Women of the Military

Losing a team member while deployed

Episode Summary

What is it like to experience losing a team member while deployed? Stacie opened up and shared about the loss of four members on her Panjshir PRT in 2009. We also covered the topics of PTSD, mental health, and moving forward.

Episode Notes

This episode is sponsored by Blue Star Families. The Military Family Lifestyle Survey is open until June 6th, 2021. Head over to BlueStarFam.org/survey2021 to take the survey today. You could win one of five $100 gift cards. The stories and information shared become the fuel and information leaders need to help create change that will directly benefit us and our families.

Stacie's dad saw a flyer about ROTC and that is how she began her military career. She needed a way to pay for college and ROTC gave her that opportunity. She said it was the best decision she ever made. And she made a lot of great friends. She picked the career field of Pubic Affairs because of her degree in Journalism. She started her career by being a Gold Bar recruiter at the Academy. Telling others about the opportunity to join the military through ROTC.

She attended Defense Information School (DINFOS) in Fort Mead, Maryland, and got her first opportunity to learn about the joint environment since all the military branches have their PA training at DINFOS.


She deployed multiple times. Serving a year in South Korea, working with NATO in Italy, and multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. Most of the interview was focused on her deployment to Afghanistan as part of the Panjshir Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT). I also deployed as part of a PRT so we talked about the difference between her pre-deployment training and my own.

I did a whole series about what a PRT is and have shared my (email) letters home. You can check out the series here. And read my letters here.

Losing team members

Panjshir was a relatively safe deployment. They could ride around in regular vehicles, but always wore their protective gear and had weapons. But they would need to make trips back to Bagram (the main base in Northern Afghanistan) to gather supplies, mail, and get people out for R&R. On May 26, 2009, four members of her team were killed when in a suicide bomber attacked the convoy. U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Mark Stratton, PRT commander, Army Master Sgt. Blue Rowe, PRT first sergeant, Senior Airman Ashton Goodman, PRT vehicle operator, and Abdul Samad, PRT Afghan legal advisor were killed in the attack.

Stacie had worked directly with Ashton both through the Women Affairs missions and helping her to get her work published. She also was the only woman officer on the team and that gave her the responsibility and the honor to pack up her things and send them home to her family. The event has had a major impact on her life and she has started a scholarship in Ashton's name for her high school.

The effects of war

We also coved the PTSD caused not only by the PRT deployment but the other deployments. If you are struggling with any mental health issues or need someone to talk to check out Episode 137 with the Cohen Clinic which talks about resources to help those struggling with mental health challenges.

Mentioned in this Episode:

Girl's Guide to the Military (Free Guide)

Girl's Guide to the Military on YouTube

Related Episodes:

Amanda Huffman, Civil Engineer - Episode 2

When Public Affairs Changed - Episode 67

Civil Engineering in the Air Force - Episode 136


Episode Transcription

Amanda Huffman00:00

Welcome to Episode 136 of the women on the military podcast this weekend is Memorial Day. Last year the week before Memorial Day I did Episode 75, which highlighted women who have given the ultimate sacrifice from World War One to present day. One of those women that I mentioned was Senior Airman Ashton Goodman. She served on the pin gear prt and my guest this week is Stacy shafran, who was on that prt with Ashton, and she told the story of what it was like to be on the PRT who lost a service member and not just ashen, Lieutenant Colonel Mark Stratton, army Master Sergeant blue row, and Abdul semaan were all killed in the attack that ash and died in so not only will we hear Stacy's story of serving in the Air Force, which she is still currently serving in the Air Force, but we'll also dive deep into her experience of serving on a prt and what it was like for her being on the PRT and having such a big loss and tragedy happened during their deployment. I deployed on the PRT two after her for Kapisa, which is really close to pan gear. And so this was a really moving and personal episode for me, and I really hope that you enjoy it. And on this memorial day, let's remember those who have given the ultimate sacrifice. 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. Thanks to Star Families for sponsoring this week's episode. The Blue Star Families annual military family lifestyle survey is closing on June 6. be a voice for your military community and take the survey today. The survey findings offer insight and data which will inform national leaders, local communities and decision makers who have the power to advocate for you and drive reform. It's an excellent opportunity to talk about what's working and what your family needs to thrive as a family that serves. I have already completed the survey and I would be honored if you could spend the time to take it today. Your responses are totally confidential. And the survey takes about 20 minutes to complete. And you can always stop if life gets busy. So head over to Blue Star fam.org slash survey 2021. And get your survey done before time runs out on June 6. And now for this week's interview with Stacey shafran. Welcome to the show. Stacey. I'm excited to have him here.


Staci Shafran03:24

Hey, Amanda, such an honor to be able to chat with you today. So


Amanda Huffman03:28

let's start the interview with Why did you decide to join the military?


Staci Shafran03:32

I love this question. Because takes me back to college. Many, many, many years ago. So I went to college in Boulder, Colorado at the University of Colorado. And my dad found a flyer about ROTC. And so neither of us really knew what that was, except he saw that it could help pay for school and somehow get me in the military. So I didn't really come from like Neither of my parents served in the military. So, you know, he, he's like, well, this could be a really neat opportunity for you. And so we ended up talking to the people at the ROTC detachment there. And I started the process and stuck with it for four years and commissions and then came into the air force that way. So I did grow up with parents who, you know, serve the community. I mean, my dad's job in the government was helping, like recruit people in and always, you know, he was always volunteering in the community and stuff. So it was within me to know that I wanted to go into some line of work where I was helping and giving back. And so you know, it all works out that way.


Amanda Huffman04:39

So your dad just found the flyer and then was like, Oh, you get your education paid for and then was it just Air Force ROTC so you don't look at any of the other branches?


Staci Shafran04:49

No, it was only the Air Force ROTC one so you know, it's interesting how things work out in life. That was the only college I applied to I knew I had to stay in state. I was really back into like journalism stuff in middle school in high school. And so I just remember talking to my yearbook teacher in high school and I was like, which school out of the two big ones in Colorado? Should I go to for journalism? And she's like older. And so that's where I applied see only one I went to. And Air Force ROTC was the only service Razzi program that I looked at best decision I ever made. I am still best friends with my classmates to this day. You know, I've been in the Air Force now commissions for over 20 years. So that was one of the best decisions that I made. And I credit my dad for, like, pushing me toward that.


Amanda Huffman05:37

Yeah, and there's a lot of people that I know who went to Boulder like, mark that who does streetshares and I think my friend, Nadia, yeah, she went there.


Staci Shafran05:46

And Crystal strim. Obviously, he connected us. So yes, those people that I know. And so I mean, I remember all of us as young kids thinking we're gonna take on the world. And you know, we are actually you know, Mark is doing great things. And Nadia is too so and so is Chris. Yeah,


Amanda Huffman06:03

yeah. It's just a small world that I like know, so many people from one two paths from, like, I have no connection to because I grew up in California. So it's kind of funny. So you've graduated, and use that the Air Force ROTC was the best decision you made. And you commission and so where did you go after you graduated?


Staci Shafran06:24

So I graduated, I was, um, I studied journalism in college. And so therefore selected me to be a public affairs officer. And before I began my public affairs career, I actually was a gold bar recruiter for a year. And so that was another incredible opportunity. I was stationed down at the Air Force Academy, there was an ROTC office there. And so I actually was able to still live at home with my parents. And I would just drive down to the Air Force Academy and go to work and travel around Colorado for the year talking to high school students about ROTC and the Air Force Academy. So I did that for a year. And then I went off and started my public affairs career. And I was at Hanscom Air Force Base initially, and that's actually outside of Boston, Massachusetts. And yeah, you know, I it's been a whirlwind since Yeah. And


Amanda Huffman07:20

did you go to? Is it den foes? And


Staci Shafran07:23

the Defense Information school? Yep. At Fort Meade, Maryland.


Amanda Huffman07:27

Yeah. And because I was talking to someone, she said that enlisted and officers go to the same school and and all the branches. So what was it like to go to something that was Joint Service? And was it officer enlisted in the same classes, or


Staci Shafran07:43

I think I'm trying to remember, I don't remember it being this, like, the rings were integrated in that one. I've gone to subsequent courses. I didn't post where the ranks have been merged. But I mean, I think I mean, I went like early 2000. So obviously, things have changed since then. But that was really, you know, probably one of my initial tastes of the joint environments, and I loved it. So the Air Force, our public affairs, people, that's your career, you don't do a different line of work before you get trapped in a PA, like, say, the army. So it was nice, because you are immersed with your classmates who have maybe been in a different career field before they get trapped into public affairs. And so you have the opportunity to learn about the services and people's career fields. And you know, we all fundamentally do the tactical stuff the same way, but obviously, the services, there's little nuances to that. So it was really neat learning about that early on in my career. And I enjoyed the course a lot. I mean, it was, in a way, it was a refresher from what I did in college. And so I mean, I did very well in that. And my classmates, you know, a lot of those people are people I still would call on today for, you know, advice or guidance. So, I know I said that earlier to about my ROTC classmates, and I think this is a theme actually, that I would carry forward. And what we talked about today is that, you know, building this network of people as you go through life is really, really important. Because you never know when you're going to need a community or have questions. I mean, I love being able to connect people and network and, you know, if someone needs help know who to connect them to. And so that was, you know, didn't pose was an opportunity early on to to start building that network, especially in the joint community.


Amanda Huffman09:27

Yeah, that's like, the best part about the military is all the networking and the connections and and how small it is. Because like, how many people you and I know and we we haven't met before, but we have the connections and it's kind of it's really neat how that all works. I guess September 11, happened shortly after you guys went on after he went on duty.


Staci Shafran09:48

So I commissioned in December of 2000. And I started in the Air Force in like February of 2001. And then September 11, happens and that changed the course of my whole career. That's all I know about All we know, you know, while you were in Iraq and Afghanistan became our missions, I just remember the day September 11 happening knowing like, okay, you know, raising my right hand and committing to come into the military, like, suddenly took on a whole new meaning like it, I made it very real. There were a lot of very real moments that happened in my career. So, yes, yeah, September 11. You know, it really shaped our generation, for


Amanda Huffman10:25

sure. and Public Affairs officers, I know play a lot because they're in high demand overseas, and, and at home. So how many different deployments Have you gone on so far in your career,


Staci Shafran10:38

so I've had the opportunity to serve overseas, in South Korea, and in southern Italy, with NATO. And then I've also deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan several times each. So I've been fortunate to have the opportunity to travel around the world and go to places you know, most people wouldn't and attend and participate in a number of exercises around the world to an in the United States. So I've really enjoyed that. I mean, just to be able to go to other countries and support our co coms or combatant commands and, you know, more joint environments, like that's those are been some serious highlights, you know, it's balanced some of the harder stuff that I've that I've done. Now, those deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. They're, they're unique, and they're special, but they are also very hard as you know, and understand. Yeah.


Amanda Huffman11:27

Yeah. And we both deployed on a prt, 


Staci Shafran11:30

I was in Panjshir province.


Amanda Huffman11:33

So Panjshir and cuppies are like they're not right next door, but they're pretty close. And Afghanistan. So yeah,


Staci Shafran11:39

you were right after me. So I was there in. Oh, 08/09. And then you were you said, 2010?


Amanda Huffman11:46

Yeah, I think there was one prt rotation between us.


Staci Shafran11:50

Okay. Yeah, the Provincial Reconstruction Team mission. I know, you've talked about it, I've heard you talk about it too. Like on your intro. For the podcast, it was a really special mission. I mean, if you could think about a deployment where you're actually like out living amongst the local population, and like really involved in, in what our mission was over there, you know, Reconstruction and Development and engaging with the population and couldn't have asked for a better opportunity in that sense. You know, my first deployment to Afghanistan, I was actually at the headquarters in Kabul it isef. And, you know, I was, like, on the compounds. And, you know, I was working in the media Operations Center, and I would see all the reports of everything happening around the eo are their responsibility, and I was like, Oh, I wish I was out there. You know, I want to be the one out there and funny how, you know, be careful what you say, you know, that happens. I had, I secured one of those prt missions, you know, and I got to experience firsthand what that was like. So yeah, I had like three weeks notice for that deployment. Actually,


Amanda Huffman12:54

I had 4


Staci Shafran12:56

my crazy, like, for anyone who's listening, who may not understand what that is, essentially, you find out one day, you just go into work, and you get this tasking that's ordering you to deploy, and you have three weeks to be gone for a year. And that was that deployment, like changed my life, the course of my life. And so it Yeah, I mean, the three weeks notice was not the biggest issue, and that would come from that. But uh, you know, it's, I think it's hard for people to relate to what that even means. You know, I didn't, I still don't have children, and I'm not married. But like, for anyone who has family, you know, you have to like, really figure out what you're going to do with your family, your pets, your home, your stuff. Like,


Amanda Huffman13:38

yeah, you have to do a whole like pre deployment checklist that's supposed to take you like weeks to do and you have like, three weeks. And plus, you're trying to get all your doctor's appointment, you know, firing weapons, getting qualified on all the different trainings, there's a lot to do and then to be like, and you're also only have two weeks and you're actually leaving. Yeah, I had about a month from when I found out to when I left to go to Indiana for a training. And I didn't have kids, I just my husband, but I just remember the first day being like in shock, because I was like, wait, why are you asking me to do and then getting the checklist and been like, oh, my goodness, I have like so many things I have to get done. But before I leave, and it was a little overwhelming. I didn't really have time to think about what was coming. Yes. Yeah. But that was common at that point. Like where we were in Air Force.


Staci Shafran14:30

I mean, the operations tempo was very high. People were deploying the dwell was very, like short, like, you would go like, people would come back for a little bit, they'd go again, and it was was very stressful. It was stressful on the people who were still at home, you know, having to carry on the mission. And then, you know, the people who were deploying and like, overseas So yeah, I mean, it's different now. It's slowed down. It's it's not anywhere near that, but um, there was intense I you know, I just yeah, that was stressful. So how do you relate? Yeah,


Amanda Huffman15:03

I haven't really ever talked about the training. But like my prt training was four months long and we did language training was yours similar length? And did you learn dari and


Staci Shafran15:15

yeah, so that's, that's cool that you were able to do the language part I wish I would have been able to do the following which part because I think that would have been really helpful. However, I think since it was such short notice and the way it all played out, they didn't have the public affairs people for whatever reason, like I didn't go to that language school in Indiana. I went straight to Fort Bragg. And I spent three months at Fort Bragg getting ready to deploy. And yeah, anyone who spent any time on Fort Bragg, I can relate to any stories you may have, like we were living in these old world war two barracks. You know, we were doing every imaginable training possible. And I mean, it was great training. But you know, it was three months, and then we still had the full like year to like, gone. So. Yeah,


Amanda Huffman15:59

yeah, that's really interesting, because I was just like we said, two rotations after you and I did my whole training in Indiana. I came out of it right.


Staci Shafran16:06

I can't remember they probably changed it at some point that I had been a camp atterbury. So I went to an exercise out there. And that's also kind of in the middle of nowhere.


Amanda Huffman16:16

Especially we were in training from November to February and it like snow. A ton. And we had to like do these exercises in the snow?


Staci Shafran16:26

Yeah. Yeah. So I got the opposite. Yeah, it was super hot and humid. And there were so many bugs. And we're in the woods. I mean, it was just like, everybody was just excited to deploy and like get to Afghanistan after that. So I'm sure you probably you guys thought the same way.


Amanda Huffman16:40

We were like, is this train? Oh, can we just go to this war zone? Yeah, it's interesting that it was that it's so long, and then that you both that we were both like, Can we just go over there so we can start the deployment?


Staci Shafran16:53

No, I mean, it's a like, looking back now. I'm like, how did how did I just accept, like, do that? I mean, obviously be accepted and do it, because that's what our job is. But like, wow, I don't know if you done anything before that. But I actually, I mean, I volunteered and I had a year in Korea. And so, you know, I thought that was a big deal at the time. Yeah, I think it's interesting how your perspective changes with everything. So


Amanda Huffman17:17

Sure. So pin shares in a relatively safe area of Afghanistan, or at least it was in like, 2008 2010 area, but there's still risk when going to war. And I know that you guys experienced lost on your team. So can you talk a little bit about that and how it affected you and your team?


Staci Shafran17:36

So yes, Pangea provinces, it was considered relatively safe, it was in a beautiful area of Afghanistan, I was very green in the springtime, and like the people were relatively friendly to us, we were able to travel around the province to do our work without having to be in Humvees and off bomber vehicles. So, but we were always still wearing all of our gear, and we would have our weapons. So like, we always felt safe within the province to and so this was toward the end. So we were due to rotate out of country in July of 2009. And we would routinely send convoys to Bagram Air Base, so that way, people could, you know, go to go pick up what they needed to maybe at like the bx or we would pick up our mail, and we would also get our food, we had to bring everything back in for our job, our operating base. So that's why we would send these convoys to Bodrum. And, you know, I'd been on a number of them never an issue to do those, we would take our Humvees and mix them in with our other like vehicles. So that way, you know, it was safe. But uh, we actually like it send people out. It was Memorial Day. And we sent a team out to go to Bagram so that way people could go on r&r, which was like a pass to go on, leave 10 so that the people going on leave, and everyone who needed to like resupply or get whatever, you know, they were part of that mission. And so I actually was originally supposed to be part of that mission, but then we'd received an Intel report that said that the route wasn't safe. And so our commander scaled back, you know, the attendees and because we didn't have enough of our vehicles to take everybody at that point. So I didn't go on that mission that day. And I like our team, they left early in the morning, and they got hit by a suicide bomber. So we heard that, that the incident happens through our communications folks who were Manning like our tiny little, like communications room. And so our bait like our little base, it was very small. I mean, our team was like 40 people so it was a very small little compound. And so we all like huddled in and like listened around. So we like hear what was going on. Then, you know, we could hear the panic and the commotion, and we didn't know, like, at that point, you know, if people had been hurt or what had happened, but um, you know, it was a, it was a very long, painful day. So we we did end up losing four of our teammates to include our commander. And yeah, so that was the day that like, you know, it changed and changed my life. It changed those families, it changed our Afghan local national who's working with us like he died in there, too. So his family didn't even know that he was working with us, which was common for Afghans, you know, working with Americans like it just it wasn't safe for them to disclose that. So yeah, so that happened. That was Memorial Day, weekend. So Memorial Day, may 26 2009. But it happens. And it was at the tail end, we'd had like a very nice kind of like down day where we were able to, you know, pause and reflect on Memorial Day. And our commander, you know, he, once we finished our work, he encouraged us to, like, gather and we had dinner and like, it was just like a really nice, like afternoon. And then you know, the next day, this is when that happens. And


Amanda Huffman21:13

yeah, when I was deployed, we got down days on like, holidays and still thinking about like, we had like a barbecue. And somehow they would find hamburgers and hot dogs. And it was like a special, like, we got to wear civilian clothes. That was like the big thing that our commander let us do that cycle where my hair now is always exciting.


Staci Shafran21:33

See exactly like, that's the magic in a sense of being deployed. I was telling somebody about this recently, like, I don't know, where people find things. I don't know how things just magically show up. But they just do. And it's really special. Like what you were saying, Yeah,


Amanda Huffman21:49

yeah. So like, I'm just thinking about the emotion of like the team of like having that day of like relaxation and a warzone. But it's I don't know if you can put it into words like how much stress relief was given by like having that celebration type day, and then for the very next day, like the reality of for to hit you. It's not that it will make it harder, but it just, it will be really hard to go from like one extreme to the other.


Staci Shafran22:17

Yes, you know, and it was, and it's interesting that you put it that way, because I guess I just haven't thought about it that way. I mean, I'm forever thankful that we had that afternoon, we had like a pie eating contest. And one of the guys who the math army Master Sergeant, yeah, who was killed, like, I remember like him, you know, in the pie eating contest, and like, we took photos, and, you know, there was a barbecue. And, yeah, it was just really special. So it was good to have those memories, because we didn't, I mean, obviously, you can't predict what's going to happen the next day. But um, you know, also, I think it was it was around that weekend to one of the missions that I had done was with a female Senior Airman Ashton Goodman, who also passed away, you know, she, she became like, my little shadow, she was a vehicle. She was one of our drivers. So she was like a logistics troop. And she, she was very young, she was like 22 years old. And so she was just used to always being around the guys and like mechanic stuff and being dirty and but she had like a, an interest in writing. And so she volunteered to like help me put together our team's yearbook and also help out with the women's affair stuff. I don't know if you had the chance to do that. But the males on our team obviously couldn't go and interact with the women, the locals, it's just not acceptable. So you know, it was pretty special to be able to go and meet with the women. And they would take back their burgers and we would like to sit there and have these conversations and Ashton like she would accompany me on on some of that. So I was fortunate to have like photos of her doing that. And she helped her get published. She wrote an article that got published, I believe on the airforce website. Like she was just very proud of these things. And I was very proud that I was able to just kind of help mentor this young airman and like, help her accomplish some some neat things and but I have a photo actually, of the airmen and our commander, so Senior Airman Goodman and Lieutenant Colonel Mark Stratton, they were on top of the hill behind our fog overlooking the valley and pans here. And we had done a hike, like our commander would let us go hike up this big hill for exercise and like morale. We don't have our gear, obviously. But I have a photo of the two of them. And it's just, every time I see that photo, I just wonder like, it's only the two of them. They both died. And I'm like, did they know? You know, I mean, it's just it was to, to ironic that I was like that I took that photo of the two of them like so close it there that so, you know, I was just like leading up to it. It was just nice to have had these opportunities amongst the mission to like spend time with these incredible humans. And document them and like create memories that their families could view.


Amanda Huffman25:04

Pa is such a pivotal role on the PRT. Because not only are you going out on the missions and you're sharing the story of the PA to like help get the mission of the PA out to the locals, you're also like, collecting our stories, and then writing articles. And, and like, and we had a Facebook page that the PA team was using. And so I know how pivotal and how involved the PA team is because you guys know so much about each and every person because you're doing likewise your story. And so I can see, and especially you have that special connection with Ashton helping her write an article and get it published. And so that that just must have been so hard to go through and, and experience. And I think I know, it's probably not easy to talk about, but it just gives a different level of insight to people to understand like, what it's like when someone on your team guys overseas. Yeah, it's a


Staci Shafran26:09

public affairs on admission was it was, it was really cool, because you're right, like, I did have the responsibility of telling our, our story. And I also had the responsibility of working with the, like, communications people within like our province, the Afghans. So like, I would bring our commander, we'd go to the radio station, and he would do interviews and reviews a translator. For anyone who's curious on that our interpreters were, you know, part of our family and our team, I don't think they get enough credit for the mission that we just finished and that we're wrapping up in Afghanistan, because we couldn't have done it without them. So lots of neat opportunities. You know, whenever my commander had meetings with the provincial leadership, like we'd go and cover that it was just showing this teamwork, and really just empowering the population there. And so it was nice to have a front row seat to that. And you're right, like I did, I really just tried to, like get to know everyone and help, like, tell their story back to their communities. And, yeah, so one of the unfortunate aspects, you know, when they were killed is that we had to pack up all of their stuff. And so I was the only female officer on our team. And I, and there were not that many women in general on our team, but I had the responsibility of, I was honored to have the responsibility of backing up Ashton stuff. And I mean, that thing really prepares you the three months at Fort Bragg, you know, didn't doesn't prepare you for, you know, having to pack up someone's possessions and know that they're going back home to their family. So a lot of care went into that. And I feel special that I was, you know, one of the last ones to be able to touch her stuff and like, send it back to the families. And


Amanda Huffman27:54

yeah, that's another aspect that I don't think people talk about is that someone, someone who's on your team has to pack up the stuff and send it home teams.


Staci Shafran28:05

I know, it's, it's so I don't I obviously like this is stuff I don't think about like as much anymore. And so, and no one I mean, this is like kind of stuff you talk about, like when you're at work, like just be messing with people. But yeah, there's a lot of interesting things that happen. I was part of the crew, you know, we obviously had a memorial at our at our little fob. And I think that that was probably one of the harder aspects of it, because we made a memorial with the, you know, you'll see these pictures were like their combat boots or with their dog tag and the weapons and we had a lot of people come to the farm so that way they could, like pay respects. So it was not a common thing for a prt commander to be killed. So it caught a lot of attention. And so we had a lot of distinguished visitors who would come and for the memorial, but someone you know, in the team made a slideshow and put all the pictures together. And I mean, to this day, when I hear this song by journey, like I can't, like, you know, and I think like, that's something to I've learned and I tried to like help people understand is like, your mind will forever lock on to some of these things. And so, you know, I think we mean well like creating these tributes or like associating songs or we're doing things but you know, when you're dealing with the effects of PTSD You know, there's a little things that will like be triggers forever, you know, I'll be at a workout like at orangetheory and I'll hear that song Come on. And I like like, I mean, I'm better I'm getting better about it now all these years later, but like, you know, it causes me to like go back to like that slideshow and like think of Ashton because it was set to her, her photos. And so


Amanda Huffman29:49

those are really good example of explaining PTSD to people who don't understand it because certain things that are really like a song or Like, for me getting stuck in traffic for some reason, sometimes I like freak out and like different triggers that happen in normal day life. Like I know fireworks is a big trigger for a lot of veterans. And like, even though you know that it's just song or you're just stuck in traffic, or you know, it's Fourth of July, and it's fireworks, it's still set you right back to that place. And so that's a really good way to explain it, especially for someone who doesn't understand what it's like. And it's stuff that you like you're working out, and then all of a sudden, the song comes on, and you're not expecting to be triggered and go back there because you're in a safe place working out. And then it's just No,


Staci Shafran30:43

yeah, I I appreciate you like saying that. Because you're right, I think no. So here's another interesting thing, like, first off, it's just an honor to be able to talk to another woman about this, I think so many times, like, what I've noticed is people don't associate PTSD, combat related PTSD with women, let alone a women officers. I mean, it doesn't, I forgot the rank women in general, like people don't understand that we like experienced this too. And, and we experienced it in different ways. I mean, everyone experiences hard things in their own way. So there's what I've noticed, though, is that a lot of times women don't have the opportunity for their stories to be told, or for people to understand that they're affected by it. And I mean, I just really appreciate that you've created this, like this safe space for us to like, talk about it, and actually just bring light to the fact that our women serving in the military, you know, we have these moments too, and they affect us, and a lot of times we don't talk about it. I think it's harder, and it's also harder, if you don't have like a visible wounds, you know, and I've noticed a lot of time being around like wounded warriors, or people who have been injured somehow, like if you're missing a limb, or there's a visible sign that you've been injured, you're usually a male enlisted member who's you know, somehow been injured. And so people this automatically, like, assume and know what to say or think, you know, with that, but like for our female service members, it's a lot harder. And I think a lot of us just don't we just keep it in and don't talk about it. And I've heard you how women like are like, people don't know they don't like usually know that you're in the military, whereas our male houses or friends, you know, the haircut, the image, and people are automatically like, oh, you're the defendant, and you're the service member. So,


Amanda Huffman32:32

yeah, yeah. When I first started collecting stories, I did a appointment series. And the last question I asked people was, what do people say when they find out you deploy it and woman after woman after woman said, Nobody knows I deployed because I don't talk about it. And I was like, nobody knows. And like the deployment series wasn't supposed to be focused on women. But that too filled out my survey. And, and so it ended up so I don't know what Mel's would have said, because I didn't have I only have one mill respond to my open call. And so I don't really have a good comparison. But for women, it was each woman who talked about it was like, Well, nobody knows. I don't most people don't even know I'm a veteran. And so and they had these amazing stories of like what they had done, and I was, that's how the pie started, because I wanted to hear more stories, because I was just so blown away by what they had done. And so you're right. We don't talk about it enough. And I think veterans in general, don't talk about it enough. But I think women definitely struggle to talk about it, which is


Staci Shafran33:41

Yeah, that's a so it's a beautiful thing. Amanda, what you're doing here, like helping the story, stay out there. And, you know, I just appreciate being able to keep Ashton's name alive. She, you know, was an incredible member of our Air Force. And she wasn't quite 22. Yeah, I said, I misspoke earlier. But I mean, can you even imagine, like being that young, and, you know, that's me, and she crammed a lot into those years. I remember hearing her stories. And so I'm just really proud of her and the accomplishments that she did on our team. And I would just love people to know that she died honorably. And she did a lot to like really advanced women's affairs and Panzer province and, you know, she, she took care of all of us. And, you know, I've been able to actually like, go to Indiana, and she's buried outside of Indianapolis, and I've seen her grave and one of the special things that I've been able to do over the past few years, I set up a scholarship in her honor. And it's set up at her high school where she graduated. And so every year now for the I think this will be the third year we award some scholarships to some graduating seniors. And, you know, it's just I knew I needed to do something. And I know people are like, well, there are other people who passed away. Yes, there were, you know, Lieutenant Colonel Stratton, he left behind his wife and children and army Master Sergeant blue row, the same you know, left behind his His family and I assume was very young. I mean, it was just her so and are often legal adviser, you know, his family in Afghanistan had to personally deal with that. But like I noticed what I was noticing is that Colonel Stratton there was you know a room in the Pentagon named after him there was a street in at Offutt Air Force Base named after him. And I'm sure that the army, you know, did similar things for Sergeant row. But like, I started to wonder like, why? So, like, why are we not recognizing her? And, like, why is it so hard to get females who have passed away, like recognized with these these same things, so someday, I'm going to have something really, really big named after her in Indiana, or in the Air Force, it's going to happen. But um, I started with the scholarship at least. And so that's where we are with that. And I'm, you know, it's an honor to be able to raise the money. And I have a team of people in Indiana who helped me and it's turned into a special thing


Amanda Huffman35:54

that's really cool. An f 16 pilot that we actually went on a trip to Norway the summer before he proposed the fall before he died and an F 16. crash, and they have a Memorial Fund for him and, and they have a run that we participate in. And it's just the Luke Luke grantor Memorial Foundation. And I think it's just, it's when you know, someone who died, especially when they're close to you, like you had a special relationship with Ashton and Luke is the only person I know who's died on active duty, but like, he really changed Memorial Day because I finally got it because I knew someone. And I knew his family had to go on without them and how hard it is. And so that's, that's why I'm so passionate about talking about the stories of people that died, and especially women, because there's not enough stories about women. And there's this whole like, idea that women weren't in combat until, until like, recently. And it's like, no, that's not how it works. And so I just, I'm really passionate about talking about our stories, because I want people to know, and to help people understand, like, why women are doing amazing things you're doing is because we've always done it, and we just now have the opportunity to do that.


Staci Shafran37:13

Yes, that is spot on Amanda. I mean, so many of our, like, women, I mean, it's like I give so many of these women credit, like they have families and children and, you know, you have the sadness of leaving your like little kids behind. And I mean, I've seen it, I know you have to and I feel like they carry for probably even more like pressure and like guilt about it. But they do it because they love it. And they love serving our country. And they're great at what they do. So I I know, you will never have a shortage of stories to tell about all these about all these women.


Amanda Huffman37:45

That's, that's for sure. I have a long list of people, which is great, because my biggest fear when I started the podcast was I was like, how am I gonna find people on the podcast. And now I'm like, I have too many people. Which I don't have to be, but I just don't have enough bandwidth to do as many podcasts as I have people waiting.


Staci Shafran38:04

So that's, I mean, everything happens, you know. So at least you're doing it, which is more than like most people. So.


Amanda Huffman38:13

So I know, we spent a lot of time on the PRT and talking about action. But I felt like it was really important to talk about that aspect of your military story. But is there anything from your time in the Air Force, either before or after the PRT that you want to? In the interview? stuff? One more question. But in the interview talking about you?


Staci Shafran 38:36

Yeah. I mean, I know, most people would probably, like hear something like this and think, Wow, like, how do you like how can you like continue to do this, I mean, I still like I have one more deployment. And even after that, it's Iraq in 2011. And, like, we closed on, like, our mission there. And that was also very hard. But it was, like, I think back to the stuff we accomplished, like, again, opportunities that no one will ever have, like, are very, like, special to me. And so I think, you know, for anyone who's listening this who's like thinking about the military, and, you know, you hear like these hard things that happen, like, there's just, there's so much more to it, though, you know, it's the people that you meet, it's the opportunities you have, it's the chance to really grow and be pushed, and to lead and to make decisions and to take initiative. And, you know, these are not things that I've seen are common in the outside, like outside the military. And so I just, I'm very grateful for the opportunity to have grown up in this environment. And, you know, I, I didn't like grow up thinking, I'm gonna be a fighter pilot, and I'm gonna go to the Air Force Academy, I'm gonna do this, I'm going to do that. Like those were all very foreign things to me, but like, this was my path. And it it was hard. But it brought me here and I'm very grateful for it. So I would encourage people to Do things do the hard things that push you out of your comfort zone, and then get back up when you fall back down? Because that's life. I mean, you have to make the decision to keep moving forward. I know too many people who have made the decision not to and like, that's not. not okay. You know, and I mean, I'm happy to come back on Sunday, you know, if you ever want to talk about what it's like to go through therapy for PTSD, or, you know, have those dark days, but like, I'm gonna let people know you, you have to, at some point, if you want to get healthy and move forward, like except that you can go to therapy, people will help you. And you'll develop like a really good resiliency, like toolkit, so that way, when you do have those hard days, you know, like, you can get through hard things, because you've been through harder things. And, you know, I mean, I have a few decades now under me, so I have that perspective. But I can see why it's hard for you know, our airmen who are probably in their early 20s, who don't really have a lot of life experience, or, you know, anyone who's listening to this, who's, you know, still very young, like, you could imagine, like, you know, something happens, you're like, this is the end of the world, like, I don't know how I can go on or, you know, this breakup happens, or I didn't get this job, or, you know, someone close to me died, like, I can see why it's hard for people. But I promise you, if you go to therapy and dig deep, and you reach out and you share your story, like you inspire other people and help them through their hard times today.


Amanda Huffman41:28

And this episode actually has really great timing, because next week's episode is with the Cohen veterans network. And we talk a lot about the free resources they offer to post 911 veterans, active duty servicemembers and their families to deal with any sort of mental health problem that you're facing, especially PTSD, or anything military related, but it doesn't have to be military related. If you're struggling with your mental health, and you need help reach out to the Cullen veterans network, you can go to Colin, veterans network.org slash clinic to find a clinic near you. There's almost 20 clinics nationwide. So it's a great resource to help you and go check it out now. And if you want to learn more, come back next week for that episode, which will go live on Tuesday, June 1.


Staci Shafran42:23

I love that you're not? Yeah, I mean, I don't want anyone to be deterred. By listening to a conversation like this, I mean, that you're gonna have risks in life, no matter what job you go into. So serving in the military is an honor, I want people to know that you can't buy your way and you can't pay any amount of money to put on that uniform. So you know, serving is truly an honor. And, and it's it's very difficult to come into the military, especially right now. You know, we're, we're heavily manned right now. So we're, like, it's interesting. So if you're thinking about it, it's a serious commitment. But it's very special, very rewarding.


Amanda Huffman42:58

Do you have any last advice that you want to pile on for women who are listening or considering joining the military,


Staci Shafran43:04

I would encourage you to reach out, talk to other women who have served at their perspectives. And then know if it's something that you're really interested in, pursue it, you'll be doing something that most people in our country will never do. And I guarantee you, it'll help you grow, get experience, and it will shape your future self. So I'm an advocate for it. But I also know that, you know, there's challenges that come with it, too, like any job. So do your research. Reach out to people like Amanda and I and you know, a lot of the other people that women that she's interviewed and, you know, we're always here to help. I think that's what's special about our, our women, like community, like we want to help guide people and like, so if you're interested, ask us someone will help you.


Amanda Huffman43:52

Yeah. And if you're interested, and you have questions about the military, I have a Girl's Guide to the military. So I'll link to that in the show notes. And I also have a girls guide to the military YouTube channel where I'm working to cover different topics and trying to get more information out there to help women who are joining the military. So go check that out. And I'll link to both of those in the show notes. Thank you so much for being a guest on the podcast and talking with me about a really hard topic, but really important topic. I


Staci Shafran44:21

really appreciate it. Thanks, Amanda. I thank you to all of your listeners too. It's a really special community that you're part of and that you've created.


Amanda Huffman44:35

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 patreon@patreon.com slash women in 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 military podcasts are located in the show notes. Thanks again for listening and for your support.