Women of the Military

Sharing the History of Military Women - Episode 70

Episode Summary

“With all the specialties now being open to them, more and more people are joining and not to be first got to a point where you're saying, well, I thought it was cool. My recruiter said I could blow things up. So I wanted to be an artillery.” - Mari Eder

Episode Notes

This episode is sponsored by Insure the Heroes Inc. Call Melissa at 1-844-514-LIFE or head over to her website to get a free quote today.

Major General Mari K. Eder is a retired U.S. Army Major General, a renowned speaker and author, and a thought leader on strategic communication and leadership. General Eder is the former Commanding General of the U.S. Army Reserve Joint and Special Troops Support Command, former Deputy Chief of the Army Reserve and former Deputy Chief of Public Affairs for the U.S. Army. She was the closing keynote speaker at WIN Summit 2018 and recipient of the 2018 Trailblazer Award.

General Eder is the author of “Leading the Narrative: The Case for Strategic Communication,” published by the Naval Institute Press. Out soon, her new book is titled: Step Out of Line, Ladies: Stories of Courage, Sacrifice, and Grit – the Women of WWII.

General Eder has served as Director of Public Affairs at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies and as an adjunct professor and lecturer in communications and public diplomacy at the NATO School and Sweden’s International Training Command. She speaks and writes frequently on communication topics in universities and for international audiences.

She is a trustee with the U.S. Army War College Foundation and has served as a senior advisor and Director with the Foundation for Self-Government, and as a communications expert for the Department of Defense Office of the Inspector General.


Mari joined the Army to get out of her small town. She had wanted to be in Public Affairs, but she started out in the Signal Corp. She served on active duty for her first tour then left the military. 

She missed being part of the military and was able to go back into the Reserves and because of her civilian career was able to work in the Pubic Affairs area that she wanted to be in since when she joined the military. She talked about the challenges of balancing the Reserves and a civilian career. She learned times when she needed to focus more on her civilian job and other times she needed to focus on her military career. 

One of the hardest times was when she was working full time and also attending Air War College via distance learning. She said she quickly learned to write the papers first so she could have a two week break instead of using the two weeks to write a paper and never get a break.

Her goal was to make it to the rank of Colonel (O-6) and when she was selected for Brigadier General she was surprised and honored. She was promoted to Major General and with 36 years of service it was time to retire. She had her change of command and then a few weeks later had her retirement ceremony. She had given so much of herself to the Army when she finally was done her body was tired and she got sick. She said she was barely there for her retirement ceremony and slowly began the transition to civilian. We also talked about being invisible after leaving the military and how sometimes our voices are not heard because we are overlooked for our gender.

She wanted to do something different after leaving the military so she has become an author. She loves reading and learning about the history of military women and after reading a few books (links below) about military women she decided to write her own book. She told so many stories of military women throughout history that I either didn’t know about or had only learned about after starting the podcast. There is a rich history of women who have come before and women who continue to make changes for the military and the women who follow in their footsteps.

She encourages women to join the military even if it is only for a few years. Do your research and pick the right branch and job for you (need help? check out this free guide). The military can open so many doors and will change you as a person. 

Mentioned in this episode (contains affiliate links):

Female Veteran: The Struggles Don't End When You Leave

Register Women in Military Service for America

Women of The War: Their Heroism And Self-Sacrifice

Final Fight, Final Flight by Erin Miller

The Hello Girls

Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II

Related Episode:

The First Women Pilots in the Army – Erin Miller (Episode 49)

Being a Cook in the Coast Guard – Ginny (Episode 18)

Climbing the Ranks to Brigadier General – Wilma Vaught (Episode 65)

Connect with Mari:


Thank you to my Patreon Sponsor Col Level and above

Kevin Barba

Episode Transcription

Welcome to Episode 70 of the women of the military podcast this week I'm interviewing Major General Mary eater. She served in the Army for over 36 years and is now a renowned speaker, author and a thought leader on strategic communication and leadership. She is the former commanding general of the US Army Reserve joint and special troops for support command, former Deputy Chief of the Army Reserves and former deputy of the public affairs for the US Army. She was the closing keynote speaker at wind summit 2018 and recipient of the 2018 Trailblazer award general eater is the author of leading the narrative, the case for strategic communication, and out soon her new book is titled step out of line ladies stories of courage, sacrifice and grit, the woman of world war two today we talked about her career in the military, and one of the Things that we focused on was the importance of networking, mentorship, and building relationship with your peers. I'm excited to share her story with you on this episode of women of the military podcast. So let's get started. 

Intro: You are 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 your host, military veteran military spouse and mom, Amanda Huffman. My goal is to find the heart of the story and uncover issues 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. I'm so excited to have you on the show today. Thanks for being here.

Mari Eder  1:47 

It's great to be here.

Amanda Huffman1:48 

Why did you decide to join the military?

Mari Eder  1:51 

I think originally I joined the army, like many people do and it's called I need to find a way out of a small town and I need to challenge myself. do other things, all of understanding what the military service really means came to me much later at first it was just about trying to find a way to scramble up that mountain top and get a toehold and get started. Where are you originally from? I'm from Stanborough Pennsylvania, which is a small town. Probably about 60 miles north of Pittsburgh. It's a rural area, a farming area. And you know, you hear people say, well, in my town, we only had one stoplight. We didn't have a stoplight.

Amanda Huffman2:32 

Did you have a stop sign.

Mari Eder  2:34 


Amanda Huffman2:36 

So small town that's like the town my husband grew up and it's really tiny. It doesn't have a stoplight. And in it's kind of changed over the past 2030 years. It's it's a little bit off the beaten path. So the people who know about it are the people who live there or are from there or are around here. How did you end up joining the military Did you become an officer right away?

Mari Eder  3:02 

I did at that time, they had a program called direct commission. So you could direct commission into what was the Women's Army Corps a holdover from World War Two. So I was direct commissioned after I received my Master's Degree in English from Edinboro, University of Pennsylvania. There still is a direct commission program today, but it's primarily in medical arena and also in cyber warfare.

Amanda Huffman3:27 

When you direct commission, what is the next step after you commission? Do you go straight to tech school? Or is there a period of time where they're like training you to do military stuff?

Mari Eder  3:38 

Well, if you think about people who join ROTC, and then commission, or even those who enlist and raise your hand, and the next day, you're in the army, or air force or Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, you'd have to go to a basic course. And there was a basic course for this too, because you can't have a bunch of second lieutenants running around knowing nothing. So it was ever everything from how to march and salute and behave, I think and basic military history, the physical training parts of it, all of those things you need to know at least enough about before you go to the tech school from there.

Amanda Huffman4:15 

And then what was your job in the army?

Mari Eder  4:19 

At first, the Army put me into the Signal Corps. I wanted to be in what was Public Affairs/Public Relations. And that wasn't possible somehow. It was a non-ascension specialty. You had to wait until you were at least a Captain and have operational experience. Before you could go to that. It's not that way in the Air Force for officers. Officers can go in as Lieutenants. So, I had to do something else first. The closest thing would have been Signal Corps broadcasting, but they put me in Signal Corps electronics. So, I went to the basic course the people with degrees in electronics engineering, and I'm still trying to figure out the positive and negative ends of a battery. So that was that was difficult. So, a couple of years later, I transitioned out very quickly, because I had been working in a basic training unit as a training officer. And I moved to military police, which was much more understandable from a non-technical specialty. And then at about the captain grade, I was able to move into public affairs. And that's where I stayed. Although I did have some other military base assignments. My last one was as a battalion commander,

Amanda Huffman5:27 

When did you become a captain? Was it four years? 

Mari Eder  5:30 

It was four years. After that I left active duty. 

Amanda Huffman5:33 

Okay. And you went to the Reserves, why did you make the switch from Active Duty to Reserves? 

Mari Eder  5:38 

I really didn't enjoy the active Army at that time. This is the Army after Vietnam, the hollow Army in the early 80s. It was a difficult time to be in the military then, at least for me, I wanted to get into the Public Affairs arena. I was not enjoying being in the military police battalion. And so I transitioned. But even as I left, I knew that I would miss my friends. I would miss camaraderie, army life, and I did. So a couple of years later, I joined the reserves. I loved the research, I got to meet some amazing people from all over. And while I worked in the reserves in both Europe and in Virginia, I had great experiences with the people I met. I was fascinated with learning about what it's like to be a high school teacher in Roanoke, Virginia, or the city prosecutor for Winchester. So I had lots of experiences and learning about other lives and other people's ways to process, how they're moving through life was fascinating. made me a better writer.

Amanda Huffman6:43 

So you left active duty and you didn't switch automatically to the reserves. So you left altogether and what did you do as a civilian? What Job did you do? Did you get in the public affairs?

Mari Eder  6:54 

I did. It was easier that way. I got into public affairs. I was at Fort Lee, Virginia. Yeah, I've worked in public affairs there. And by the time I got into public affairs in Reserves, it was because of my civilian time that helped me make that transition. So I was able to then, throughout the remainder of my career, having both job help each other, you know, things I would learn in the reserves I could take to my second job and vice versa.

Amanda Huffman7:20 

That's really cool. Did you ever have any like trouble like balancing, having a civilian job, and then also doing the reserves component because from people I've talked to, it's not always just one weekend, a month, there's a lot more to it. And even if it is that one weekend, a month, you sometimes work like a bunch of days in a row without some time off. 

Mari Eder  7:41 

It is difficult, and it's difficult for everybody. I think. One of the things that helped me was after I was in a civilian position for a number of years, I was better at balancing because I knew exactly what was expected of me in the civilian jobs. So I could modulate it to focus a little bit more on the reserve job that it required. The civilian job was harder, focus less on the losers. So it was it's always a balancing act. And it's never easy. And especially if you have to do schools,


Amanda Huffman8:10 

Do you have to go, essentially active duty to get your schooling done? And then how does that work with your civilian job? 

Mari Eder  8:18 

Sometimes you have bosses who are not particularly pleased that you're gone again. And I had some struggle with that. But of course, it is the law out supporting reservists in their time away. I'll tell you too, that some of the jobs mean that you do some of the schoolwork at home and at night. So by the time I got to do the Army War College, that meant from the distance education perspective that I did a lot of the paperwork for 10 segments and less throughout the year and then you do two weeks active at Carlisle barracks for the Army War colleges. And then there's a second year of more of this. So you have your reserve job, your active job, and then Wow, that one is every weekend kind of writing papers for the school event. It is very challenging. I was very glad when it was over.

Amanda Huffman9:08 

My husband a couple years ago had to go to the major course that he had. And he added staff. And it was like, every weekend he was working on it. And I was like, I just want this to be over. Because, like you said, it's a lot of work and like he couldn't do it at work. So he had to do it in the evenings and on the weekends. And it took a lot of time.

Mari Eder  9:29 

I finally learned that if you did the papers for you will get a two week break before the pain started again. So I would look forward to that two week break. And I always said that when it was over, I would burn all the books. But there were too many of them. So I took the course syllabus and I burned it.

Amanda Huffman9:48 

I love that. What steps led you to become a General Officer?

Mari Eder  9:53 

I think I was surprised when that happened. I wasn't expecting it. I don't even my goal was going to come Colonel. And when I achieved that, I enjoyed it. I enjoyed brigade command, I commanded a training organization. And I was done with the War College. So that was all good. And so I was actually in really enjoying the time, I also felt that I finally had some time where I wasn't too closely supervised as a commander, so I could have a little flexibility in how I approached my organization, because we're so spread out. And reserve units are in many states sometimes. And so the division headquarters is very spread out to and has a great span of control. So I enjoyed that. And I wasn't expecting to be selected. Sure. That's something everybody dreams about. But that hadn't actually happened was more frightening at that time than anything else. This can't be real. Oh my goodness. I don't know anybody. I don't know how to do this. So it was a shock.

Amanda Huffman10:55 

So when you found out Did you know that you were going to go back on active duty, is that a requirement? Or how did that all work?

Mari Eder  11:04 

Well, I was a colonel in Germany, I was living and working in Germany, then at the George C. Marshall Senate, which teaches the principles of democracy to civilian and military officials from former Soviet countries. So I was teaching the role of a free press in a democracy, and also doing the public relations work to the organization. I love that job. And when 911 happen, people would ask me, do you think you'll be put back on duty and I said not. And I'm too high up, that won't happen. But took two weeks. And I was back on active duty us European command headquarters for about four months, and they ran out of money and sent us all back. By that time, my job had been filled because they didn't know how long I would be gone. It could have been two years. So I had to come back to the state, sadly, and came back to the Washington area and who has been on active duty again, for another short stint with Dr. Day. So he continued. So even after I was selected for promotion, I was on active duty as the Army's Deputy Chief of Public Affairs for the next three years. Now that's that was the dream job. The one I'd always wanted not necessarily the data Deputy Chief, but just to be there. Although in the days after 911, it was probably more stressful and hectic than I could have imagined beforehand. So there's a lot of coping that went on with that. I haven't really thought about how much the military as a whole reservists National Guard, everybody was affected by September 11. happening and it's changed the military to what it is today. And so that's really interesting. It changed everything. I think, for everyone associated with the military. It changed everything. It changed all of our training all of our equipment, and made us realize how things we had that were still legacy even from World War Two just don't work. So it changed everything. I think for How we train we train together, get active and reserve for where our assets are located. units have helicopters? Do we have the right balance of aviation with naval capabilities? So it to me It changed every single thing. Perhaps administratively some of that. And those regulations took a long time to catch up. But you probably remember when we've had all of the issues with helmets Do we have the right helmet, we have to change from the M 16. rifle to the M 4 because it's too difficult to get the barrel out the window of humvee before we even had humvee, so it changed everything was just such a rapid pace for those years and determining what we would do and what we were doing.

Amanda Huffman13:43 

Yeah, when I deployed it was 2010. And we trained in Humvees and then when we were overseas or in MRAP, and I had no idea, just because I didn't know anything about the military, that people were actually like fighting the war in home bees and that was like how it started. It just blew my mind talking to people and seeing like how much change happen in such a short period of time, and even between 2010 and now, even more things have changed. And it's just a rapid of all the changing. And the military is just

Mari Eder  14:17 

You know, it takes 18 months for everything to change in total, except for the ugly uniforms, which is like much everything in training, even if you were to tell people and if you went in 2010 and you were to tell people in 2012 this is what it would like, be like, it's totally different for them.

Amanda Huffman14:34 

Yeah, it's so true. I talked to someone who went to Bagram in 2013 and I went in 2010 and she said they got rocketed like every day and we never really got rocketed like maybe once a month at ballroom and I was at a fall most of the time but it like the whole the war change the technology changed just how they fought the war cheat like it was everything was like you said what I would tell her wouldn't have been even close to correct because everything had changed. And yeah, and that was I left at the end of 2010, and then the chooser in 2013. So two years later, and everything was different. So do you have any favorite memories from your time in the military, you can either be reserves or active duty. 

Mari Eder  15:18 

I have lots of favorites and lots of favorite groups of people and friends and colleagues. I always look forward to seeing them because that's the one thing about reading that is you miss your friends. My last job in the army was to command a new unit that was standing up more of that change. So this was a unit that was going to have all of the low density highly technical specialties in the army. So I had all of the attorneys in the unit. So I have 1800 and 75 attorneys, I had all of those cyber unit information options, Homeland Defense, and so some very technical specialties. And they tried to teach me a little bit of what they were doing in the cyber realm just so I could help you with how The army was looking at setting up different units and where they should be located. And should this even be a branch and that some of that is not only difficult, technically, but also it becomes political. But I learned quite a bit from doing around every one of those groups. And they all taught me so much that I didn't know before. I say that once we tell you what we do, you'll never use a credit card online. Again, really. That's kind of scary, but they do amazing things. And again, I'm always fascinated by what people get to tell you I got to go speak at places to so you get better at speaking, I think because you have to do it so much. And I was asked to go speak at the commissioning ceremony at Johns Hopkins University. This is a school I could have never gotten into. You know, when I was a paying, I could have never gotten into that school. I was just amazed at the opportunity and grateful to be able to do something like that.

Amanda Huffman16:54 

Yeah, I feel like the military opens doors that you didn't even know you could get To let alone walk through just because of the things that you learn on your time in the military, and just the people that you get connected to, and like you said, doing speeches and learning how to become a good speaker, and all that sort of stuff can lead to new things that you didn't ever expect to have to or get to do.

Mari Eder  17:18 

Yeah, I think the biggest thing that I learned was, you have to have a sense of humor. You really do you have to be able to laugh at yourself, and laugh at situation because it gets you through the tougher times. And it puts things in perspective and makes them seem more reasonable. You know, I did so much flying, you know, I'm not, I don't like to fly very much. But I found out afterwards that if you fly in uniform, I would be in the airport and people would come up and hug me, which was just an odd experience. It's like people come up and touch your kids. You know, when we have babies, we don't do that. So people would come up and hug me and try to buy me drinks and I can't drink anything in uniform, then they would be hurt. And it was just an interesting experience. So I have one run through this, the Chicago airport where I've, it's late with a connection, and I made it onto the plane, they shut the door. And I'm all the way in the back, as usual. And then the announcement comes on that there's something wrong with the planning that won't take off for another 45 minutes. And I looked at the flight attendant and said, so can I order a pizza? and have it delivered here? No. I said, What do you have to eat? I'm hungry. It wasn't a flight where they had any food. And it was only I'm sure because I was in uniform. They were scrounged for me a pack of crackers, two bananas and a little container of Bailey's, which, of course I couldn't have. So I had two bananas and some crackers, and a bag of peanuts for lunch. But it was funny, you know, and I found out afterwards. When I when I speak to flight attendants, they don't answer. They would always talk to me because I'm your thing. And so I found that changed to be Oh, I'm not I'm not special. You know I mean that.

Amanda Huffman19:01 

Yeah, I do. I know exactly what you're talking about. That's one of the things that I've written a few times about is about when you're in the military people see you and you stand out because you're a woman in the uniform and not very many women, more women are serving, but not very many women serve. And then when you leave, you become invisible. And like people don't acknowledge you for like anything. It's Yeah, it's a huge, it's a huge change. So yeah, I know exactly what you're talking about. 

Mari Eder  19:31 

You know, you still project that you're still projecting how you carry yourself and how you walk. I have friends who say if you start marching, we go anywhere, no, this is just how I walk, then can you slow down? Oh, I didn't know I was going too fast. So you still project? Yes. And you still are and always will be someone who has served and that is part of you forever.

Amanda Huffman19:53 

Yeah. Someone wants told me they were like something's different about you. What's different about you? And I was like, I served in the military. They were like, Oh, I knew there was something I just couldn't figure out was. And so it kind of surprised me because they were just like, what's different?

Mari Eder  20:08 

It is confidence is what shows. And you know, it's only less than 1% of Americans who do so. So you are an anomaly in many ways. Now certainly when I go back to my hometown, it's back there last year to go visit my high school. I'm probably the only one in my class who served for some good sir for a couple of years, but who stayed and who stayed longer. So and they all look at me like, well, we never thought you would be something like that. You never thought you would make anything of yourself to that extent, to be what they say because we were all just basically rural farms. I suppose at that time, I would have been voted least likely to succeed. But if you learn how to drive your schedule, and if you said your husband was having to do the studying on weekends or at nights and still balanced family in there It's not easy. But there's nothing like being in the military for teaching you a how much or how little sleep you can get by and be how you do time energy and how you prioritize. And again, like I said, how you modulate go back and forth between competing requirements and how you get stuff done.

Amanda Huffman21:19 

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Amanda Huffman22:22 

Let's get back to the show. 

So I want to switch gears a little bit and talk about why you decided to leave the military and transition out 

Mari Eder  22:31 

Well, I ran out of time they said sorry. You're done now. So I stayed 36 years in the Army Reserve. There's only one free stone position. So I always said it was kind of like that old show Highlander. You know, the end there can be only one and you run out of time. It's called you've had the maximum amount of time you it's time for you to go. If you don't leave somebody else that move on. And I think for many people who have a full career those that timeframe between year 12 and 16 But when will this? How much longer do I need to do this? I want to leave now. And by the time they actually told me that 25 or more years, it's I don't want to go, I like it too much. But there's it was George Marshall, who said, I don't want any 60-year-old generals, they don't take risks. So you have to move so other people can move up. And so things can change.

Amanda Huffman23:23 

That's very true. That makes a lot of sense. And it's kind of funny, you said that because my husband and I, he's at the, like, 13, this year point, and we're both like, okay, we're ready to be done, but we're almost there. And so it's funny that you mentioned right in that window, and then the next thing you know, we'll be like, wait, we're not ready to get out. But it's just yeah.

Mari Eder  23:47 

Yeah, and the army has just changed it to uniform again. So now, now you're dating. I go anywhere wearing a uniform, I'm not wearing the current one. But you know, I would come back for that bomber jacket. I swear.

Amanda Huffman24:03 

That's awesome. So what was your transition out of the military like?

Mari Eder  24:08 

I had a change of command ceremony. My headquarters was in Salt Lake. So my 26 subordinate commanders, who were all colonels, or there was representations of their unit so we did the full on ceremony with the firing battery, the band. And then I drove away. And I think that there's Colin Powell has a great thing to say don't look into Roubini don't complain about how things change after you leave it in the boat. You've done everything you can, and you have to go. So I left that and I had a retirement ceremony A few weeks later. By then I had the flu. So I was pretty much out of it for the day about retirement soon. But and I was sick for the next couple of weeks. But I think a lot of that is realizing you have reached the finish line. I know many people Sleep, sleep for about a month or more after they retired, because the stress is done. And certainly you work all the way up to the last minute with the things that have to be completed. I called it skidding off the end of the runway. So the way I retired was, I didn't plan far ahead, I didn't ease into a transition. I skidded off the end of the runway, and then woke up and said, What happened? So getting used to being retired took a long time. I think people who say it takes four to five years before you really accept that change and where you are and what it's not. I don't know that anybody told me that I would have believed. Now I'll be fine. Really, this is no problem. But you know, we're all a little tougher now than that. No, I know the dog bit me but that wasn't a big hole in my arm. I can do this sometimes. So but it does take a while. And it takes a while to discover who you are without it. And what we want to be and what I've always wanted to be was a Right, I'm going to right now and write book flow. That is not exactly an easy transition. But I didn't want to do what so many of my peers were, which is going directly into working for a contractor of some kind, and basically just changing the clothes but not changing anything out. So I've been working very hard to find my voice with that. I've written some thriller novels, and I do have an agent who is working very hard to find a publisher for it because it's a series I've written a non fiction book with a fiction piece added to it very the story of a little known world war two Russian general who was captured by the Germans then fought for them, and supposedly buried something Nazi gold somewhere in Germany. That was a big story when I lived, so I knew places and I knew we were supposedly hidden. You know, one day if you don't see me, I'm on a plane with a shovel, and I'm going back over there. So I have that story, and I have a new one I'm working on.

Amanda Huffman26:57 

Yeah, I think that's really a good point, I want to go back to the four to five years because I was in for six years, and then I transitioned. And so I've been out about six years since I left. And it really did take me four to five years to find myself. And so I think that's a normal thing for everyone who transitions, especially if you don't go to like that contract or type job, if you like, do something totally different, like my degrees in Civil Engineering. And now I'm a writer and podcaster, which is like that, how do those go together? And so that, that's really good. But I want to hear more about your book that you're working on right now.

Mari Eder  27:36 

Okay, but first, I'll tell you, I think as a Civil Engineer, you are very much focused on process.

Amanda Huffman27:41 

I am very much focused on process. You're right. 

Mari Eder  27:45 

So as you came to this, you analyzed that you studied that you made a plan for it. You wrote the plan out, you trained yourself, you found out everything you could and then when you launched it, there were no surprises, or very few because you were you were totally prepared. Yeah, in that round. says true.

Amanda Huffman28:02 

There's a lot of learning to do. But yes, that that is my, you nailed it. That's the way I am. 

Mari Eder  28:10 

And I bet your house runs just perfectly to, you know, with. You might not think so. But it does.

Amanda Huffman28:19 

You know, we have a system. It's just that we have children and they, they're a little crazy.

Mari Eder  28:24 

But that's it. That's the part of it. You can't take into account for the schedule for today. Yeah. Now I have to go do this and pick, pick one of them up from school and everything else goes out the window, but because you have a plan, you're able to let things happen. That's so true. Okay, so what I'm working on now is just something that's grown with me as an idea. Over the past couple of years. I've started to wear a book I got when I retired, kind of my former commanders gave me this book called the women of the Civil War, a historical book because we thought it would be a good I get to give somebody a history book. And so this book was published in 1866. And it's about the hundreds of women who served in the Civil War. I was blown away by that, because I really didn't know there were that many. And in the foreword to the book, the author said, well, there's actually thousands and they just don't know about all of that. So these are vignette stories of women who serve who went with their husbands or picked up a gun and started to help out in the camp, and then ended up fighting or doing some other type of support activity, like bringing forth rations or ammunition. And I didn't know they existed. I only knew about a couple of women who had been in the Civil War. So I was fascinated with that. Then a couple of years ago, I learned about this book called The Hello girls about the 223 women who were in World War One in the army. They were telephone on. Now by then all the other services it started to recruit women, mostly as nurses and some admins. specialists, but these women were on the front line. And in order to get there, they also had to be able to speak French. And it was General person who directed they'd be recruited because men were too slow to connecting from call, it would take them a minute, and it took the women 10 seconds. So they were they were pulled after the war, they were not diagnosed and never really been in line. And it's a 60 year fight to get them recognition. So now I'm fascinated with this story. And then last year, I picked up a book called code girls by a former Washington Post reporter. And this is about the women in Washington who were code breakers. And World War Two, there were 10,000 of them. That was just amazes me to think of they were something like 6000 maybe women in downtown DC, they worked out of the building that is now DHS and 4000 army women who worked in the area in Arlington health station, which is now at the National Guard headquarters. I actually think you could do a great world war two tour of DC, just saying but I'm fascinated with these stories. Super achievers who I don't know anything about come to today. And I want to write about some of them. And I started reading obituaries of world war two women who are all in their late 90s. Now, when they die, there's big stories about what they did the spies, the codebreakers, the ones who save people from the camps, and the ones who survived the games. And what fascinates me about those stories is the impact of what they did. And how for the most part, they were alone, or isolated or constricted by the security that they did one of the Navy code breakers, and she was afraid to go to sleep because she might talk in their sleep, and they never talk. It's just last year, they had their first reunion. It's not only their story, it's how they impacted all of us, and how different things are for us because of them. Now, when you were in the Air Force, and you went to boger, you weren't the only woman there, right?

Amanda Huffman31:52 

No, but I was attached to an infanty unit which we weren't allowed to be in 2010.

Mari Eder  31:58 

Right. And you think about it. The doors that are open now and especially right. And so what's different for us, among other things is networking, the ability to network and volume. There's more, more people, more women joining more and moving up all female flight crews at Annapolis. There is now a women's mentorship program. And up until three or four years ago, there wasn't even enough in not in ours midshipmen but in the staff and faculty. Yeah, so much changed so much positive change. It's amazing. It is and as you said, with all the specialties now being open to them, more and more people are joining and not not to be first got to a point where you're saying, well, I thought it was cool. My recruiter said I could blow things up. So I wanted to be an artillery. Okay. That's a better reason.

Amanda Huffman32:45 

Well, yeah, and I don't think women going to be the first one, even when I went in, was attached to an infantry unit with army even though I served in the Air Force. I didn't know I didn't even really know there was a regulation that I want. wasn't supposed to be doing that or that it was kind of I just did whatever the military told me to do. And that's what I did. And I didn't think anything of it, because the military does a really good job, I'm glad they finally have changed the regulations. But I feel like they do a good job being like you're a person do this, they don't look at sex. And now they really don't. But at the time, they were like, you're an engineer, we need an engineer, go do this job. And so that's what I did.

Mari Eder  33:27 

I think that's great. As long as you remember that, and I think that's what I found with so many of these stories as well, that didn't count or you're not really a veteran, or there was an admiral who was asked after World War Two, he was testifying before Congress, about the codebreakers. And he said, Well, I think all the men who were here did a magnificent job. Just because they had all signed agreements. They didn't ever speak, the stories never came out. So I like telling these stories. And I mentioned to you earlier, I was at the women's Memorial yesterday, where they're connected. To tell those stories and encourage women to register, they've got a huge ambitious goal to get to the first 25 years here of having more than a million registered because there's more than 2 million women veterans in the United States. And and what we find is people say, Well, you know, I didn't do that. I wasn't in for that long. Everybody counts. Everybody makes a contribution and makes a difference.

Amanda Huffman  34:23 

Yeah, that's sometimes what I hear from women. When I tell them about my podcast, they're like, Oh, that's really great. But my story is not worth telling. And I'm like, No, you have a story. You need to tell it. And it's kind of interesting how interesting their story is, even though they think that they don't have a story. I know I think that is so true. Everybody has a story that is meaningful and can help inform, inspire. And so I think that's another reason that I'm so happy you do this, because it's so important, and I would want to promote what you're doing. I'm working to get connected with them. And so I know that I'm on their radar. We just have to connect and get everything for figured out. But I think we can partner together and reach more women and tell more stories. And I think what you're doing with the world war two veterans is really cool. I got to interview Aaron Miller and her grandmother was a wasp during World War Two. And so her Episode 50 on the podcast is just a fascinating story. And while I was reading her book about her experience, I was really upset, but also really excited because I didn't know the story of the wasp. And because of reading her story, I got to hear all about what the women had done, and what they had to go through to become recognized as veterans. And then after she died to get recognized to be buried at Arlington, and all the things that they went through, and it was it was eye opening. And so I think telling those stories is so important.

Mari Eder  35:53 

Yeah, some of the stories of the spies are incredible, and many of them ended up working at the CIA or NSA afterwards. You're one of them who ended up with the CIA who is her name is Virginia Hall. And she had wanted so desperately to get to work in intelligence and she just couldn't get there and wouldn't take her in. And this is a time in World War Two there. You know, women were just overlooked. So she was in Europe, trying to get into work with the OSS in the flesh actually said they would hire her. And then she had a hunting accident and shot herself in the foot and had to have her leg amputated. So several years later, when she was running this huge spy network in France, Klaus Barbie, Nazi war criminal later was after the new she was there, and they couldn't get her. She escaped by going over the mountains in the dead of winter, dragging that 14 pounds wouldn't like the smell. And when she got into Spain, they were they kept her for a few days because she didn't have a passport stamp, but she escaped and she ended up working for the CIA for you. Wow.

Amanda Huffman36:56 

Yeah. That's so awesome. I was so excited about The work that you're doing and all the books that you're writing and I can't wait to get a chance to read them and and help you promote them so that more people can hear about them. But I have one last question for you. What would you tell girls who are considering joining the military?

Mari Eder  37:16 

Go for it. Do enough research to know if you're right for the Air Force, if you're right for the Coast Guard. If you're right to go in the army, which one offers you what will work for you? I'll say this about the army is there's something there for everyone. If you want to be a cook, want to be a chef, go in the army. And they'll send you to a advanced schooling at some of the work with some of the best chefs in the nation. If you want to be a warrior, you'll be that no matter which service you go into, but each one has a culture and each one culture is different. So pick the one that fits you that you think fits the way you like to work and how you get along with people, how you make decisions and where you want to go. I would say go and go in the military. Go do Something at the age of 18 or 19, that gives back have that as a gap year or two or three, you don't have to stay forever. Just go have the experience, travel, do something different challenge yourself.

Amanda Huffman38:11 

That's great advice. I think everyone can benefit from spending some time in the military. And I'm so thankful for the six years that I served and all the experiences that I have, and I think you're right, just a few years and it'll change everything. I know that you can be a chef, I've interviewed a chef who served in the Coast Guard. She shared her experience on episode 18 if you want to check it out, but there are so many different things you might not know all the different jobs that there are available for you in the military.

Mari Eder  38:42 

And there is there is definitely a way for you to find one that you never even thought about. Like you never thought growing up, you would have a podcast. Yeah, that's true. Well, because there weren't any of them, but that's, you know, that's something else. So it's always changing. for Social Media Manager. There's things that we'll have Just this tomorrow that doesn't exist now, the army just now has its own gaming team to compete on a national level for all not just military games, but they compete in fortnight and many of the others.

Amanda Huffman39:10 

Yeah, see all these opportunities I don't even know about. That's crazy. Thank you so much for taking time out of your day. And for being a guest on the podcast. I really enjoyed getting to hear your experience and all the different pieces of wisdom that you shared. Do you have anything else that you want to add before we wrap it up?

Mari Eder  39:29 

I think that if people find your podcast and I think they should be promoted to ROTC so that we have people who are looking at the very basics of what military life might be like going forward, if they delve into the stories that you're telling, they'll be able to see and understand more and it's not quite so strange and so daunting and so scary to try something like that. You know, we all were six years old once and walk to that first day of school, which is probably the scariest thing ever. But once you get past that, you know you can do it and you can Make friends. I want you to have friends when you have colleagues and cohorts. It's so much better going forward.

Amanda Huffman40:05 

That's so true. Thank you so much. I really appreciated you being on the podcast and for all your wisdom. Thank you.

Mari Eder  40:12 

Thank you.

Amanda Huffman40:15 

Thank you for listening to this episode of women of the military. Make sure to subscribe so you don't miss any of the amazing stories I have with women who have served in our military. Did you love the show? Don't forget to leave a review. Finally, if you are a woman who has served or is currently serving in the military, please email me at airman to mom@gmail.com so I can set you up to be on a future episode of women of the military.


Transcribed by https://otter.ai