and then move on. But I kept I kept it up.


Amanda Huffman05:13

Yeah. And with a ROTC scholarship, did you have that like year window where you could decide after your end of your freshman year if you wanted to join?


Kristina Selstrom  05:22

Right, yeah. So I actually ended up having to extend mine. So since I was overseas, I never got to do like ROTC interviews or anything. So I just kind of had the standard three year scholarship. But once I got there, I was able to earn, like a three and a half year even have to do your first semester, and then they'll increase it if you will, to three and a half years. But yeah, so it was the first year you'd say no, walk away, no, no money, no time requirement. And then the second year before you went to field training, you could walk away but you just have to repay some money back. And then once you've been to field trading, it became me time and money commitment. So like I said, maybe maybe they purposely put me at the very end of the summer to go to the To field training. Because they pride maybe they thought I need more time or, or whatnot. But yeah, so actually, with the field training during the 96 Olympics, you know, so carry struggle always be in my mind for landing that. That's the vault where she hurt her leg and whatnot, because they they use that as a reason why we could never get tired on the run or on push ups or anything like that. So yeah, her, she really pushed us and was a good example on that. And then the irony is, is that my son's swim coach down here in the keys, is was actually in the 19 Olympics for swimming. So I tell him that story, too. 


Amanda Huffman06:36

Yeah, I remember that. I was a summer camp, the week of that, that I'll happen. And I like love gymnastics. And my parents recorded it for me. And it was before like technology. So I got to watch it like a week late. And nobody knew anything about like, you know, I was a little kid. No one told me what happened. But


Kristina Selstrom  06:54

Yeah, we get to see it. And every once in a while, I think it's because we were in Central Florida, it would get so hot if they would put us in like the base theater and bring on the Olympics. Yeah, right before and after, they'd be like, Alright, you're really sweaty and hot. We don't want anybody to die on our watch. So we'll let you pull off, you can watch the Olympics be inspired, and then keep going at it.


Amanda Huffman07:13

So are there any other things from your time in ROTC that really stick out? I liked how you talked about it being home, which I found really funny because you're an Air Force brat. So it makes sense. But I describe the Air Force ROTC program is the same thing as finding like my home of like, where I needed to be and what I was looking for. So I thought that was interesting from like, two totally, like, no military experience at all, and you who are like, immersed in it. 


Kristina Selstrom  07:38

So it's really the people that that go for ROTC, and in general, like any service, or, or whatnot, all have a certain thing that's common between them, and they all want everybody to succeed and, and innately have this sense of teamwork and acceptance. You know, it doesn't, you can be really nerdy, you can be the jock, you can be anything, but everybody ultimately wants to get commissioned and serve their country. So it's like, Hey, come on, in, you know, hang out. What are you doing Friday name? You go to PT. Have you been to pT?


Amanda Huffman08:08

Yeah. And so you are have a Civil Engineering degree. And that's what you did in the Air Force. And so what was that process like joining the Air Force as a Civil Engineer? And this was like, 98 ish, right?


Kristina Selstrom  08:23

Yeah, supposed to be class in 98. I took a full five years because I really love Boulder. Now, to graduate, but actually, there's a story behind that my ROTC scholarship segwayed into civil engineering and how I got there with was actually in chemistry. No, sorry, physics, I want to be a chemistry major. And so as a physics, I was like, Well, I guess I'll change but we'll see. And maybe, you know, maybe they can change it. Once, you know, it was kind of told once you got there, maybe they can finesse it into chemistry, or whatnot. Otherwise, you're stuck with physics, or you can choose something else. And at the time, they were really looking for engineers. And I kind of quickly realized that there's a lot about chemistry I like, but I didn't want to be in a lab coat in a lab all day. I want to be outside St. Cassie, with physics, too. You know, you're you're kind of inside all the time. And so I realized if I wanted to continue to have help paying for school, I needed to figure something out that there was a scholarship for I really like international affairs and that piece of it, but there was no scholarships. And then at that time, I know that since then, they they give a lot of those kinds of language based ones out, but they didn't when I was in school. And so you know, my dad was an Air Force engineer, so I'd always been around it. And I do like math and science. I'd much rather be doing like a crazy saying this and much rather be doing math problems then writing you know, my worst growing up, I hated Creative Writing day because I would just it would just be a blank piece of paper and I could never think of anything to say. So I really like that. So I was like, okay, engineering might be the way to go. And then looking at all the engineering features that were available plus what was available, what that would translate to in the Air Force. It kind of just again floated back to civil engineering. And a lot of classes were outside, a lot of the work is outside a lot of hands on that piece. So I kind of ended up pulling that way I had, so and then. So that's one part of how I got into civil engineering. The other half of it is, is I was actually medically disqualified from the United States military completely for stress, right after my sophomore year. So it's after I went to field training. So it was kind of a weird, purgatory moment there, because it came up when they went to go get my flying class, physical. And I'd seen a dermatologist at Langley Air Force Base, my freshman year of college. So when they did when they figured out that I had psoriasis, they immediately disqualified me from the service. I actually was going through my medical records the other day, and I had six stamps that said, not qualified for military service. I find that's the irony, right? So I fought it. And we got a waiver and got a waiver, but I had to be reevaluated for my psoriasis every semester, all the way up leading up to commissioning. When I got to, I had already been technically like the ceremonial conditions, and I still didn't know if I was actually going to serve, I had to wait for the approval to come through. And then the crazy part is once I was commissioned in the service, it didn't matter who went away. It just also the reason that they didn't want they were going to preclude me from service, I guess, is because it made me not worldwide deployable, which is another irony. Ironic point. So you had done like, five deployment to different overseas bases. So we kind of worked through that. So I wasn't, I was no longer find qualified. And that that was kind of a bummer. I really wanted to be a pilot on that piece. But they said once I was commissioned, I could reapply. But as the story goes, I never really did that. But I really enjoyed what I was doing. And I didn't really feel like starting over and I get really bad motion section. So probably wouldn't have worked out for me anyway, on that, on that piece of it. But yeah, so I finally got commissioned and found I was commissioned, and then I went solo engineering, I really wanted to go red horse. My dad was in red horse, the 19th


Amanda Huffman12:08

Let's talk about what REDHORSE is because people are probably wondering what you are talking about



Right, it's a combat Civil Engineering Squadron. They do heavy construction and go in at right after, you know, my my red horse friends, they're out there, please comment and you can clarify for me, but certainly the the idea is the specops and army and whoever secure the location and then read worse goes in and makes prepares the runway and creates any kind of vertical structures to support the mission until based civil engineers can come in and do the rest. I think it'd be a sunrise quite simply. But they have aerosols that can come out of helicopters now that come out of C 130s, or junk qualified and have some stuff that they get thrown out of a backhoe, the C 130 to get things started, if they can't get there any other way or the point can't land until they do spell repair what not to so they're pretty cool. My dad doesn't REDHORSE when I was born. And I you know, I played a lot of sports in high school and, and whatnot. So I really liked the idea of getting out there and getting dirty. At the time. They weren't putting any second lieutenants in REDHORSE, but they offered me to go to a base that had REDHORSE, but my choices were like Florida, Vegas and Montana. They wouldn't send anybody to Korea though. And those are the only three bases the time that they had them. Little known fact actually, for about a minute tried to try to get the airforce to start a snowboarding team really got into snowboarding. And so I chose Montana so that I could snowboard but then you know, get to know the commanders and those notionally if I if I proved myself and work hard and did a good job. I could possibly move across the base to the 819 redboard Squadron and spend two years there two years Bayside and then move on. Because the red horses and assignment hopefully pluck the lucky people get to do more than one.


Amanda Huffman13:54

Yeah. And I think you really highlighted how different the Air Force Civil Engineers are than the army civil engineers because the whole purpose of Air Force civil engineers is maintaining the base so that the airplanes can land and like that's why the technical skills of like building vertical structure and you mentioned spalling, which is little like potholes, potholes, yeah, potholes in the runway and like all the different stuff and like, I think the first year of being an Air Force civil engineer, where you get to do your training and go down to Florida and do the like learning how to do all that stuff is probably like one of my favorite memories because like, besides the mopp gear stuff, but the notes he has are the worst. But it's it's just really cool. Like the mission of Air Force civil engineers is just it's a really cool mission. And I was talking to someone who is considering doing civil engineering just like but I don't really like civil engineering. I'm like, Well, if we're civil engineering isn't the same as anything else out there.


Kristina Selstrom  14:56

Yeah, it's like a menu that has many layers. It's very broad spectrum in terms of, you know, how diverse the experiences you can have, you know, you can get, get very specialized, you know, get on the pavements of our teeth, you know, go get your masters and in horizontal construction and pavements and geotech and whatnot, and really, you know, deep dive into that area, or you can kind of still maintain a little bit of a generalist and get into it all or the construction management piece of it. You know, if you're not a design person, there isn't a whole lot of design that you can, but then there's opportunities now, especially where you can really deep dive into the design piece and exercise that that side of your brain and that muscle.


Amanda Huffman15:36

Yeah, so I your first assignment was that when September 11th happened?


Kristina Selstrom  15:41

That is Yeah, yeah. So that was that was exciting. We were those weird Malstrom Air Force Base, and they had with the airborne, been around now what is it called, though, where they can launch all the nukes from the from the plane? It'll come to me I'll think of the word, the acronym but the airborne operation. So we had someone, someone who correct me on that one. But now she does an exercise every year with that. And we actually happen to be in that exercise. Me and another second lieutenant. You know, I guess I just pinned on first lieutenant. But anyways, we were manning the command post on opposites to 12 hour shifts. But our shifts went from like, noon to midnight, instead of kind of a six to six or do to midnight, and I just I remember getting a call in the morning and feed going, Chris, you can't come in for you're not coming in for a while. How are you first? Are you awake, and you just turn the TV on. And I just remember sitting there like, Whoa, you know what was going on. And my dad was stationed at the Pentagon at the time. So I was kind of worried about him. Luckily, he was he was TTY, but it comes to find out later he would go to the army general's office that was completely destroyed every Friday. And so kind of hit close to home on that one. But we stayed in man center offs, because the security fight for missile base was high. Probably through I think, in a while now, obviously. But I feel like it was months, November, December timeframe. So I worked. We worked out of it. He and I just stayed in there and worked out of command post until one of our teams and he left for Diego Garcia. And then me and another Lieutenant and kept kept it going on that piece. But it was interesting, because everything we wrote down in there was archival. So it had be saved and put in an archive. So I wrote a lot of things like CE rocks. Go Buffs. CE is the best. Because nobody could destroy it. 


Amanda Huffman17:36

That sounds like you. That's such a personality. I love that. That's so cool. So did you end up getting to transfer over to the RedHorse unit? Or were you still doing base level?


Kristina Selstrom  17:47

I didn't. It was a you know, I had the opportunity that I got to be really good at my job in programming. And so I was one deep. And so it worked. It made more sense for the base and the mission for me to stay where it was that versus versus go over there. But then I spent my entire rest of my career trying to get back.


Amanda Huffman18:06

So let's talk about your career and the different highlights from it and things that you want to talk about,


Kristina Selstrom  18:15

ah, certainly, you know, I got to I really got to feed that sense of wanderlust and, and adventure, you know, from Montana, I went to Korea consent and went from there. And then I would do a spin down after that for three years and then go to staff at ACC headquarters. And then I got to go do my ops chief where where we met in New Mexico Holman. And then I went back to the Joint Staff because as you mentioned, I got married while we were in New Mexico to a Navy guy. And he was stationed in Oceana. And at that point, you know, it was 1213 years into a career and was looking forward to the family and family life for all that matters. When I was in Montana, I deployed to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia for four months is interesting to be there. I was there right before they took away wearing the whole black outfit. And when you went off base, then trouble a couple times. So it didn't cover my hair. Not not huge trouble. Just the religious police would remind me kindly, maybe more directly, I should say, to cover my hair, me and another friend of mine, she had red hair, so we kind of stuck out a little bit. And then when I was in Germany at spangdahlem, I deployed to Pakistan, or 8778 months is really cold there. It was a that was a great time there. I had an interesting job. I was the liaison for all the projects we leased. We had like 52 land leases for the base and it wasn't very big that manifests and big part of my job was going and negotiating with the lease holders when we want to do a project any kind of project especially if it's whether it improved, temporary or changed permanently. The area I had to go do so I had a Russian translator and got to wear civilian clothes and get to go downtown and Or across to the airport and talk to the engineer over there and negotiate these projects, it was pretty neat, because that translated into an opportunity to be on the US delegation for the negotiation of the base that year. So I get to go to the embassy and listen to the ambassadors and those guys talk. And I talked to from the construction side of it, and the money that was being poured in the lease and that piece, and so it was kind of great to just be a fly on the wall, watch this whole state department thing go down. There was like a New York Times journalist involved. And, you know, it's kind of interesting to see how, how that all worked out. And it was a lot of fun. That part, you know, I mentioned before, I really liked international affairs when I was in college, so I got to get to deep dive into that a little bit. So that was fun. And then I also, before that deployment, I had gone into my team into Iraq, and sucker cook Iraq are the second ones there in 2004. That was I told people this, that's the proverbial, like, when you're in ROTC training, and you're going to go and you're taking a flight across the crosswalk. And they're like, you just killed your whole flight, because you didn't stop the road, you know, you didn't have a road guard. You know, you're like, what, they're not dead the right thing I got like, a road guard. So but in Kirkuk, I did all the flightline projects in work that I did a lot of emails and some other stuff, but I was on the flightline, all day, every day, all the time, and made it also a big target. So we got a lot of the rocket attacks, small arms, fire and interesting things. And I'd have what any one time I had, like 10 security escorts, you know, at the time of 16, and whatnot, and made all they'd all look to me to be the road guard, you know, or to make sure road guard without there, when these attacks would happen and, and getting down and avoiding fire and getting hurt. That was very interesting time because very combat combat oriented piece. So I have a million stories, I could go on that one, you know, like me and another Captain are coming back from the defect one day going back to our offices on the track. And I tell people, some people that I'm really happy to be here, because a 107 rocket landed right on the other side of one of the tea walls. And if it had exploded, I'm not sure how much of me would be here, and whatnot. So that, you know, that was a time where you just had to learn to persevere and rely on that training. And a lot of that training was good, because it made it less scary, you know, and all that Air Force training in that combat training that we did beforehand and be very confident with your own weapon and being able to defend yourself or know where to go and then know what to do the calm in the chaos, you know, find that, that place knowing people are relying on you to put road guards out, because you don't want to kill your whole flight really came in handy. It was like three or four months, it was a four month plan. But it seemed like it was a long one brought our team together. Our Squadron, the officers, the officers were that were there and really close to still to this day. So yeah, those were times but so that was it before, but we're the second team and her coaches right up where they found Saddam Hussein. So there was, you know, a lot of pride with the army guys and going hanging out the army and seeing how the rough conditions they had compared to us, we'd go play poker over there. And it'd be like, Oh, you're in a bombed out building. I am in not an abandoned building. Yay, Air Force. But they persevered as well. And they were there a good bunch. And then there was an ACC staff, I deployed back to Iraq, I was in Baghdad, this time, that effect, and I did. That was a lot of fun, too, because we work for the army and that case, directly, much like you were at the PRT. So we were directly under them to go do our mission. And we again, you know, kind of highlighting the difference between garrison combat and combat engineers and then the army and then Air Force engineers were experts at base masterplans. And so a lot of stuff we did was going in but when I was in Baghdad as we not only were the garrison engineers for various places doing the making sure the lights work. And you can see a small construction I want this room changed into this I want to take over here I want to temporary building over here, I need plumbing I need this, you know, generators, AC, we didn't do the maintenance tester on that that was a different type those Air Force civil engineers but a different type of team. So we certainly planned it out and estimate it and work with contractors with neaby. But the fun part of that is the division would send us out to various fobs in Baghdad or right south of Baghdad to do base master planning and see like master you know, different things. We put strikers at this tiny FOV and I went to five that were as big as 800 people to them that were like couple 100 some that were under constant attack like you know, you couldn't go out to the restroom or their restroom shoes or outside and you couldn't go out to the restroom between two and 8pm because of small arms fire and whatnot. And things might land on your head and conveniently at that time. And and then two days earlier than that I was at a pub that was right on the Tigris where they would close. They would open up the gates twice a day and let the Iraqi schoolchildren walk through because it was safer for them to walk. To the base, then they go around it. So just very interesting dichotomy of what you see and how you felt and where you went, I had a great opportunity to meet a bunch of Army engineers and then go up to a field to help the Koreans move their facilities out of the way from Erbil International Airport, because like Planes, Trains and Automobiles to get there. So I take a helicopter to Ballade and we went 30 and went another place and then we got into another helicopter and ended up at Mizzou, it was a great defect two or three guys able to be like, Oh, this one has good cheese bread, this one. This is the one I need to go to for the good ice cream, and then that. And then we ended up in RBL, which only had like 50 of US Army was mostly Koreans during peacekeeping missions. And then they had a bunch of civilian police officers that were teaching the Iraqis how to do law enforcement from a civilian side that was visited, but I had to learn my team as we went, and then we had a great time. A great time. Those guys were awesome. And then I did go back to Afghanistan, when that's when I missed you. And I kind of like, missed each other. So then I went to Afghanistan with the army. Well, I was with a civil engineer Squadron that was based out of Afghanistan, supporting the army mission.


Amanda Huffman26:07

And that's also when you got married, right, because you got married right before you left.


Kristina Selstrom  26:13

I did. I did. So yeah. So my husband and I got engaged when I was moving to New Mexico, literally in route. And then we always wanted a summer wedding. You know, I wanted summer fall, I really want to fall summer. But he was still signed to a Navy squad fighter squadron. And they were going out of carrier and as with all things that kept moving his carrier up, and then I got tasked with going to Afghanistan, myself. And he was leaving if I came down to he was leaving in May. And I was leaving in August. And I didn't have the time. And we didn't know this till really like early November. And I just I didn't have the time to put any kind of brain bites towards a big wedding between then and now. And I didn't want to be forced into it. But at the same time, I wanted to get, you know, orders and be able to get with him because at this point, I'd lived a lot of life. And you know, it's not getting any younger. We want to have kids and so to do that the Air Force as you know, I need some legal piece of paper that's legal that says this. And so we had done a half marathon in Virginia Beach before it well, I come back and we did that and they rock and roll had just bought the Las Vegas marathon. That was their newest one and their rock and roll thing. And they just run through weddings. And so we last minute decided to do a run through wedding. Which our boss it was he was awesome. He signed up for this a pvy orders on it. Because if you participate in what is you know, if you training events that are that also want to export and get permissive CD why I didn't have taken nearly It was great. And he flew. He wanted to hear his story of how he got up there because the Navy let him fly an F 18. How to Reno early before the rest of the squadron so that he could be there that weekend. Get married, because they were all leaving like Friday, Saturday and he wouldn't have it. It was a Saturday. It was a Sunday morning race at that time. It wasn't what it is now. And so yeah. So then we got married and he literally got on a plane and I got on a plane and the you know, kind of carried on but we spent pretty much our first year of marriage apart. But our first anniversary he was in Kandahar randomly. And I was in trouble. So we had ice cream over zoom. So we did have a big white wedding and Stanley Hotel and SF Park and September 2011. So make up for it.


Amanda Huffman28:44

Yeah, military life kind of makes things challenging, especially dual military. And you guys were two different services. So let's like, let's make it more and more and more complicated and try and like figure it out. And civil engineers deploy a lot in the airforce. So like at the time, they were like six months on six months off.



So I actually they tried to task me three times I got back in March. And I was PCSing and I actually had PCS orders for June. And they tried to task me three times for July and August of that year. I wasn't even going be home for six months before I left again. But luckily, PCS orders are like can't get to me again. 


Amanda Huffman29:22

Crazy. That's the way it was. We were gone all the time.


Kristina Selstrom  29:26

Yeah. And that's kind of I think that's kind of why, you know, I ended up taking like, it was Jeff calm. I was in DEF CON for a month before it became Joint Staff. And I was in the J three, I was in the engineering side. And the irony was I was sourcing engineers to deploy them. And it was helpful, I guess I had deployed especially under such a joint environment because I kind of knew the lay of the land with the other services engineers and how they lay down their forces to be able to deploy them but instead of going to like airstrikes probably would have been like a more natural progression, but you know when to roll the dice and see where I could go by actually living with my husband. For the first time and you said having a family at that point it was, you know, 35.


Amanda Huffman30:04

And were you able, you were able to get out a little bit early? Weren't they doing something where you got to a chance to leave the military early?


Kristina Selstrom  30:12

Yeah. So I got to I qualified by a whopping two months and 18 days for the temporary early retirement authority in during sequesteration, when sequesteration hit. And so I like that, you know, my husband, and I just kind of look at the tea leaves with him being navy and, and whatnot. And, you know, our son at that point was a year and a half old. And looking at more, and it just made sense. I get the full retirement except for 38% instead of, but everything else is the same. I would have gotten five more years.


Amanda Huffman30:45

Yeah. Because I think it's so hard to be dual military, and then like dual service that makes it even harder, and then you add kids and like you want to get to that 20 year retirement and then made it so that we can there's a new path forward. Right, you could get out Yeah.



And then that the iron, if I get out, then my husband decides he was he was attached to a SEAL team at the time. And the Navy had other ideas for him moving forward. At that point. So he, he had he transitioned over to Air Force reserves to fly up in Miami. So it was interesting, we both kind of jumped ship that within two to three months of each other just to kind of change change things up quite a bit. I joke is two for one deal for the Air Force.


Amanda Huffman31:35

That's really funny, especially at the time, I didn't realize the timing was so close.


Kristina Selstrom  31:39

Yeah, we had six, seven months where we were, you know, living off of savings and retirement liquidity, you know, the retirement afforded us health care, and, you know, any pension and, and then be accepted and kick in for a little while. But yeah, so we ended up like, I joked I was like the only Boomerang kid that came home with a retirement plan. paycheck, you know, and we ended up I was like, well, this might be the last time we had a chance to really spend this much time with my parents and our son was two years old and, and whatnot, waiting for the reserve scroll and all that. All that stuff to kind of catch up so that he could go off to his 16 training and BIA. I think I commission I commissioned him in my parents kitchen. Oh, wow. That was a major.


Amanda Huffman32:22

Yeah. And I got to interview you when I was doing my deployment series, which is where like this podcast started from. So I'll link to that in the show notes so that people can read. I feel like we touched on high points in those interviews, too. But it'll give people more about your time in the different places that you were. And let's talk a little bit about what you're doing today. And your husband's still in the reserves. And you guys are living in Florida. And and you're working as a civil engineer. Right?


Kristina Selstrom  32:55

Sort of Yeah. Sort of, sort of maybe yes, those days. So we moved to homestead Air Reserve base, Miami, Florida area, South Florida, and I wasn't quite sure what I wanted to be when I grew up. You know, there's some obviousness based on my background and stuff that I could do. But I didn't have a lot of contacts down here. So I immediately kind of jumped into my local Society of American military engineer post to meet people and kind of keep some of those skills, soft skills if you will go and like networking, and then a little bit of project management. So I jumped into a couple of their big events to manage those and whatnot. While we kind of figured out what where we wanted to live live. We weren't sure if we want to go north to Detroit, I called Miami, the Coral Gables downtown but you know, all the fun stuff, great restaurants and whatnot, or if we want to move south to the keys and we ended up deciding to go to South Keith we live in alborada tavernier. So we're 40 miles ish south of the base and then the solid 60 where they were good air and a half without Miami traffic to Miami airport. So I guess your general idea so that being said, making an opportunity to have a full time job doing engineering project management or anything tangential to that difficult given his schedule with flying night flying and day flying and weekend flying and morning flying. You know, all that stuff. He doesn't like it I say this, I have to preface that because it's not his fault by any means. But lots of times with our son I end up it's like I single parent rule. So I have to, I have to think about dropping off picking him up and all that stuff, which is great. I don't mind it at all. But it makes it tough to have a nine to five job and say Miami or something like that because one geography and have to leave from really early in the morning. And then geography get back. You know, we'd have to problems have solutions, right? But these problems would cost money. So just kind of decided to go the 99 routes, you know, do consulting often on projects, help where I can you know, maybe even though Longer term thing, it's possible. And so I've done one of those, I don't want your contract, they're just great. It's great experience and whatnot, and then the pandemic hit. So now I'm kind of just picking up the pieces and seeing where I can where I can puzzle pieces. So the pandemic, in some ways has helped me, because I tell people, I can go anywhere, you know, for a week or two weeks. And often, you know, because I can always get someone either relative and to help a job status is gone, or whatever I do, you know, I just have to work from home. And so this is kind of the full pandemic thing a pieces can, I think made it easier for me to translate that with people as to how I can contribute to their projects. So right now, it's kind of a tweener in between,


Amanda Huffman35:36

which makes sense, especially with the pandemic and how it like, it affects everything. And I think sometimes we don't think about like how far the ripple effects are.



Yeah, so just enjoying my lab, I got certified Well, the pandemic was happening, and then enjoy where I live kind of thing and all that good stuff. 


Amanda Huffman35:56

And you also touched on something that I don't think I talked a lot about is being a reservists spouse, and how you still have like the military takes precedence, I think, sometimes think, well, people think, oh, you're in the reserves. So the military is like on the back burner, but the reserves still requires a lot of commitment and a lot of sacrifice from you have to have a supportive spouse to understand like the what the military asked for, and, and like you said, You don't mind it, but it's still something that you have to constantly, but it's like something I'm always constantly thinking about, like, oh, is my husband going to be here? Probably not. So I probably need to figure out, I'm sorry.


Kristina Selstrom  36:35

Yeah, you know, it's it's the best challenge and the worst challenge at the same time, I mean, your spouse is serving our country and preserving freedom. And at the same time, it's like, oh, this is painful. That's the hard part. And I didn't realize like, so flying. Much like I'm sure some of the other technical aspects is definitely the word, they have to you know, we have to keep currencies, and you can't do that in one weekend. So even if they're traditional reservists, the pilots, and in the meantime, like I said, people have to keep some sort of currency, or there's a project going on, they're giving a lot more than just one weekend, a month, two weeks a year, then there's things leading up to that and training to lead up to that. And then the one, you know, the one good part is they only deploy every four years ish, ish, depending. So we had a deployment back in what 2016. And now we're doing one right now. And so it's been nice, it's not been a normal activity, and then not as long. So I definitely cannot complain about that at all. So that's there's one value, you kind of can choose your own adventure type thing. But yeah, it is, like you said, from the deployments aside, it's a little bit more of a time commitment. And then you probably think walking into it, I'm sure you can make it as minimal as you want. And you can maximize it too. There's always there's, we'll just say there's opportunities for both, depending on on which adventure you're choosing, but it is a little bit more, you know, sometimes it's tough to get into that routine of the one weekend, a month, you know, the weekend before you want to rest up because you know, you're gonna work all day, all days ish, 1214 days in a row, and then the weekend after you're exhausted. And so I always feel like we have this one weekend, one weekend, a month where everybody's not tired. And we can go do something or do a project or, or whatnot. So that routine can wear on yet a little bit. But you know, first of all problems, right? And so we figured out, we managed it, we go on trip gretta you know, we live in the keys, you know, we can't complain too much.


Amanda Huffman38:27

I really loved talking to you. And I want to end the interview with one last question, which is what advice would you give to young women who are considering military service?



Definitely worthwhile to consider especially if you look back at the reasons I did between you know, adventure and scholarship and service and the scholarship doesn't mean to start with TC there's you know, tuition assistance for all ranks and patriotism, a sense of camaraderie, I'm still so that has such great friends in the in the military, and they, oddly enough, end up stopping by way down here a lot, which I loved. And definitely it's like a buoy you always know you have had somebody starting you know, from that emotional side. But I guess the advice I would give for people starting you know, that have already made the choice they're going in is something I learned a little bit probably the hard way and as I went and then price always still learning it is to set boundaries, and then choose when you enforce them. You don't always have to be the person who's like, you know, this is my boundary in front of everyone or and whatnot, you know, pick and pick and choose how you establish boundaries between subordinates, peers, bosses, etc. But don't be afraid to set those when you don't think constantly beyond feeling those those feelings, anxiety or whatever you want to call it that goes with it because you didn't say anything. And then when it happens again, it just kind of worsens, will eat away at you, especially when you're deployed. I mean, something I think I talked about in the post that I noticed is as a woman in the military, I felt very isolated when I deployed a lot. Sometimes I'd have other women there. Sometimes I would only have a minute For a little bit, there'd be times, especially when I was in Afghanistan, or I'd be in a tent by myself, and all the guys are having fun and, and I was under tents by myself. And if I wasn't 60% extrovert, that would probably be okay. But I always kind of had a little bit of maybe FOMO or, or just kind of got lonely or really just having someone to talk about as we talk. Yeah, so boundaries, and then pick and choose when you set them that you should set them even no matter what rank you are, and what rank they are. Most people will appreciate that. And understanding, at the same time appreciate when other people set boundaries. At the Joint Staff, I really was empowered to clean things and help with decisions at a very high level. Again, you get to pick and choose when you when you explain things that someone might be going wrong, where the emperor has no clothes on. That's that. But there's always a value to also be willing to let you know where your blind spot is for hunting. If I thought about this was one time I had to do a security investigation. But I also had to break a three star not want to fail on either one. And what I failed to do was go talk to immediate laughs and say, Hey, I don't think I can succeed at both of these if I tried it at the same time, because there's a deadline with the security briefings on a certain date. And they were very close to just not enough hours in the day. The job I felt like I should have, I should have done. I didn't count on one. Luckily, it wasn't the as not the three star ones. The security one, we had to pass it off to somebody else. It wasn't a fun thing to do. I'd gone to him it would have been let's pass that off to somebody else. opposed to you're taking, you're not succeeding either. So that's the power piece to derogatory comments and different things I could you know, the time I can tell you a story about a picture that was put up on a wall of me that I had to walk into a bunch of room with a bunch of Army Lieutenant Colonel's and tell them what they can, for example, and he a day and a half to have the guts to do celebrate other successes, pretty personal feelings aside, because we're all on one team. You know, there's reasons people get certain words or certain promotions and different things and never know, we never know what's all behind. That's what served me while I was always been just very proud of around me of their successes. And it certainly made me feel good about any of mine or my failures. But those are the people that are going to get you through the harder times or if you're in that situation, or, you know, just trying to figure out life like we're going to PCs Next, you know, or something like that. It's just it's important, from my time as a youngest to celebrate other people's successes. 


Amanda Huffman42:35

Well thank you so much for your time. I'm really glad that we do this interview and I'm excited to share it with everyone. So thank you so much. Thank you for listening to this week's episode of women of the military podcast. Do you love all things women on 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 could be a part of the mission of telling the stories of military women by joining me on patreon@patreon.com slash women of the military or you can order my book women of 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 a 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.