How do you follow your passion in the military? Don’t let the recruiter deter you from what you want to do by offering you a bonus. Make sure you know what career field you are interested in and then follow your passion in the military.
Elaine graduated from college and couldn’t find a job, and was living at home and working part-time. The bus stop was by a recruiter’s office and she decided to join the Army. The recruiter dangled a bonus and an early start day for her career and she took it instead of waiting to be a 46B Public Army Broadcast. Instead, she enlisted as a Morse Code Interceptor.
Her first assignment was in Hawaii. She enjoyed the location but was on a continual shift of rotations for her duty, days, mids, nights. It was tough on her body and mentally challenging. She didn’t enjoy doing morse code and had the opportunity to go to language school in San Francisco and learned Russian. By the time she completed her training she was married, pregnant, and had 9 months left on her active duty service commitment. She finished out her time and then she and her husband relocated to Illinois.
When signed up to serve in the Reserves she wanted to switch to be a 46B. And so she was able to switch career fields and enjoyed her career field. She deployed two times before 9/11 once to Guantanamo and then to Bosnia. But she went all over the globe for shorter missions. Because she was a homemaker it made it possible to go on the different assignments required by the Reserves.
She switched to the National Guard in 2000 and switch career fields to be an interrogator. In 2004, she was deployed to Afghanistan. Because it was early in the war she was able to travel to many different places in Afghanistan and really enjoyed her time serving in Afghanistan.
In 2008, she decided to leave the military, and in the middle of a recession tried to find a job. She was also in the middle of a divorce and struggled. Even with a master's degree and her veteran status, she couldn’t find work. Eventually, she got a GS-5 job as a secretary with the IRS. This job was an open door and she found her footing.
Today she works for the VA and recently moved from Chicago to Los Angeles so that she could follow her passion of being a TV writer. Her short stories and essays have been published in “Tupelo Quarterly,” “The Bryant Literary Review,” ”37th Parallel,” the anthology, “Powder: Writing by Women in the Ranks from Vietnam to Iraq” and many others. She won the Celia Baker Scholarship to the Longleaf Writer’s Conference in 2018.
She was an Austin Screenwriting Festival second-rounder in 2019 and 2020 and participated in the Writers Guild of America West, WGA, Veterans Writing Workshop in 2015. Elaine has also worked as a production assistant and assistant director on several short films, and as a contributor to the Rivendell theater production of “Women at War.” She is currently collaborating with a composer to write a short musical for the upcoming NewMusicalsInc (NMI) musical web series, “How Proudly We Hail.”
Website coming soon
Afghanistan through Pictures
When Public Affairs Changed – Episode 67
Switching Careers in the US Navy – Episode 76
Being Counterintelligence in the Army – Episode 53
Check out the full transcript here.
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Welcome to Episode 118 of the women in the military podcast. This week my guest is Elaine Liddell. She graduated from college and couldn't find a job and was living at home and working part time. The bus stop was by recruiters office, and she decided to join the army. The recruiter dangled a bonus and an early start date for her career and she took it instead of waiting to be a 46 b public army broadcaster, which is what she really wanted to do. Instead, she enlisted as a Morse code and a scepter. In his interview, we talked about her time on active duty or switch to National Guard and what she's doing today. It's another great interview. So let's just 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. So today, Elaine, I'm excited to have you here.
So let's start with why did you decide to join the military?
Well, I had graduated from college and I was very aimless. I didn't know how to find a job. My parents were like, very protective. And, you know, let me move back in the house. And let me find my way. And I had visions of this going on for years. And that scared me. So I was working. I was working like temporary jobs taking care of elderly people. And that was, you know, not what I wanted to do with my life. I'd been a film major radio, television and film did a lot of writing made my own short films. And I really wanted to do that. And but I had no idea how to do it. And so when I would come home from the elderly caretaker positions, one of them I went to it was right, the bus would let me off right by recruiter's office, you know, that's where you change the plus. And so, one day I walked in, and I think I wanted to be, you know, 46 Romeo broadcast journalist, but they dangled money in front of me. And I like an idiot went for the bonus, instead of waiting for what I really wanted to do. So I ended up being a Morse code interceptor.
That's how they get you with that money.
Yeah. Don't be stupid like I was.
Yeah, I think sometimes, especially when you're young, I think you see the money. And you're like, Oh, that's so nice. You don't think about like, this is actually a job I want to do. So I remember the recruiter was like, these are all the jobs that have bonuses. And it's like, wait, I don't think we should start with these are all the jobs like, what do you want to do? And then let's see if there's job.
Yeah. And they said, I had to wait. And I was just like, No, I want to go now. You know, and it was just like, this sense of urgency that really was not grounded in reality, you know, it's like, well, I don't have to go, right. That moment. Nothing was gonna happen if I waited for four months. But for some reason, at that age, I thought I had to get out now.
So you took the bonus. And then how quickly after you went to the recruiters office, where are you heading off to boot camp?
I would say two or three months,
so not not right away, but not very long, either. Yeah. Well, I
guess the 46 Romo, the broadcaster, almost like it was like, oh, you'll have to wait six months, and that this was like three and I'm like, Oh, no, I'll take that. And plus $1,000, before taxes
before taxes you learn to? So did you start preparing to get ready to go to boot camp? Or were you just hanging out waiting for your time to ship out?
I was not prepared at all. I had no idea about the military. I did have a friend in college who went to ROTC and she would take me to like rappelling stuff on the weekends. So I thought I knew something. But I knew absolutely nothing. My family was not a military family. The only reason my father was in World War Two was because he said he saw the handwriting on the wall. So he went and got into the Navy because they thought it would be a little easier on him. So I had absolutely no idea whatsoever.
So what was bootcamp? Like?
It was terrible. It was really terrible. I was very much an introvert. I was not coordinated. I couldn't March correctly. They made fun of me. I didn't have a I stopped having my period. I didn't have a bowel movement for like eight weeks. I didn't care. I thought well, two less things I have to worry about. Plus, if I gone to the drill sergeant with no period, they would have said you're pregnant and they were always freaking out about women being pregnant. And I thought my opinion of the drill instructor was kind of poor. I thought they were crass, you know, because they were using a lot of bad language. I don't know if I should say this, but they said we smelled like tuna fish. And one time I remember they were they were constantly saying how much we smelled. And I remember one time he was standing next to us, one of them. And he said, who smells and I just said, I smell okay. And I was just so angry. And so I remember walking into the bay, but before I came in some fellow, you know, soldiers were talking about me, it was all female at the time, okay. And they were saying, Well, I don't think she's stupid. So it was kind of a bad experience. I mean, people were nice to me. I mean, the girls, the women, but I was just really, really clumsy and uncoordinated, and I had no idea what I was getting into.
I was like, the worst marcher? Yeah, I didn't fail. The reason I learned was because I did an ROTC and like, nobody was yelling at me. But like, if I had to learn instantly at boot camp, my husband's like, why can't you keep in step and I'm like, I just can't do it.
It's something it's there. All people have all different kinds of intelligences. And I think I just didn't have that I did get better later, they did another thing where we would have us assemble and disassemble the rifle. And you would have to you know, and they kept doing it over and over again. And we were timed ourselves. And it was always the last one. Always the last one. Always. The last one is what went on. I got really nervous and my hands started sweating, which makes disassembling and assembling a rifle 100 times harder. And so it was just like this was a day after day after day after day after day.
So boot camp wasn't too much fun, but you made it through. Yeah. And then did you go to your next base? Or did you go to AIT?
I went to MIT. I went to Fort Devens, Massachusetts to learn how to copy Morse code.
That sounds really interesting.
Is it interesting or I mean, it's it's interesting in a way, but it wasn't interesting in terms of what I wanted to do with my life. It doesn't have much of an application in the kind of things I like,
Yeah, because it's just not broadcast media for sure. No,
no, you're listening to broadcast but you're not doing it.
So you went to MIT, and then you learnt you got trained up in what you're supposed to do. And then where did you go after that?
I went to Hawaii. And I was very excited because I liked this guy. And he was going to Hawaii also. So I was very excited about that. And I was at a field station to India. And it was next to Schofield Barracks in Hawaii, where they filmed From Here to Eternity, many, many years ago, the original and so you know, that went Burt Lancaster, Frank Sinatra,
who else Montgomery Clift.
So it was it was really cool. I really liked Hawaii, although I felt a little bit. You're on an island. I don't have any relatives, they're you know, it's kind of restricted. It's really hard to get anywhere, you know, other than another part of Hawaii, another island.
Yeah. So you were young. And then you were in Hawaii kind of isolated from everyone. Was there a good camaraderie between all the military members? Because these are all so far away from family? Or were you pretty alone?
Well, there was good camaraderie. But I felt like a lot of it was centered around drinking. And that was a problem for a lot of people. And I just saw like, there was just a lot of I felt like bad leadership in the waist like they would they had us on these, this weird schedule where you were working six days, six days shifts, and then you'd have two days off. And then you're working six swing shifts, which is like, you know, three to 11. And then you were working six mids. And you would just keep doing this. And it was really I think it was screwing up people's metabolisms, and physical and mental abilities. After the swing shift, it was only a 48 hour break. So they'd always have like drinking party right after that. And I'm thinking these people just finished working. Now they're drinking and they're all driving home. So I just felt like there was a little bit lack of direction. And there was no attempt to be like, I don't even ask people to slow down and not drink as much. It was just sort of like, yeah, you know, they're soldiers.
Yeah, that would be really hard on your body. They're like constant shift, like get to work like nights for like, six weeks, and then days, but like, you work it, and then you switch and then you switch, like constantly rotating. That would be really hard. Yeah.
And I knew it was wrong. I knew something was wrong, because they would have someone come in and give us a talk once a year and talk about how it wasn't bad for us. So then, you know, it screwed up.
That's like the military. Yeah, this is bad, but we're gonna just convince you that it's not bad because funny and horrible at the same time. So you liked being in Hawaii, but then you had this crazy schedule. And then it was a lot of the social aspects were around drinking. So it was really hard to like, connect with people. Well,
I mean, I connected but it was like people would get married like after knowing each other week or two, maybe they were, you know, more conservative and It was just weird. You know, I it seems like the the relationships were kind of dysfunctional. I don't want to paint it all negative. I mean, it was exciting. I flew to Japan, I flew to Korea, you know, I did travel, I went to Hong Kong, but it was a little strange, you know it that, you know, the relationships and everything seem to be on an accelerated path. And everyone was like, well, I you know, I can't go to Fort Bragg. I'm gonna miss Jo, let's get married. You know, it was it was that kind of thing?
Yeah, that sounds it sounds like the military. So how long were you there? And were you guys doing that constant shift the whole time? Were you at work? Yeah. Oh, man.
Yes. And you know what, there was a woman, they stopped making pregnant women do it after a pregnant woman work that kind of shift and actually hit another car head on on the way home from work one night. And I mean, I think the other couple were killed. I mean, it was she wasn't, but I mean, it was just really, really tragic. And there were several drunk driving incidents while I was there, but this was not a drunk driving this. She was tired. She was pregnant, you know that? That was not but you know, there was just so such a weird idea of what was healthy for you.
Yeah. So you were there? Did you go on any of your deployments while you were there?
No, I didn't go on any deployments until I got into the reserves in the guard.
After Hawaii. Did you get out or no,
I applied for this special program where I could go to the Defense Language Institute. And if I went and extended for 36 months, but they would only extend me for 35 months. They said because they said if it was 36, it would be like an enlistment. So I'm like, okay, whatever. And so they sent me to DLI, but they sent usually it's in Monterey. But at the time, they had a campus in San Francisco, where they were teaching Korean, German, Spanish. I think that was it. And Russian and I was taking Russian, so I went there next it was San Francisco Presidio.
Oh, love it. Nice. Yes.
We were in the old VA hospital. And so you know, the rooms I had my own bathroom. It was kind of nice, beautiful view, San Francisco.
I'm from California. So that's a that's a nice place to be so and you wanted to learn Russian? That was the language that you pick.
It was okay. I mean, I was you know, I, I was like, I just wanted to learn a language. And I wanted to get out of Morse code. And so I just thought love Russian sounded cool. You know, and that was one of the ones that was offered. So.
So how long was that school? Is that
that's a year, that's a year.
And then where did you go at St. Angelo
Goodfellow Air Force Base, because you learn, you know, you first you learn the language, and then you learn the applications for what you're doing in the military. So that was in Texas,
and how long were you there? That was like three months, I
got recycled. I've been recycled more than once. In a military course. It was very hard. It was really stressful. It was much more stressful than the language part. And you know, so I got recycled. And I was just like, God, you know, how am I gonna get through this? It was very stressful. And also they I remember, you know, how they do those evaluations at the I mean, this is army. So I don't know, but at the end of the course, and they're they, you know, they're saying, you were a good contributor to the class, blah, blah, blah. Well, they graded me on my leadership. Now, every other class I've had since then just not great on leadership when you're the student, you know, but they said I had terrible leadership. I'm like, I'm a student. What do you want me to do? I mean, I don't I didn't even know. It's like, they didn't this, you know, the instructor. Somebody just didn't like me. So it's like, well, I'll pass her but zero for leadership. Even though I was sitting in a class all day, I don't know. You know,
so you're like, what?
It's like, Okay, I get it. You don't like me? Okay.
That's a little weird. Yeah. So you may, well, you had learned Russian and then you learn how to apply it. And then where did you go?
I went to another course. Well, I got married right after that. And I went to went on my honeymoon to South America, because that's where I wanted to go Brazil and Argentina. After that, it come back and I have an add on course of four Devon's and I was kind of, you know, the thing is, this training had taken a long time that 35 months was just clipping by you know, and by the time I mean, I took it when I took the atom course at Devon's that put me into the next year, and I got to Fort Fort Polk, Louisiana, I only had like nine months left on my thing, and they were pissed. They were like, How the heck did you only get to sign up for this many months? You know, you should be here for another two years and you know, you wasted the Army's money and, you know, all this stuff. It was kind of I mean, you know, it was kind of maddening but it was kind of to me in my head. I was like, they're ridiculous, you know, telling me I should have asked for more time and also it was you know, for pokes pretty bad so I'm like, you're mad at me because I only have seven months left your jealous because you wish you could get out of here that quick?
Yeah, that's probably more money.
Yeah. So I don't know. It's like I played my cards right. So I could get out. You know, sorry, but you know,
Unlike you just did whatever they told you, it wasn't like you're trying to work the system.
And they told me I couldn't get the 36 months. I'm like, Okay, fine.
So after those seven months, you transition to the reserves.
Yes, I was pregnant, is that by the end? At that time, I had my baby at Fort Polk, because we wanted the army to pay for because we didn't have any health. And it's so got the baby, grabbed her and went up to Chicago. And I worked up the day I was in labor, they had been going around working. And I didn't even know I was in labor. Because, you know, my first kid, I had no idea. I didn't have an older sister, you know, friends that were pregnant that I was close with. And I was like, Ah, you know, it feels kind of uncomfortable. I keep having to bend over. And you know, and I remember at lunch that day, this guy was looking at me like, I don't know, I think something's probably I think, I don't know, you know, and that night, I had a baby. So,
so you're tough?
I don't know. I don't know, are stupid. But anyway, I went in Chicago, I joined the reserves. I actually got out in September, and by October, I was drilling, because the grandparents love taking care of the baby.
And that's good. So you got on September. Have you had baby right before you got out? And then you're already drilling? Yeah. Wow. That's crazy. And so you did the reserves. Did you stay in the same job? Or?
Well, no, that was one condition. I was like, I'm not doing I you know, I I didn't mind the Russian but I said, I want to be a 46 R finally. And so finally, when I got in the reserves, I did get the 46 R chorus. And if when it was at Fort Bend, Harrison in Indianapolis. And so I got that, right. A year after my daughter was born. I went there, and I got that finally got that course. It was great.
That's awesome. So you switch her builds. And then you start drilling. And then you went to your like a i t, about a year after your daughter was born. And then you said that while you were in the reserves, you deployed? I did green times, right?
Yes. The first time was in 95. And I went to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. And this was when the ball saros, or the boat people, people, when Cubans were leaving Cuba, and we're trying to, you know, these makeshift rafts they were using to float over on, you know, the Atlantic to Florida, and the Coast Guard was picking them up and putting them all on Guantanamo, in these different camps. You know, there was one camp X ray if you were like a bad guy. And then there are other camps were when they were checking you out. And so they had tons of Cubans there. And so I was sent there as a broadcaster to do like public service announcements, and to run the radio station and we would play like salsa all day. And then we've done these very kind of strange public service announcements. Like we had one like don't eat the iguanas, because apparently that was an issue we had. Don't dive off the cliffs because that definitely was an issue. I don't know. You know, people would just get, you know, antsy in the camps, because they were waiting and waiting and waiting. And a lot of them, you know, they got citizenship, they got their residency, eventually, it just, it just took a while. And you know, and the thing is, there were Haitians there too. And I mean, the whole It was very, very disturbing to me to see Cubans getting their women It was great. They were getting, you know, able to be a common American citizen, but the Asians, like, you're going back, you're going back. And I mean, I just can't put it down to anything but racism. I mean, I know people make arguments about the politics of Haiti or Cuba or whatever they want to say, but I just thought, you know, it's ridiculous, you know, but the Cubans were very interesting. They were very, a lot of great artists, and they would use things like MRI packets for artistic materials, for example, they would melt down the plastic and make sculptures.
That's really interesting. Yeah,
I wish I bought it. There was one thing with like barbed wire and then of a person's image. And then it was really, really, really cool, really cool stuff and an art arts and oil paintings and dancing and music and Gloria Estefan came and played Arturo Sandoval, Arturo Sandoval, like a famous I think, Trump trumpet player.
Wow, that sounds really interesting. Were you surprised when you found out you're going there? Or was that something that you knew was coming?
I knew it was coming. They had mentioned it. You know, I just felt like at the time, I was like, well, I never get to go anywhere. Good. So you know, I'll believe it when I see it, you know, so but it came down. So it was very interesting.
And how long were you deployed there for I was six months. It was it hard on your family or your job?
You know, at the time I was at a reservist slash housewife. That was it. And yes, it was hard in the family. Absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah. But I mean, I loved it so much that I tried to push that away.
Yeah, that makes sense. I think sometimes you have to do stuff for yourself, and your family will figure it out. And that's what they Right.
That's kind of what we did. And I don't know if I regret that or not sometimes I think I don't. Because I don't know, I just think that you need to, you know, just because you're a mother and a wife, I think you can. I think you can do things like that. I mean, it does. It's, it can get out of hand. I think that's what I thought I handle later. But at the time, it you know, this is just one thing. And they have the grandparents there and everything.
Yeah, so that was in 1995. Right. 95. And then you said that you deployed to Bosnia, Bosnia?
Yes, very evil. And I was also at the radio station there. That was really cool, because it was a NATO force. And so we work with the Germans and the French and the the Brits. And I think some Scandinavians and the Turkish and I was at the radio station, and I had a really great German commander, we really got along great Captain Mueller. And it was good because I didn't get along so well with the Bosnian ladies. They, you know, they kept talking about they'd have this young kid, you know, that he was I knew him. He was a nice guy before and it kept talking about how great it was when he was there. And I'm like, Okay, well, I'm here now. Okay. But they were just sort of like, but you know, Tom, or whatever his name was, you know, we liked him. I'm like, I know you liked him. Okay. But he was just after a while. He's just like, you don't have to go see those ladies. Just do your hair. Like he was cool. He understood. He did. He knew he knew what was up.
When was that that you went to Bosnia?
That was 98 to 99.
I guess. I sort of know my history. Yeah.
Yeah. It's it's a fascinating place, you know, and I worked I did some filming there. While I was there, I had my my Sony high eight camera. And this friend of mine that I'm still friends with. She made a film for for age, she introduced for age to the Bosnians. I mean, I that's the way I remember it. Okay, maybe it was there before, but I remember her she was saying she introduced it. So they did a film, you know, about trying to get Bosnian high schoolers interested in for age and, you know, agriculture and that kind of thing. And I was involved with that.
That sounds really cool. And so those that six months to that was nine months. Yeah, I think what's interesting is I don't think people think about how often the reserves deploy, or that they deploy before 911. I think that there was a lot of hype about people like the National Guard and Reserves deploying when 911 happened, and the wars kicked off, but you deploy twice before. And yeah,
I think there weren't a lot of deployments, like there between like the end of the Vietnam War, and maybe 19, the early 90s, there weren't a lot. But then after by the thing is 46. Romeo at the time was like one of the most deployable mlss, according to something I read, when I was there. And so that was we were in kind of a unique situation, where our skills were wanted, for whatever reason, but it was mostly like hearts and minds type stuff. And let's persuade people that you know, our presence here is not threatening, or you know, we're fun and happy people, and we want you to be happy and fun, too. And so that kind of thing. And so that was it was different. I mean, if you were maybe in some other MLS maybe wouldn't have seen it at that time. Absolutely.
Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Because the like the public affairs arena is a high deployment, like, especially after the wars kicked off, but that makes sense that they would be such high demand, because there's so much stuff going on. And just sounds so interesting, and so fascinating. And were you a housewife, when you went on that deployment? Yes, yes. Yes.
I mean, it was weird. Like, if I told people not in the reserves that I was, you know, they would consider the as a housewife, you know, and they would say, well, you don't work. You're in the reserves. But if I told someone you know, outside that I was in the reserves, they think I was full time, you know, so it was weird. You know, in the reserves. I'm a housewife outside, they're like, oh, you're in the reserves, you must, you know, all this stuff.
Yeah. That's kind of funny how the different viewpoints were. And so you deployed one more time. And this time it was to Afghanistan. When was that?
Elaine Little 24:08
Yeah. And I also had a lot of short term deployments. I mean, I went to Ecuador, Thailand, Panama. I went, I spent three weeks in St. Petersburg, Russia. So you know, I did a lot of short term stuff, too. But in Yeah, I went to Afghanistan in 2004. And by that time, I changed mlss to interrogator mainly because I topped out with promotions at e6 for 46 Romeo now, I think now I would have been like, I think I should have just stayed you know, you know, because going back into the interrogation stuff, it was, you know, I mean, it wasn't going back, but I wasn't starting it. I just feel like why did I want to switch but I think at the time, my husband was doing it and I was sort of I was sort of following him from unit to unit, you know, because we so because it was easier. And the only problem with that was you know, I just didn't have my own individual personality or perception of me was like us together. And so he was kind of like, you know, one of these people this like always kind of throwing his weight around. And so I felt like that hurt me a lot because people would be mad at him because I was starting to come into this. And I would be there. And they'd be like, oh, is why? You know, I didn't I did not have a separate personality from his for some reason. Our people could not look at me individually. But anyway, I went to Afghanistan in 2004. Yeah. And it was a, we spent a lot of time at Fort Hood, getting ready. And then we finally got there, like, May of 2004.
And your husband wasn't in the military, or your ex husband? wasn't in the military the whole time? Well, yeah,
cuz I met him at DLI.
And did he get out and do reserves? Or because you said, you're in your grandparents when you went to Guantanamo Bay, or they were his grandparents. I mean, his mother and father. And he's been in the whole time. He's still in the reserves, as far as I know, although he's IRR.
So you guys, were both in the reserves.
Then the guard. And then after I got out, he went back on the reserves.
Yeah. Oh, that was so confusing. I know. It's complicated. I think people think dual military is hard when you're active duty, but it's like it doesn't. It still has all these dynamics when you're a reservist or National Guard, just because like trainings and like the drill weekends, like you had the grandparents, so that probably helped out a lot. And you were gone all the time. You were home, but then you got to go to all these places for a few weeks. And I think it's just so interesting to hear about the reserve, if you have this, like one weekend, a month, two weeks a year, but that's no one I've talked to you. It's like,
That's what I did. That's like not since the early 90s. I don't think you find that, you know, or maybe I mean, maybe lately, it's been like that. I mean, I don't know.
Yeah, I think even today, it's not like that, because I heard an interview on a spouse podcasts, especially angle that I listened to with two preservice spouses. And they were talking about how much their husband was gone. And I was like, that's really weird, like, they're gone. So it's, it's interesting to hear about how the stereotype or the preconceived notion of the reserves is probably not that accurate. I mean, sometimes it probably is, but depending on your job and what you're doing, it has a big impact.
Yeah, and there's a difference between the reserves and the guard to, um, I found the guard very, very much more political, because it's state controlled. And so, you know, I felt like there was, who gotten head person was very, you know, who, you know, and that kind of thing. And so it was interesting to see the differences between the two.
Yeah, it's really interesting. So you were in Afghanistan in 2004. And you're doing an interrogation. Yeah. And I loved it.
I mean, I that was my favorite deployment was Afghanistan. I mean, it was early enough that there weren't as many restrictions. And I could, I was able to go out with the MPs when they would go on patrols on the weekends. And later on, I would tell people, like a couple years after man, like, we're not allowed to do that. Nobody is allowed to do that. And like, the thing is, if you get there early enough, they don't have all the rules in place. And then as they go along, and people make mistakes, they put the rules in place. And if one person does something wrong, then they don't want anyone ever doing whatever that was again, and you know, very draconian. I would go out with the MPs and take photographs. And I went to went to caboodle we bought rugs, went to a rug store, you know, all this stuff. And it was just great. We go to this, there was this grocery store on a, wait a couple, I don't know, some kind of international place. And then we go to there. And it was just a lot of fun. And I was able to go on a lot of those. And whenever there was a mission I was always like semi semi semi to the point where I was considered annoying because I wanted to go on all this stuff. But when we initially got there, the our commander was very nice, very conservative, did not want to send any women at first now this wasn't you know, army policy, it was just like, Well, you know, Wilson Sergeant so and so first and see how it goes. And so finally he let women go. And so I did get to go to gozney. I got to go to a SATA BOD for a month, which was fantastic. I loved it there. I got to go to Jalalabad with the Special Forces because they specifically wanted a woman to help out with the searching at the at the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. So it was just that was fantastic. I really liked it. fant Afghanistan, for the most part was a good experience. There were bad parts. But for the most part, it was a very good experience.
Yeah, so interesting, because I went in 2010. And my mission took me off base and like I remember people being like, how do you get to go off base I want to get off this thing. Because they were stuck on Bob Graham doing whatever it was and they wanted to go and like see Afghanistan and I was like well, I don't really want to go off base but I guess I get to and like I said it was like a totally different experience than people who like could not leave that.
I just think I mean, I just don't know how people could do it. I mean, I think it just would lead to all kinds of mental health issues just being stuck in your tent. You know, and, and it was just, I mean, I think Afghanistan is beautiful. I mean, some of the best photographs I ever took are in Afghanistan, just as big mountains. It's just fantastic.
Yeah, I agree. It's so beautiful, especially the northern part is I didn't ever go farther south than Kabul, but like, northern Afghanistan is so beautiful. So beautiful. I did a blog post, I'll link to it in the show notes called Afghanistan through pictures. And it's just like, pictures of like, the culture and the beauty of Afghanistan. And it's, it's so pretty, because I had a PA team with me. So I have a lot of pictures from all this fantastic. Yeah,
I must have taken like, 200 pictures. And it was just, you know, and I mean, I've used them in all kinds of things I've done since like, there was a book. I remember Chicago veterans of war, they use some of the photographs. I was in veteran voices, they use some of the photographs, you know, I've been, you know, getting them out there.
Yeah, it's really cool. That's awesome. Yeah, so many people don't have like, any pictures from their deployment, or they have like one or two. And I like, Oh, I have this whole CD that the PA team gave me went home. And so and I've used them a lot from my blog, and my podcast. So it's been great. So you really enjoy your time in Afghanistan and to see and do a lot of different things. And then you came home and how much longer were you in the reserves,
I was in till 2000. I mean, I was in the guard by then because I got in the guard like night like 2019 99 2000 around then I was until 2008. And I went for Warrant Officer 2006. It was it was a weird Warrant Officer course I went through it was weekends for like nine months, and then a two week period instead of going to Fort Rucker, Alabama. And so I went for that. And I got some bonus, I didn't care about the bonus, but it was just some silly bonus that they told me if I stayed in for 10 more years, but I left in 2008. Because, you know, I wanted to be a warrant officer, but I think it was more like my husband's a warrant officer. So I want to be a warrant officer. And you know, I don't know, you know, I think we were a little bit competitive. So I found the warrant officer corps being broken up the way it was not a good fit for me, you know, I made it through but you know, it was the height of the Iraq war. And I think they were just pushing people through, you know, get them on. And it just, I need to be immersed in something, you know, even though basic training was hard on me, it would have been terrible if I was doing it one time a week for two days. And so the whole experience was just kind of a sour for me. And once I finished it, I did like a year, and then I got out and then you know, then like, five or six years later, the state of Illinois because the Illinois National Guard comes back to me for the money that I was given to do, you know, extra 10 years, and I'm like, I paid it in one fell swoop By that time, I just thought Why am I doing this? You know, why am I doing this? You know, I? It's okay, but it's not really what I wanted to do with my life.
So what have you done since you left the military behind? And what are you doing now? And we can talk about most recent, or we could talk about both? Well,
I'll start lab labs go chronologically from like, after I got out, I you know, I hadn't worked a full time job, you know, other than deployments for many, many years. And I found it very disorienting. I did get I you know, I was applying for government jobs, because that's kind of all I knew. And back then when you left the military was kind of like, go federal, you know, it's just like, that's what you do. Or maybe state, you know, you go to the government. So I'm like, Alright, fine, I'll look into the federal government. Well, I got one, I got a job. And I can't even believe I got the job. It was with the Department of Labor. And it was a pension investigator. And I still don't even know what that is okay. And I had it for like nine months. And I didn't get any training. For the first few months, I just sat in an office and listened to the radio. And then we went to training in Boulder, Colorado, and it really wasn't training. It was just, I don't know, there were a lot of classes, but they were just sort of like talking to us and not telling us exactly what we need to do. So I thought I'll look around for another job. So I found a job with the state of Illinois, and it was with the film office. So I was really excited about that. And I did get that job. And I went there. And they told me something that you never want to hear when you get a job. And that is you know, after you walk in, and they say, Well, this is a new position and we're still figuring it out. Okay, that's bad, okay, because I couldn't do because they didn't know what they wanted me to do. I couldn't do what they wanted me to do. And I'm convinced although this may mean my paranoia at work, that I think I was, I was hired because I was a veteran and was considered you know, they could check that off for the year of 2008 or whatever. And then they got rid of me right before I went came up to my six months. You know, it was like that week on a Monday they called me in and so they were letting me go that Friday. It It was a weirdest thing ever. And I mean, in hindsight, I think it's kind of funny that week after they tell me, I'm fired, and I lied to everyone and told them Well, my daughter's graduating high school, I need to be there for you know, which I did. But you know, and they took me to a birthday lunch. That's that week, which I was kind of unenthusiastic about, but I played along. And it was, I mean, after that, I was just like, I can't work, I don't know where I'm going, what I'm going to do. I mean, I just, I just can't do this employment thing. Obviously, I've been out too long. I don't know how to schmooze. I don't know how to figure out how to do a job. And so I was on it. I mean, this was like, almost by that time, it was almost 2008 or so. And, you know, that was the recession, I had such a hard time finding a job, I finally found something with the census. Like in 2000, they were like the run up to the census. And when I finally got a job, and this was after applying to all kinds of things, I got a job as a secretary, GS five, with the IRS, which is, you know, most secretary, I say, I have a master's degree. And you know what the thing is, I You don't need a master's degree to be a secretary. But you had you needed a master's degree, to be competitive to get a job during the recession, at a GS five level, and a veteran, all this stuff that puts you, you know, higher up in the hierarchy to get a job I had. And so I got the GS five position, which was, I gotta tell you an excellent job. The IRS is the best federal agency I've ever worked for, or none. I mean, it was it was hard. I mean, I was I was, and I was going through a divorce at the time. So I'm like, I need to work. And my divorce lawyer was like, you need a job. And then I remember one time, she was like, can you get a job? I should have fired her. Anyway, I was there for a while. And I was with the IRS for a few years. And then I went over to eventually to the VA. And now I'm at the VA.
Yeah, the recession. That's crazy and bad.
You know, I don't think people remember but you know, I just remember applying and applying applying nothing.
I wonder if it's gonna be similar with like, COVID. Because I know there's a lot of jobs loss, but I feel like I don't know, I don't I haven't looked for a job since I left the military. Well, this, that you have a job. I do.
And plus, you know, you know, who's losing jobs that women are losing, women are losing jobs at a higher rate, because they're in the health care professions, and that more in the retail and more in the food, you know, service and all that. And so women are losing jobs at a higher rate than, you know, the men and I mean, I just it's a tragic, and you know, the health in the childcare thing. And people were quitting their jobs, because it's like, I can't do homeschooling and do my job, you know, and it shouldn't. It shouldn't come down to that.
Yeah, that's been really hard. Yeah, I I pulled my son out of school to homeschool, because the virtual online learning would have meant that I couldn't work because I was, I have a four year old at home, and then I'd have a second grader and I was like, I can't do this. So I had to find a new path. And we've been making it work. It's actually been a lot more fun than I ever expected.
Oh, yeah, I can imagine.
So you're Are you working remotely right now?
Yes. I'm working remotely for the VA in Los Angeles. As the homeless veterans outreach coordinator. I got the job after, you know, COVID restrictions were in place. I've never met my coworker, coworkers except through Microsoft Teams, which is kind of weird. And but I'm also the reason I came to Los Angeles I says, I said, I sold my house late 2019. I got rid of a lot of stuff. I transferred. I put in a request. I mean, I actually had to interview to get a job here in Los Angeles in the same thing I was doing in Chicago, but I've since changed the homeless coordinator, but that's what I initially did. And I got accepted in February. And then I came out here to pick up my computer. I had to come out for a week just to get oriented or you know, they wanted me to see me and all that. Then I went back then I came back in March to get an apartment because I you know, and I was still have my stuff in Chicago. I just sold my house. And when I came back in March, that was the week they started closing down everything while I was looking for an apartment. So I was just like I I took the second apartment I saw and I went back and then I got a text in there like you can't I have been working in the Chicago office. I was not working at home there because I was in the middle of moving and I didn't want to be you know, I wanted to be in an office. I didn't want to have my stuff in the moving you know area and they closed down the Chicago office. They closed down the Los Angeles office. I had no equipment other than my laptop. I had no monitor. I had no mouse, I had no nothing. So my ex husband gave me everything I needed. So kudos to him. He gave me a monitor. He gave me a mouse using the mouse pad and he sent me up in his basement. So I worked in his basement for two weeks until I could get everything together and packed in my car including two cats and come out here because I really want to be a TV writer.
Wow, what a crazy, like, that's a crazy COVID story. But that's like, I don't think people hear so much like so many people's like their lives just stop. But like some people in the middle of like moving across the country
And like and this was before I mean, this was planned before COVID it just happened all during the same Yeah,
Yeah. crazy story. Well, I'm glad your ex husband helped you out. Yeah, that's, that's good.
He's good as a friend, not as a husband.
Well, that's good. So I really enjoyed hearing your story. But I have one more question, which is what advice would you give to young women who are considering joining the military?
Well, first, I got to preface this by saying I never listened to any advice I was given. When I was joining the military, no one offered any but if they had, I wouldn't have but still I'll put in my two cents. I would say pick a job that you like, don't be enticed by money. Money is meaningless. Okay. It's not meaningless. But I mean, overall, okay. Don't worry about how much you're gonna make. Don't worry about, you know, oh, I won't have that bonus. Wait the six months for the MOS, you really want to do tell them? Look, I'm really interested in joining the Navy, Army, Air Force Marine, I really want to join. But you know, what, if you can't get this specific MOS for me, I don't think I can do it. Tell them that and then walk out. And maybe they'll, they'll probably call you. You know, I didn't know how to be like that. I don't know if I know how to be like that now. But I'm trying.
That's really good advice. I don't know if I'm like that either. But like, that's the best advice if you want to do something in the military. And they're like, Well, you can't do it be like, Alright, I'm leaving, especially if you have the asthmatic score and like, and all the like qualifications, and they're just like, you can't do it. It's like, all right, then I'll just go somewhere else and see what happens. Yeah, thank you so much for your time and for sharing your story. I really appreciate getting to have you on the podcast. Great. Great. 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 could be a part of the mission of telling the stories of military women by joining me on firstname.lastname@example.org slash women in 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 or the military podcast team to learn more all the links on how you can support women in the military po