Women of the Military

Serving in the Reserves Might Not Be What You Expect

Episode Summary

What do you know about serving in the Reserves? You might think it requires one weekend a month and two weeks a year, but truthfully, that is only the beginning of your military service. Often times it requires a lot more. Cynthia shares her experience of spending most of her career in the Reserves and how she got the title as “man day queen.”

Episode Notes

This episode is made possible by Freedom Sisters Magazine

Freedom Sister Magazine is a premier digital magazine app designed to share the stories of women veterans. It launches in January of 2021. Learn more here.

*This post contains affiliate links

Cynthia’s sister heard about the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) and that you could get a monthly stipend while going to school so they decided to join. She really enjoyed her time in ROTC and had great Vietnam veteran leaders that worked to give them hands-on experience. She got married before she graduated and moved to Alaska with her husband and was able to work with the University of Alaska and the National Guard to continue ROTC and eventually commission and go active duty at her husband’s base. She spent 3 years on active duty. Her husband retired from the military and wanted to move back to Mississippi so she switched from active duty to Reserves.

She said while in the Reserves she was sometimes called the “man day queen.” A typical Reserve requirement is 50 days a year and she often was called up and served 150 days a year. She stood up in various units and did different jobs. When Desert Storm came they were put on standby, but never activated. Her step-son did get activated and since he had full custody of his son she and her husband took him in and he lived with him for a whole year. 

She did various stints on active duty and six months leading up to September 11th is one of those incidents. She was working on a program that worked to track the accountability of service members in and out of the country. After Desert Storm the military was continually working to prepare for the next war and adapt technology to fix problems, they had in Desert Storm. On September 11th she was packing to head back home and knew that she would likely be activated. Her boss told her to go home like she planned and four days later she was activated and then deployed to Kuwait to work on the same program she had worked on the six months leading up to September 11th. She got home in October of 2002 and then in January of 2003 was reactivated to help prepare for Iraq in South Carolina. She ended being sent to Kuwait but was only there for 3 weeks as the initial invasion happened so fast and the mass causalities that were expected never came.  

She talked about being the only woman so many times throughout her career. It led her to grow tough skin and not show her emotion. People often saw her as tough when in reality her personality is very different than the exterior she put on as a military officer. She thinks that the military has changed a lot in the past 30 years and it is because of the women who have served and spoken up. With more women in leadership, the impact of the change women is making will only increase.

She also was able to co-author a book in partnership with Camouflaged Sisters. Leading from the Middle was co-authored by 12 military women sharing their experience and leadership lessons from the military. Today she runs Patton Leadership and She Leads 365. 

Connect with Cynthia:



Mentioned in this episode:

Leading from the Middle

Lila Holley interview

Related Episodes:

From Military to Award Winning Author - Episode 92

Military Women and their History – Episode 70

Being an Air Force Nurse – Episode 41

Want to read the full transcript? Click here

Thank you to my Patreon Sponsors Col Level and above:

Kevin Barba, Adriana Keefe

Thank you Patreon members for your support. Want early access to episodes, ad-free content, and one on one mentorship advice? Become a Patreon member today! 

Click here.


Episode Transcription

Amanda Huffman  00:00

This week my guest is Cynthia Patton. She is a retired Army Lieutenant Colonel. She continues to serve as the founder and president of patent leadership consulting a contracting company that supports Army training initiatives and provides military proven team building and leadership training and consulting to small businesses. She spent most of her career in the Reserves, but it was activated regularly and often called up more than 150 days a year, while the typical reservist only is activated, on average about 50 days a year. It was really interesting getting to talk to Cynthia about her experience of survey from Desert Storm and through September 11. It's another great interview. 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 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, Cindy. I'm excited to have you here.


Cynthia Patton  01:33

Well, thank you for having me.


Amanda Huffman  01:35

Let's start with why did you decide to join the military?


Cynthia Patton  01:38

Well, it was 1977 and I was a freshman at the Georgia State University in Atlanta, Georgia. I come from a big family, six kids, my sister, my big sister lived in Atlanta and she was already going to school there. One day, we needed money for rent. And one day she said, You know if we join ROTC, we'll get $100 a month each. And back then that was a lot of money. And I said what do you have to do? She says, Oh, you just have to show up in March a little bit and do some calisthenics goat you know, go rafting. So we both joined and for her, it was just a way to earn some money for a couple of months. And for me, it became a career.


Amanda Huffman  02:19

So you got the stipend or the hundred dollars a month just for trying out ROTC. You didn't have to be on contract or anything like that?


Cynthia Patton  02:26

We had to be on contract. So they sent me off to Fort Knox for the summer. And then I came back and signed the contract and was an MS3, even though I was still a freshman or sophomore, I guess in college.


Amanda Huffman  02:41

Wow. That's kind of cool that you just needed rent money and had this opportunity and then it kind of changed your whole life. Right?


Cynthia Patton  02:49

It did change my whole life.


Amanda Huffman  02:51

So you did ROTC. Were there any challenges that you face? Well, within ROTC?



No, I guess it was a very idyllic time in my life. We were lucky. Cadre at Georgia State was a whole lot of Vietnam veterans. So it was like I said, 7778. They weren't that far off of their time in Vietnam. And so they had such heightened awareness about what it really took to make somebody a good officer. And so they didn't play around. They made us do they stretched us, you know, they made us do anything and everything you could think of they were hard on us, but we had great opportunities. We got to go to the Ranger camp in Daloniga and do rappelling, we got to go to Fort Benning and use the ranges. We got to go to Fort Stewart and ride in tanks. All their, you know, reach with other people in the military. Some of them were SF guys, Rangers, infantry. So they were hard on us. But a lot of us that graduated or that we're in that course with them went on to have really successful careers.


Amanda Huffman  03:59

Yeah, that's really cool. That's pretty I remember when I was a cadet and I got to go on base visits. And it was really exciting to get to see like, what I was working for and where, like what it was going to lead to I was really just reminds me of that you talked about your time. So where was your first assignment to?



Well, in the middle of college in ROTC, I got married to a soldier. So he got stationed in Alaska, and I hadn't gotten to finish college yet, or ROTC. So, we had to really jump through some hoops to figure out how to do that. But the University of Alaska worked with me their ROTC department in Fairbanks allowed me to, I actually was like the first person in the state of Alaska to be a simultaneous membership program cadet, and they put me in the Alaska National Guard and I drilled and I took virtual classes. Back then it was they'd send you books and assignments and you do them and send them back. It was way ahead of anything that people are doing today. So somehow I muddled through and finished ROTC and got commissioned, early commissioning they call it I didn't have my degree, but back then you could get commissioned. And then my husband talked to the Commanding General, and he wangled an assignment for me right there in Alaska. I was going to have to go to Germany, but when I was away at officer basic, they were able to work it out for joint domicile. So I could come back to Alaska. So Fort Rich 172 Infantry Brigade


Amanda Huffman  05:32

Were you dual military your whole Career?



No, because I married a guy a lot older than me. He was like, 17 years older than me. So two years after I was a lieutenant, he retired because you know, you can do your 20 and get out it frees up years old. So he retired and he wanted to move back to his home state of Mississippi. So I got off active duty after three years and followed him home to the south and did most the rest of my career in the Reserves, except for several activations later.


Amanda Huffman  06:06

Oh, that's interesting. Yeah. What was it like to go from Georgia to Alaska?


Cynthia Patton  06:12

Oh, my God, I was a kid. I was newly married, I was 20 years old. And it was hard, because back then we didn't have FaceTime and the internet. None of that. We literally wrote letters, made phone calls on Sunday to our parents, which cost like, if I remember correctly, $30 to talk for like 20 minutes. And again, back in the 1970s $30 was a lot. I think my Lieutenant pay was only like, I want to say 900 a month or something. But we were able to bring a lot of our family members up to Alaska, which was wonderful and life-altering for some of them as well. My younger sister Denise is right now today, President of the University of Alaska Technical College, in Anchorage, in part because of her memories of coming and spending the summer with me when she was a teenager.


Amanda Huffman  07:10

Wow, that's kind of cool that it had such a lasting impact. And open not only doors for you, but for the rest of your family. So that's really neat. After Alaska, you guys moved to the south and you switch from active duty to Reserves. What was that transition like?



It was interesting. I did do that one other year at Fort Polk and the fifth Infantry Division, my last year on active duty before we moved over to Mississippi, but when I got to Mississippi, I wanted to be in the reserves. And somebody contacted me, I guess there was a list that came out of people coming off active duty. So I was a First Lieutenant kind of a senior First Lieutenant and some guy contacted me from the reserves in Mississippi and said, Hey, we have this new unit we're standing up called the 412th replacement detachment in Pascagoula, Mississippi, and it needs a commander. It's an ag unit. And I said, sweet, I'll take it. Little did I know, I mean, you know, standing up a unit. It was a challenge. It was definitely a challenge. And I came into the unit, and they had a bunch of them had been Reservists for years. And we're talking post-Vietnam era NCOs, rift officers, you know, young people who didn't know much about the military. They were a dare I say, motley crew. And I came in straight off active duty, and I wasn't going to put up with any nonsense. And I said, Okay, we're falling out for PT. And they're like, what we're falling out for drill and ceremony, what? We're going to inventory the chow hall. What? They weren't liking it. So I might not have been the most popular commander ever. But again, I'm proud to say that some of my soldiers, many of my soldiers went on to the enlisted people went on to make Sergeant Major and I had two of my soldiers that made general officer.


Amanda Huffman  09:04

Yeah, that's, that's awesome. I've heard that like, the shift from active duty to Reserves is a difficult one, sometimes. It's just a different way of doing something. But it's interesting that you went from being active duty to being the commander of the reserves unit, so you had a lot influence to bring the active duty side into the Reserves.



Right. And it was so far before 9/11 you know, the world changed. The whole military changed after 911 and everything that we had always said needed to happen to fully integrate Guard Reserve and inactive duty and be more fair, a lot of it happened after 9/11 but back then, you know, we had alos and compos and all these resourcing discrepancies based on missions and you were treated really crappy sometimes when you took your reserve or Guard unit somewhere.


Amanda Huffman  09:56

That's unfortunate.



I don't think it's so bad today though. I think it's a lot of different mindset.


Amanda Huffman  10:01

Yeah, I think that, like you said, the war in Afghanistan and Iraq and like mobilizing the reserve and Guard units kind of changed. I deployed with the Guard unit and I was in awe of their willingness to be guardsmen and then to give a year of their life to go overseas and then go back to being a civilian slash guardsmen again, and it just kind of boggled my mind that the sacrifice they were making and that their families were making and how challenging the dynamics of doing that are.



Yeah, and you get, you're expected to hold a lot of the same standards. But without the luxury of 24/7 dedicated time to get to those standards, you don't have the military dependent family, the on post housing, the full time medical treatment, you know, you don't have any, you don't have any medical treat. You don't have any benefits, medical, I mean, they do today, but they make them pay really high for them. Their premiums are really high. So it was a huge challenge in balance, because you had to continue your education on your own dime a lot. You know, we got some GI Bill, usually, but you had to do it on your own time. Again, most active duty folks, some of them are even given years to go be in a master's program and wear a uniform every day and just work on their masters. I had to command a battalion, work on my master's degree, run a farm, handle my family. Tough.


Amanda Huffman  11:31

Yes, a lot. So you were doing reserves like the traditional route of one weekend, a month and two weeks a year? Or was it a more of a requirement than that?



I don't know why or how but it always ended up that I was always the one that got picked or asked or tasked to run an exercise or deploy on the ad Vaughn. So I had a nickname, they called me the Man Day Queen, because I did so many extra days. You know, they had these things called man days where you could they could put orders in or something or the unit had an allocation of them, and they could use them to bring you on to do work. And I was almost always in a large unit, like a theater level unit. And there's a lot of work to be done behind the scenes and the civilians and the few active duty people they had AGR, whatever they call it to these days, couldn't always get it done. So, I would say I'm more likely did about. So instead of 50 days a year, I do like 150.


Amanda Huffman  12:36

Well, that's a lot less a lot more requirement. And that's what I've heard from Reserves and guardsmen is the like to the two days a month and or the week in the month and the two weeks. That's just the beginning. Because like you said, there's so much work that needs to be done to get and they have limited amount of people and limited amount of time. And so they have to use more. So how are you able to balance your home life and your military responsibilities.


Cynthia Patton  13:06

So of course, it was such a blessing to have a retired Sergeant Major as my husband. So if anybody knew about it, he knew about it. And he just 100% supported me. We had a son, after 10 years of marriage week together had a son and he had children from another marriage. But when I was gone, he was such a great dad, you know, he was there. And then later in my life, I think probably when my son was about 10, my parents moved to Mississippi and we built a place on our farm for him, them and my husband's father with a duplex. So I had grandparents other generation living there to help out and they did help out. So you know, it's the extended family made a big difference.


Amanda Huffman  13:55

You know that family support is I think, like active duty military kind of miss out on that because we are always moving and then we always are like starting over and makes it really challenging to have the community or the family support. So it makes sense that what you are able to use weren't moving and then you were able to add that layer of support into your lives which you definitely needed.  And now word from our sponsor. I'm excited to share that I'm going to be part of Freedom Sisters Media's new magazine Freedom Sisters Magazine. It's the first premier digital magazine app for women veterans. There are 28 women veterans contributing as writers and it is launching in January of 2021. Freedom Sisters is a leading media company to amplify women veterans and Freedom Sisters shares our sister stories, service and successes. The Freedom Sisters magazine delivers insight to new ideas, products and opportunities and will show insightful stories about women veterans, if you love Women on the Military Podcast, but now you want to get a digital magazine app to get more content about what women veterans are doing and have done and are doing within the community, be sure to go to the shownotes so you can find out more about Freedom Sisters Magazine. And now let's get back to the show.  So, you are in the military in the reserves during Desert Storm, were you guys activated? Or did you play a role in Desert Storm?



My unit got put on alert. I was with the 377 Theater. It used to be called TAACOM. Now they call it TSC theater sport command. It used to be the theater, I don't know what the AACOM stood for. But you know what I'm saying out of New Orleans, I worked in the ag section over there. So we got put on alert. But we never got called up. Because they used a much smaller units. They never did get to that level where they were our our sent Third Army or whoever wanted to call in large commands, which they did after 9/11. However, my stepson who was in the military, in the National Guard, and had a son who was I think Shepherd was probably five, he was divorced and had custody of his child. And so when he got deployed, father and I took the grandson, you know, he signed him over, whatever you call that. And we had him for a year almost living in our house with us. So I played a role but a much different role.


Amanda Huffman  16:38

Still an important role. And I think a role that people often don't realize people have to play, especially when like there's family dynamics, and you have to use that family support plan and right out farther than just like, what people typically think of like the wife or the husband to take care of the kid.


Cynthia Patton  16:58

Big have a great time, though, because that grandson, that step grandson of mine, who's today in his 30s, we're very close on I'm sure it's because he lived in my home for that time.


Amanda Huffman  17:09

Yeah, I bet I bet that is. What was it like to be on alert where you guys kind of spinning up to get ready to go and then like waiting to see what happened? Or how did that all work out?



I do remember that it was a time of a lot of uncertainty. I think that you know, it was a crazy time. I think we did do some loading of equipment. And you know, some planning pretty much remember us having to go in and put together annexes and whatnot to a potential op plan. I do remember that. My older brother David was a Captain in the National Guard in Alabama and he definitely went. So my mom was happy, I guess that two of us didn't have to. But David ended up in Saudi Arabia. He was an ammo guy and officer and he he ended up staying and in helping draw down the ammunition in Kuwait. Remember when there was that explosion, and all that ammo got damaged in in Kuwait City at Camp Doha? He was there for that.


Amanda Huffman  18:11

I was really young when Desert Storm happened. So I don't remember most of it.


Cynthia Patton  18:16

I remember us watching a lot of it. We had I want to say we had a satellite dish in those. What year was that? That was 1993 or something? What year? Was it? 91. Huh.


Amanda Huffman  18:30

I thought it was like 89 90.



Yeah, I want to say we had a satellite dish. And it we were able to get news on the satellite. And I know my husband was just 24/7 watching the news.


Amanda Huffman  18:44

Yeah, it's crazy to think Yeah, I was, I was really young. I was like four or five when it happened. So I don't really remember any of it. And my family didn't have any military connection. So I don't even know if my parents were watching the news more than just regular because we didn't have anyone really connected to be paying attention in a way. I don't want to skip anything that happened between like Desert Storm and then September 11th. Were there any moments from that time that stood out or like experiences that you wanted to share?



I kind of seem to have been lucky a lot of times in my career because I went from the 377th TSC to a newly so Desert Storm happened. And Third Army, which was in charge of the Middle East or whatever figured out that they had a shortage of things they needed in order to go to war. And one of those things was a personnel command. And one of those things was a Medical Command and one of those things was a finance command. So they stood up third PERS comm third medcom third fin COMM And I was in the very beginning first people ever signed to third PERS comm and they put it in Jackson, Mississippi. And you think to yourself, why did they put it in Jackson, Mississippi, why? There was a PA battalion personnel and admin battalion in Starkville, Mississippi. And then we had that for 12th down in Pascagoula, which was a replacement company. And there was some units in Central Alabama. So geographically, Jackson was not a bad place to put it. So we started right after Desert Storm with a mindset of war. What was it like what went wrong, half the people in my unit had served in Desert Storm, they were in postal units in, you know, doing casualty reporting, doing all the go-to stuff you got to do assigned to other units. And they came back to the reserve unit with the mindset of by God, if we have a chance, we're going to make this right next time. And literally from the time, it stood up, that's where I'm getting the 1991 or two from in my head, that's when third first come started. So for those 10 years between then and when we ended up going to 911. All we did was trained for war, we and we started an exercise called silver semitar. And we went to Bright Stars in Egypt. And we had our commander fought for us to have dessert uniforms. And it was interesting, we had linguists that would help us translate stuff in Arabic. So by the time it happened, we were ready.


Amanda Huffman  21:24

Yeah. And I served from 2007 to 2013. And a lot of the training was getting in mopp gear and like doing different exercises. And for a long time, I was so confused about why we're doing this. And then when I started learning more about Desert Storm, and then I realized, oh, all the exercises are based on like what we learned from that experience. And then we'll use them and adapted them to what we're doing and then continue to use them and modify them as the war went on. And it was really interesting hearing your story about, how much focus there was on training for the next war? And that makes sense, going through training to go to Afghanistan, and how much of it was focused on Desert Storm?



Yeah, I mean, it's all you have really. History, you only have history to direct your future.


Amanda Huffman  22:15

Yeah, exactly. It's interesting how much I think sometimes people think Desert Storm didn't really have a big effect, because it was so short. And but the more that you like learn the history of Desert Storm, like from the people over there, and it wasn't short to them, because I didn't know that it was going to end quickly or how long it was going to take and then the effects coming home and how the military just like September 11 changed, the military Desert Storm had a huge impact.


Cynthia Patton  22:42

Absolutely. Each one does Vietnam had an impact, you know, each one has an impact because it shifts and changes. You know, somebody that things that they learned how to do in Vietnam, go lighter, and, you know, deal with insurgencies and all those things that came full circle, and we had to deal with them again.


Amanda Huffman  23:00

That's so true. So when September 11 happened, what happened in your unit and how did it change what you guys are doing?



So I was a lieutenant colonel, as a theater-level command, there's a lot of Lieutenant Colonel's a lot of full colonels, a lot of Sergeant Majors, we had about 350 people in the unit, I'd say. I had been the Chief of Staff as a Major, which was unheard of. But the guy that was the commander said that he's one of me. So I was it. Again, one of those times when I was not that popular, but I think I had spent six months on active duty the summer before September 11th. And I was in charge of the personnel database section. And we were working on a prototype Microsoft Office database we were creating, that we thought we could take somewhere and track entry in and out of a theater. And I had a warrant officer and a couple of sergeants that were coders, you know, people that understood stuff like that. And I literally spent six months before September 11 on active duty. In fact, I was packing my apartment in Jackson, Mississippi that day to drive back home to go for and come off active duty on September 11. And I got up that morning and turn the television on and all hell was breaking loose. And I called my husband and I said the shits going down. And I said, you know, this is terrorism. This is terrorism, you know, and he says, I bet you're not going to get to come home and the commander called me and said, I said What should I do? And he says we'll go on home to go for it. So I went on home to go for it. And about four days later, I got called and said we're putting together a shortlist we got to send a detachment we got to be prepared to send a detachment and early entry module and we want you to lead it. So by I started happened to go, New Orleans, to the skiff to the secret section and plan tip fids of which other units we would take with us and work on our plans and whatnot. We did that for the month of October, right before Thanksgiving, May and three guys got orders in and had to do a deployment ceremony and leave and go to Fort Benning. So it was interesting, out of a unit of 350 that I was one of four that went. So we went to work for the Third Army. And we did exactly what we had been doing for the last six months, we took our little database, our laptops, and we started tracking the people coming in now that theater.


Amanda Huffman  25:42

That's crazy that you were doing that for six months leading up to the day of September 11.


Cynthia Patton  25:49

Yeah, so it was almost like a serendipity, you know, like a pre-planned destiny thing.


Amanda Huffman  25:56

Yeah, that's so crazy. How old was your son when all this happened?


Cynthia Patton  26:01

He was 12. Yeah, he was 12. When I deployed, he was. Yeah. 12.


Amanda Huffman  26:11

And by that time, you're your parents and your husband's dad. So you had that support us? Yeah. And then how long were you deployed for?


Cynthia Patton  26:21

A year? The first time? Yeah. till October of the following year. Not quite a year.


Amanda Huffman  26:28

And then you said the first time so you went back? Yeah.


Cynthia Patton  26:31

So then I day I stayed all the way through October in Kuwait did get to see my family in July, I got lucky. I got to go to Atlanta on a TDY. They sent me back home to go to St. Louis to our person and talk to the Reserve Command about problems we were having with accountability and stuff. So I got lucky. And they sent me home for TDY. So I got to see my family for a few days. But I got off active duty October, late October. And January something I got orders again, to go to South Carolina to a personnel group in Fort Jackson that needed a high ranking person who actually was an AG officer because they had people in slots that weren't even qualified. And since I was quote, unquote, a war veteran, they what is the word when they assign you what you without your permission or whatever? What's that word called?


Amanda Huffman  27:32

I don't know. The military. Voluntold


Cynthia Patton  27:34

Yeah, there's a term for it when they just unilaterally reassigned to another slot. So I got sent in January of 2002. It would be I guess, in January of three to shape up this personnel group and get them ready to go. And their commander had a broken leg there, O6 commander had a broken leg. So he couldn't participate in anything either or go. So again, I worked, we lived in barracks and it was a cluster. I'm not an elitist officer person or whatever. But I was in a barracks open bay basically living with the entire group of women in the unit from E3 up sharing group showers with them. And you know, so it was quite humbling. There was no privacy or rank determinations or anything. You know, we've just thrown in there together. And we trained and did all the stuff you do getting ready to move out. I tried to get their equipment ready. And I tried to I got some people to procure us some laptops and cell phones and stuff I knew we would need we hit the ground over there. And again, they only decided to send an ad Vaughn. And it was me and five guys, four guys, I guess me and five other men in the unit. They sent us on ad Vaughn. And we showed up at Camp Arif john in the midst of the mass hysteria in April, I believe it was. That's when I guess they had already started going up into Iraq in April. But we didn't stay long, because it changed so rapidly. And they it all happened so fast. And they go, Oh, well, we're not going to have mass casualties. And we're not going to need millions of people. And we're not going to have all this stuff we need. So go back home. And within three to three weeks. I think we were back in South Carolina. And they demote us.


Amanda Huffman  29:28

Wow. That's crazy. I guess prepare for the worst. And yeah, then you don't need it then. Yes. Good thing. Yeah. That's crazy. And you mentioned your one, a female with five guys, and where there are lots of times throughout your career where you were the only woman in the room?



All the time. So much of the time. Yeah. 90% of the time.


Amanda Huffman  29:52

So was that a challenge that you felt? Or was there pressure on you? Or did you just was I just part of your life and you just went with it? 


Cynthia Patton  30:00

At the time, I just didn't know what I didn't know. And so I just went with it. Now as I'm older, and I can reflect back, and I've started a business, and the business model includes really focusing on women in leadership, it's interesting. Now when I reflect back on it. If I'd only known way back then what I know now, you know, but I didn't, it hardened to me as a person, it made me, you know, distrustful and not unemotional. But I would hide my emotions, and it made me be always be perceived as being too hard and too unapproachable. And all those things, which by nature, I'm really not and I've, as a retiree, I've been able to shift back to be the person that I really would rather be, which is a much more giving and caring and empathetic person. But that's why I try to pass on now to women in the military coming up, you know, things that lessons I learned and different approaches that I would have taken Had I known what I know now.


Amanda Huffman  31:06

So let's dive into that. Because I know there are women listening who are in the military. So what advice would you give them as they go? Or, or even young women who are looking to join the military? What advice would you give them, as they're beginning their military career, or as they're continuing their military career?


Cynthia Patton  31:23

Well, you have to know that there's really probably, you know, it's so different now, though, they have so many different opportunities. Thankfully, I think a lot of the stuff that was going on that was so negative when I was in, a lot of it's been sort of stripped away, you know, there's a lot more women that rise up to much more positions of authority and get all get more opportunities to go to all these different trainings and make it through Ranger School and make it through, but still just to try to know themselves and try to be true to themselves. And there's really nothing they can achieve if they want it. Just ask, you know, don't take no for an answer. Sometimes if you want an opportunity, bite for it. And know that you bring true value to the team. Because I'm a firm believer that the military is a better place today than it was 20 or 30 years ago because women have made it a better place. You know, we have come in and change the perspective on what is or is not acceptable for families for the life that families live in the military. Now, I think it's better.


Amanda Huffman  32:30

Yeah, I agree. I think that the impact of women being in the military, and even, I think the cultural shift of opening all jobs to women. Because when I was in the Air Force, there was no job that I couldn't do that I knew of. I didn't feel like some of the women who I've talked to her in the Army and like the infantry and those issues, I didn't feel that kind of struggle when I was in the Air Force, because I believed as just a Lieutenant that I could do anything. And I think that is a big deal. And it changes the culture. And it takes time. But it really changes how women are looked at and how women look at themselves, because the sky's the limit, they can do anything.



Exactly. And I always when I talk to groups, women's groups these days, I talked to them about we talk about the current events like gender equality, pay equality, pay equity, and I say, Man, you know, do not dismiss the thought that you're lucky as heck. The military has had pay equity since day one. There's never been a woman who's received less of a salary because she was a woman. You know, Lieutenant, so Lieutenant Sergeant is a Sergeant, you get exactly paid the same. And that's big. Yeah, it is.


Amanda Huffman  33:45

I know when they were first talking about I was like, but I get paid the same as female counterparts because he's like said the military, it pays you based on your rank, not your tender. And...



Yeah, the one and only civilian job I ever held. I mean, I've been a defense contractor. And then I've owned my own business, but the one and only go in and get hired, work in a job, go nine to five, come home, you know, that kind of a job. I lost that job because I raised concerns about the fact that I was a veteran with three years of active duty and a bachelor's degree. And I was getting paid almost 50% less than a young kid they hired in to sit next to me in the cubicle next to me, and it was bad. That was an eye-opener. Actually, when I left that job is when I started my first home business. So I went home and started something called Choice Business Services. I worked out of my home teaching people computers and writing resumes and doing things because I wanted the work-life balance. I wanted control over my own destiny. I wanted to pay myself what I thought I was worth. So I guess because I came from an environment where there was no pay in equity. It really was something I couldn't live with.


Amanda Huffman  34:58

Yeah, that makes sense because Yeah, it's all about that mindset. And it changes how you think about yourself and what you deserve. And then when you don't get the same pay your like I'm not going to stay here, I'm going to go somewhere else. I want to talk a little bit about the book that you got to write a chapter for Leading from the Middle with 12 senior military women leaders. Can we talk a little bit about that, and how that came to me? 



Sure. I have a company and we have a contract here at Fort Leavenworth and one of my contractors that works for me, her name is Malia, Wiley. She's a retired Lieutenant Colonel. And one of her best friends in the world was Lyla Holly. They were battle buddies, you know, great friends. And one day, she said to me, you know, you ought to call Lyla because you guys are, she just started her own business called Camouflage Sisters, and you guys are tracking on the things that you do and want to do. And, you know, your philosophies. Think Lyla is a retired Warrant Officer. So that was about five years ago. And I called Lyla, and we had a talk for about an hour. And at the end of it, Lyla said, you know, I've been wanting to, I've already published two books. And I've been wanting to publish a third book all about leadership. And I'd love it. If you do a chapter for me now at the time, her organization, I think, was 100% African American veterans, female veterans. But maybe because of me and some other women, she started coming in contact with Alexandria Santiago and a few other women, she decided to open it up to anyone. And I agreed to be in that book. And it took them a little bit to get that one and launched, it was a little bit of a challenge for her as she gathered up the other authors. But we did get it published last year. And you know, how life brings you full circle. One of the other authors is Colonel Varnado, Sheila Varnado, who was the Third Army G1 that I worked for in Kuwait. And she's from Mississippi, and we hadn't seen each other and talk to each other for a decade almost. And then we got to come together as co-authors in this book and meet up again.


Amanda Huffman  37:09

That's so cool. Yeah. And I'll have a link to this link to the book in the show notes. So if people want to get it, they can find it there. And then I also interviewed Lyla, so you can find her story on the podcast as well. So if you want to hear more about what Camouflage Sisters is doing, and how it all started, and that's another great episode to check out. Did I miss anything from your time in the military and what you're doing today?



Only maybe just a little more about what I am doing today. 11 years ago, I started Patent Leadership Consulting. And we have a pretty nice contract that we work with the Army to do what they call combined arms training strategies, or CATS. And we work with the digital training management system, do some software stuff, but then on the other side of my business, I have something called She Leads 365. And it's focused on women in leadership, and how women handle the work-life balance challenges of leading in all aspects of their life, 365 days a year. And that's a movement that I started because I lived it. And I just wanted to be able to pay it forward and provide some good learning environments and situations for other women.


Amanda Huffman  38:27

Yeah, that's awesome. And I'll put links to that in the show notes as well. So people can get connected and learn more about it. I know I need to go do more research.



Okay, we have a whole website. She Leads 365. com a website?


Amanda Huffman  38:42

Yeah. Awesome. Yeah. And I have one last question. And you touched on it a little bit. I'm gonna ask it again, just to see if you give a different answer. What advice would you give to young women who are considering joining the military?


Cynthia Patton  38:55

I would say, go out there and be strong, and be selfless, and be empathetic and caring. Bring all the traits that a woman can bring to a team. And you can do anything you want.


Amanda Huffman  39:08

Yes, so true. Thank you so much for sharing your story, sharing your insight, and your leadership. I've really enjoyed getting to learn more about what it's like to be in the Reserves, and to go back and forth from Reserves to duty and the sacrifices that reservists have to make that sometimes we don't hear about.


Cynthia Patton  39:28

Thank you so much for having me.


Amanda Huffman  39:34

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 The military or you can order my book Women of the Military on Amazon. Every dollar helps to continue the work I'm doing. Are you a business owner? Do you want to get your product or service in front of the Women of the Military Podcast audience get in touch with the Woman of the Military Podcast team to learn more all the links on how you can support Women of the Military podcasts are located in the show notes. Thanks again for listening and for your support.