Welcome to Women of the Military Podcast for a Bonus Episode in Partnership with Military Officers Association of America (MOAA). Today’s guest, Rachel Johnson is currently serving in the US Coast Guard and is part of MOAA’s Advisory Committee. Rachel began her career in the military in the Marines. She enlisted and served for eight years before becoming an officer in the US Coast Guard. She says the thing she is most proud of from her career is seeing the Marines and Coasties who have worked under her succeeding in life. She hopes she had a small part to play in their ability to move forward and have success. She also enjoyed working on Hurricane Response with the Coast Guard. It was one of her first assignments and was a quick way to dive into the role and scope of the Coast Guard.
Since 1929, MOAA mission has been to protect your earned military benefits. Through tireless advocacy, they have forged a legacy of success benefiting the entire military community. Become a member today, click here.
MOAA Advisory Committee
Rachel serves on the MOAA Active Duty Advisory Committee. She applied for the position while living in Northern Virginia and loves that she represents not only the Coast Guard but military women. Her husband a male military spouse also has his voice heard through her representation. The goal of the advisory committee is to give a voice to military members to help keep MOAA aware of current issues service members and military spouses face. There is also a Military Spouse Advisory Committee.
Storm the Hill
MOAA is active in Advocacy on Capitol Hill and one of the responsibilities of Committee members is being part of the annual storm the hill event. Storming the Hill means a number of MOAA members and spouses come to Capitol on a specific day to talk to Congress members about various legislations that are being worked. When Rachel stormed the hill in 2019, they were advocating for removing the Widow’s Tax, and through the advocacy of MOAA and others, the legislation was changed. She also was able to participate virtually, due to COVID, and had a chance to meet with a congresswoman who normally didn’t meet with MOAA members because the MOAA representative was often a white male. Through her advocacy, she was able to bring a diverse voice to the table and help represent more military members.
But MOAA is more than Advocacy
Next, we discuss some of the benefits of being an MOAA member ranging from transition services, hiring symposiums, scholarships, no-interest loans, the Military Officer Magazine, and numerous virtual webinars. MOAA does so much on Capitol Hill, but that is only the beginning of the story of the work MOAA does.
Why Join MOAA
MOAA needs all Officers to join to ensure their voice is heard. You can become a free member though the BASIC membership where you will be informed through newsletters of the work being done, can be involved in chapter and council membership, and have exclusive discounts on products and travel. If you want to get more out of your membership look into the Premium and Life Membership options. Benefits include scholarships, interest-free loans and grants, advice on financial education, military pay, and benefits, career transition, and a monthly subscription to the Military Officer Magazine. Check out all levels of membership here.
Mentioned in this Episode
Join MOAA Today!
Widow Tax Repeal
MOAA Job Board
No Interest Loans and Grants
Military Officer Magazine
Advocacy with Military Officers Association of America (MOAA)
Read the transcript here.
Amanda Huffman 00:00
Welcome to the Women of the Military Podcast for another bonus episode in partnership with the Military Officers Association of America MOAA since 1929. MOAA's mission has been to protect your earned military benefits through tireless advocacy. They have forged a legacy of success benefiting the entire military community. Today's guest, Rachel Johnson, is currently serving in the United States Coast Guard and as part of the MOAA Advisory Committee. In today's interview, we talked about the role she plays as one of the members of the advisory committee storming the hill and how and why you should get involved in MOAA. You can sign up to be a member of MOAA firstname.lastname@example.org dot org slash for the people. I can't wait to share this episode with you. So let's get started. You're listening to the Women of the Military Podcast where we share the stories of female servicemembers and how the military touch their lives. I'm Amanda Huffman. I'm an Air Force veteran, author of Women of the Military, and a collaborative author of Brave Women, Strong Faith. I am also a military spouse and Mom. I created the Women of the Military Podcast as a place to share stories of military women 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 of the Military. Welcome to the show, Rachel, I'm excited to have you here.
Rachel Johnson 01:43
Thank you, Amanda. I'm so excited to be on today.
Amanda Huffman 01:46
So let's get started with Why did you decide to join the military?
Rachel Johnson 01:49
After college, I went into real estate and I was in real estate and coaching cheerleading for about a year. But that was back in 2008. In the market crashed. So early 21. I didn't quite wasn't quite established. And I had a friend that was in the Navy and a friend that was in the Army. And I figured you know, join the military. It'd be fun. You know, I'm smart, I'm fit, I could totally do this and ended up enlisting in the Marine Corps and shipping out from there. It was a way to kind of find a new way forward when you know, your whole world comes crashing down at 21. You think you had everything set up and it wasn't. So I didn't think 12 years later here. I am a commissioned officer in the Coast Guard. So I'm really excited about where the journey brought me. Yeah, you went from Marines to Coast Guard and from enlisted to officer. So that sounds like such an interesting experience. It was I did just shy of eight years enlisted in the Marine Corps. And I applied for a direct commission with my field of intelligence for the Coast Guard and I was accepted into the Coast Guard. So it was a really neat experience. Three years earlier, I actually started the process of taking commission with the Navy, but then the government shutdown so they stopped assessions. And then I had my daughter and when I was still doing more research, and then I came across the Coast Guard commissioning program and put in for and was accepted the second time around. So I'm really excited. And it's been a really amazing experience to be both Marine Corps Coast Guard enlisted and officer.
Amanda Huffman 03:28
Yeah, sounds like I need you to be on the podcast so he can talk more about your story. Let's do one quick question about your military service. Is there anything from your career that you're particularly proud of that you want to share with us?
I'm particularly proud of when I see former either Marines or Coast Guardsmen now that I've been in both services when I see them succeed in life, either they've gotten out and they're succeeding, or as they move up in their career, I think that's the most rewarding because, in the back of my mind, I would like to think that I had a part in their success and that, you know, hopefully, something I did when I was their superior helped them. So that's really an amazing part of it. I got to be part of the 2017 hurricane season response. And that was, you know, jumping in with the Coast Guard with both feet. And being put on that team, you know, the lives we saved. And I mean, we did hurricane response over 10 states territory's region. I mean, it was phenomenal to it was a different mission set from what I was used to almost eight years in the Marine Corps. So that was really neat.
Amanda Huffman 04:37
Yeah, that sounds really interesting. So let's talk about what your role is on the Military Officers Association of America Advisory Committee.
So I am I one of 12 on the currently serving Advisory Council, and I'm also an active duty liaison for the Alamo chapter here in San Antonio, Texas. For the local MOAA chapter, but for MOAA International, being on the currently serving Advisory Council, there are 12 of us representing all branches of the uniform service. So all seven of us, which is amazing, and we work with the board of directors and MOAA staff for different topics, and then we also work hand in hand with the currently serving spouses Advisory Council. And we usually split half and we'll take two topics and we'll run with it and come up with you know, try to be innovative with decisions to help kind of move MOAA forward, what's best for our communities, what's best for the military families, how can we get up our leadership or our membership and how we can do picking legislative topics that are current and relevant of first storming the hill. So part one of our yearly topics is coming up with what's challenging servicemembers and their families and retirees and spouses and surviving spouses with topics that we can bring to Congress to help change either the NDA or right this year, we did it virtually. But we still participated. And it was really important to work on the health care reform for service members. It's been an amazing experience. You serve a two-year term, there's a selection process an application selection process, and I mean, it's a great group of people both on the currently serving and the currently serving spouse side.
Amanda Huffman 06:32
Yeah, you said storm the hill and I a few years ago, I heard that and I was like, What are you talking about? So can you explain in like, layman's term, what storm the hill means? I feel like you kind of explained it when you were talking about what you're doing. But I just think it'd be better if people are confused about what that means.
So storm the hill is the branding we use for once a year and that we're shooting for twice a year. So a summer storm the hill where we contact all the congressmen and women and conduct in person or right now it's virtual, but historically, we have meetings with them to discuss what our topics are, what our goals and what we're asking them to advocate for us for comes to congressional legislation. So we 2019 was awesome. So my first year participating, and luckily I was stationed up in Northern Virginia. So got together there are people that came in from every single state MOAA members that came in from every single state. And we all got together and joined up in teams and literally went from office to office on Capitol Hill and went from meeting to meeting to advocate for all members of the military. And even though there were Military Officers Association of America, this was for we advocate for everyone enlisted officers family, you know, retirees in 2018, one of our topics was repealing the widows tax that had been plaguing a lot of our surviving spouses. So you We just want equality, and we want fairness. And this is our way of going about it. And then this year with 2020. And everything COVID. It was really it was different. But we still held zoom calls we still scheduled with the congressmen and women and really neat in 2019, there was Pima was on there's a Congresswoman that would never take in-person meetings for storm the hill because she didn't take calls from the traditional what you would think MOAA member, older white gentleman, and then when I contacted her scheduler and I was female active duty. So I was the first one that she was able that she offered to take a face to face meeting with because I was an active-duty female other than what traditionally comes into her office. So instead of just one of her staff members taking notes, I thought that was really neat. And I didn't know till after the fact when I was told by one of the team members that no one's been able to get a meeting with her until I had sent a request. So that was a really huge honor to be able to sit down and do that. And you know, I was just there doing my duty of advocating and serving the community.
Amanda Huffman 09:20
Yeah, that's really cool. That sounds so awesome. And you mentioned the widow's tax, and Weren't you guys successful and repealing it?
Rachel Johnson 09:28
We were successful, and we're repealing it. So that is a huge, huge honor just to know that if I was part of any of it, and that's really what we go there for and we were, you know, hearing, we got to sit down and hear from a few of the spouses that had been affected by it. And I mean, their stories were so powerful. So I am so grateful, deep down in my heart that you know, I went with a purpose and I was passionate about it and we all were and to be able to repeal it is fun. nominal.
Amanda Huffman 10:00
Yeah, it is. So what sort of impact Have you seen MOAA make to help veterans, service members and their families. I mean, you talked about the widow's tax and storming the hill, but any particular issues?
Rachel Johnson 10:13
As far as issues, I feel like MOAA is very strong in their networking and transitional services. I mean, they have tons of training, and they have so many offers on financial literacy, retirement, even if you're getting out, but you're not retired, I mean, the transition process the hot they have this hiring symposiums every year, which are from other job fairs, and then scholarships, the foundation that has the scholarships, and they also have no interest loans for college, which is a huge benefit to its members in general. So I think that there is so much more that MOAA gives. And it's a nice balance between for the currently serving the former retired surviving spouse, whoever it may be, there's actually something beneficial for everyone. And their publication, the military officer magazine is I mean, always comes out with phenomenal content, month out every time it gets published the magazine, I mean, they highlight author, you have members that are authors, you have more members that are doing have moved on from their careers and are doing phenomenal things. And they always do a great job at highlighting that. And then also putting people in contact. So the resources that are offered are very broad. And you know, I hope more people take advantage of them. Even during quarantine, now, they've been having virtual webinars on all different topics for both active duty that are helpful, those transitioning, and those retired. So even being able to still get content and mentorship via the webinars. So you know, we haven't quite slowed down.
Amanda Huffman 11:57
Yeah, I think that's so important. I think sometimes people think that the only thing that you guys are doing is stuff on Capitol Hill. But there's so much more to it. And I'll put links to all the resources that you mentioned. So people can go and find them in the show notes easily and get more involved. So why do you feel it's important for service members and veterans to be involved in MOAA?
Rachel Johnson 12:21
Well, I think it's important because you it doesn't continue to run without the support and interaction with the military officer community. And I really think that it's important to have the innovative mindsets that that are coming with the up and coming officers and then also the wealth of knowledge that former and retired officers have to keep MOAA relevant. And they do a great job. I mean, we have some phenomenal members. And being part of this community and the spouses to spouses and family, I have really stepped up I mean, we've got social media influencers that are members and just kind of keeping our voice heard that we are more than advocacy where you know, because there are some people that don't necessarily want to get involved with the politics side of it, which we're not, we're here to do what's best for everyone and make sure that our voices heard. But then the family side of it, you know, we need the donations for the foundation. So we continue to offer scholarships, and then the chapters as well. I mean, you go to some remote parts of the country, and you're not alone, you still have a group, there's a network. I mean, we PCS down from Virginia to San Antonio a year ago, and I got linked up with the chapter after being up with MOAA International, I'm still on the currently serving, but it was nice to be able to walk into a community and open arms and resources. And from there, you know, being other members of the community. And it's just a way when you go especially active duty when you do PCS, or change stations from base to base state to state you have that network in that family that will welcome you with open arms. And it also serves back to the community. I mean, we were the food bank was short on volunteers. So they've reached out to set MOAA and we were able to get people from the basis to volunteer both enlisted and officer but that's why I think it's important because we're basically just connecting people and it's all positive. I mean, everyone wants to do the right thing. And I think that's what is great about our membership community.
Amanda Huffman 14:31
Yeah, it's great to hear it's such a resource for those like when you move because my husband's still in the Air Force. And part of the reason that I haven't gotten involved in like chapters is because I'm like well I'm gonna move and I have to start all over. But maybe I need to rethink that and realize like, that's an open door to like making networking within the community right away instead of doing it on my own. I think that's really valuable and something that a lot of times we get stuck in our I'm just going to be free here for a few years. So I'm not going to do all these things but it sounds like that's an open door to get you connected with the community so quickly and meet people.
Rachel Johnson 15:07
It said I mean, I know every command has or you know, Family Resource or ombudsman or, or what have you for the unit. But with the MOAA chapters, I feel it a really great opportunity to be welcomed in kind of have an automatic family as you will, that they have resources and they know about, you know, the ins and outs, because especially a lot of the retirees are, are the board members. So there's a way to kind of immerse yourself without because normally we're hesitant, you know, I'm not here, I just do wave tops until I get my next assignment. And that's not the case. And the other thing about my work, which I definitely think it's worth the mentioned is, you know, between the currently serving and then the currently serving spouses MOAA has had an amazing outreach that, you know, we've had male spouses on the spouse's committee, and myself as a female on the current survey. It's backward from, you know, what you normally see because my husband spent 13 years in the Marine Corps, or he was medically separated. Now he's a spouse. So I mean, he's involved with it, too. I mean, I have my good ideas come from him when I'm on MOAA meetings, and we're trying to brainstorm ideas, but just how forward-leaning bullet is with caring about, you know, what is the male spouse's voice? What is the female servicemembers voice because our challenges are different than what was the traditional military family model? So the fact that MOAA has been so forward-leaning with that, as we're coming into an age of diversity and inclusion, they were at the forefront of it really, with getting our voices heard and bringing us on to these committees. So I think that's really awesome to be a part of something and have the other side heard. I mean, this is women in the military. So podcasts to be you know, we all have some similar struggles. So to have the opportunity to sit on this committee and have our voices heard. And at the same time, you know, have our spouse's voices heard him as a male military spouse? That's not the traditional role, but it's more common than people may think.
Amanda Huffman 17:22
For sure. So what do you think would happen if MOAA cease to exist? If we didn't have an organization like MOAA that's like leading the front with diversity and inclusion and changing the way things are going on Capitol Hill and building that community? How would that hurt the military community at large?
Rachel Johnson 17:41
I think a lot of efforts would come to a standstill. There are a lot of people with good intentions. But without the backbone of MOAA, I don't think we'd have the successes moving forward. And really transitioning the way of people's mindset, the way of thinking of how the military should run or, you know, things that worked back in World War II back in Vietnam, you think about Desert Storm and women in the military, then I don't think without the backbone of MOAA, moving things forward, we wouldn't be as progressive as we are today with the health care for appealing the widow's tax, more family support, more spousal support, because a lot of veteran service organizations, you know if a service member passes away, the spouse then gets cut off. And Moe is basically, you know, surviving spouses, just because your spouse may pass away for whatever cause they are still, the spouse still has all of the resources that MOAA has to offer. And it's not to say that most the only veteran service organization you should be a part of if you're eligible. But continuing the effort is, I think imperative to moving forward and no one says that you can't be part of more than one Veteran Service Organization. I'm also a member of the VFW but everyone kind of has their own niche. And I think MOAA has really done a great job of stepping up with multiple different avenues. And I don't think we'd be where we are today. If it weren't for the acts of MOAA and its members.
Amanda Huffman 19:19
What are the benefits that you feel that you get from MOAA being a member and MOAA?
Rachel Johnson 19:24
The benefits first and foremost are the mentorship and the networking, I now have a group of people that I can contact if it's looking at really anything across the spectrum that would affect those service member, everyone is so friendly that you have that and, and the mentorship outside of what you'd normally get with your command or once you get out what's available to me. I have two young children so the fact that they have the scholarship available and no interest school loans, you have the foundation really the education, financial literacy and That's a huge thing that you know, especially when you have people join the military, their commissioning, right after college or even the ones that like myself, I went and listen to officer, there's a lot out there that you just don't know about that doesn't come with OCS or basic training when planning your future. So MOAA has got expertly crafted webinars and series on that. And like I said, their magazine, their publication, you know, every time has amazing content highlighting, you know, service members in MOAA members, I really think that it's a huge benefit to our families to be able to have these resources.
Amanda Huffman 20:42
So after you get involved and you become a member of MOAA, how should you get involved another level? Like, should you join a chapter? Should you what would be the next step? If you become a member? What would be the next step? What advice would you give to someone who's thinking about joining or if they have joined?
Rachel Johnson 21:00
I mean, first and foremost, there, everyone has a comfortability, with their level of involvement. You know, they're the ones that jump in with two feet, the ones that want to be, you know, on the side, and just watching and both are, you know, everyone's welcome. So if you want to get in, you know, become a member, and there's a basic membership that's free. And then as you there are different tiers of membership. And as you you know, pay for a move up, more things are available and offered. But when you first join, we are just fine with you being a member and taking in all the content and just supporting us with what we want to do moving forward and all of our legislative and advocacy and everything we want to do with the community. If you're mo International, we just really want the support and just the feedback, you're listening to us. Yes. Are we doing the right thing? Do you agree? Do you disagree with what we're doing? Do you have any suggestions, and there are people that just take it all in, and that's fine, too. And then every year, there's a solicitation for the currently serving advisory committee and currently serving spouses committee, you know, there's a solicitation for board members, there's, you know, you can join a chapter and you can be, you know, a silent member in the chapter and, and take in everything they have to offer. Or you can take a position like when I got here after a year, I am now the active-duty liaison. So just because I you know, I have that availability to contact active duty in my day to day operations versus, you know, the retirees to just get people involved, it's, the best part about mo is you can participate at your level of comfort.
Amanda Huffman 22:40
I love that. I think sometimes maybe as veterans or maybe just, maybe it's just me, but we put so much pressure on like, if we join an organization, we have to like dive right in. But that's really good advice. If you're at the level that you just want to get involved and support what MOAA was doing and take it all in, that's perfectly okay. Or if you want to get more involved. So there's every level of the spectrum of what you want to do.
Rachel Johnson 23:05
Absolutely. You just want to get the newsletter and read about it or the magazine, go for it. You want to go to a meeting or two and see what's about go for you're just there to get the volunteer emails and take that role go for?
Amanda Huffman 23:18
And would you say that the first step should be to go to the membership page and pick out a membership level? And what are the differences between like the free the premier and the lifetime?
Rachel Johnson 23:30
I mean just go into the green membership page to just kind of read about our member benefits. And, you know, if you want to start out with just a basic, just kind of see what it's about, that's okay. And you know, then you want to come in as a paid, you have your basic your premiums and life, you have the basic you know, you get your communications, you know, they're still advocating for you. But then it comes down to when you're paying for the when you actually pay for your membership with the premium you have, you know, more access and it's free for a lot of the financial education, your scholarships you're eligible for you to get your advice on the military pay the transition, you get your magazine, and then if you're a life member, there's a spouse protection, which I was talking about earlier, and then the Army-Navy Club of Washington DC and then it has like 200 reciprocity clubs. So you have your initiation fee waived to be able to join but I mean, starting from the beginning, even with the basic membership, you still get the advocacy efforts, the newsletter, you can be involved in chapters and councils, you know, you have there's insurance, there's travel discounts, pet insurance, all sorts of different things that Moe has partnered with, I mean that we were doing a thing for a while, or I think it's actually still active where certain Microsoft training and SAT and ACT training was heavily discounted. I think it was something like $15 when normally it's under 250 for these courses, so those kinds of benefits are across the board.
Amanda Huffman 25:06
Yeah, that's great. And I've been a, I've been a basic member since I left the Air Force and I really enjoy getting the newsletter updates. And I didn't even pay attention to all those discounts I've been missing out on. So that's really exciting. So I just want to say thank you for your time and for giving us all this information about what MOAA does. And just for all the work that you've done on Capitol Hill, and to support MOAA.
Rachel Johnson 25:31
thank you, Amanda, so much for having me. I think MOAA and I thank you for having me on.
Amanda Huffman 25:41
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