Women of the Military

Staying informed with MOAA

Episode Summary

Since 1929, the Military Officers Association of America's (MOAA) mission has been to protect your earned military benefits. But what does being a member mean for you? This week I’m talking with retired Brigadier Gen Sylvia Crockett. She talked about her experience as a member and the pivotal information provided through the email updates, monthly magazine, and the great resources available through MOAA. If you are currently serving or have served in the military as an officer you can join MOAA today at MOAA.org/forthepeople.

Episode Notes

Sylvia found the military by working as a civil servant for the California National Guard. She said it felt like a family and she wanted to be a part of the community as a service member and decided to join. She was mentored by Lt Col Ralph Page who had nine children and took her under his wing and gave her advice and mentorship as if she was one of his children. He was the one who pushed her to apply for Officer Candidate School. Her career culminated with her reaching the rank of Brigadier General that opened doors up for her and gave her the ability to represent women and the Latina community in a place that before did not have a voice or representation.

She and her husband are both veterans and are both members of MOAA. And the primary thing they find important and why they are members is through the information provided by MOAA through email updates and the magazine. MOAA helps them stay current on what is going on in the military and on Capitol Hill and allows them to use their voice to contact various government representatives because they know what is happening. She also talked about the lobbying power of MOAA. We talked more about MOAA’s lobbying power in the first bonus episode with Aniela Szymanski, you can check out that episode here.

But another critical important benefit is the transition resources, grants, and scholarships available to members. You can get a scholarship, interest-free loans, grants, and more. But there are also resources for resume writing to help you convert your military resume into something that will help you land a new job outside of the military. They also are connected with LinkedIn that can help connect you and build your network. So many great benefits when you leave military service and beyond. 

Health care is a program that has been on the forefront of Gen Crokett’s career and something she has been paying attention to after service. Currently, the military is looking into re-organizing the billets for medical care, the Spouse Angle interviewed MOAA representative Karen Ruedisueli to talk specifically about this issue, and the work MOAA was doing. And the voice MOAA provided has forced Congress to take another look at the proposed plan. 

Brigadier General Sylvia R. Crockett was assigned as the Land Component Commander of the California Army National Guard in October 2014. In this capacity, she is responsible for providing command and control over all non-divisional units in California. The units consist of five brigade-level commands and include the 1106th Theater Aviation Sustainment Maintenance Group, 49th Military Police Brigade, 115th Regional Support Group, 223rd Regional Training Institute, and the California Army National Guard Medical Command.

General Crockett enlisted in the California Air National Guard as a supply technician in 1982. After serving two years with the 129th Rescue Wing, she transferred to the California Army National Guard to attend the California Military Academy. She was commissioned in 1985 as an Adjutant Corps Officer and subsequently became branch qualified as a Military Intelligence Officer. General Crockett has served in command positions from the Company level through up to the Brigade.

Join MOAA Today

Related Episode:

Episode 33: Medical Care Could Soon Look Different for Many Military Families

Bonus Episode: Advocacy with MOAA

Bonus Episode: MOAA is more that Advocacy

Want to read the whole transcript? Click here.

Episode Transcription

Amanda Huffman00:00

Welcome to this bonus episode of Women of the Military Podcast 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. But what does that really mean for you being a member this week I'm talking with retired Brigadier General Sylvia Crockett. And she talks about her experience of serving in the military and what it was like to be a member and how she stays involved through Mola through the pivotal information provided through email updates, the monthly magazine and the other great transition resources and grants and scholarships available. If you are currently serving or have served in the military as an officer. You can join MOAA today at www.MOAA.org/forthepeople. Now 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 a 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. Sylvia, I'm excited to have you here.

BG Crockett01:55

Well, thank you, I appreciate the invite.

Amanda Huffman01:57

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

BG Crockett02:01

You know, that's such a big question. And there are so many reasons I started, I decided to join the military. But the bottom line is, is that I had an older brother who was in the army, and he got hurt right before he went to Vietnam. So he was discharged. And that was probably my initial exposure. But ultimately, as when I was probably in my early 20s, I went to work for the California National Guard. And I never even heard of the California National Guard, quite frankly. And I went over there and I was a state civil servant. And after working there for some time and getting to know different people and understanding what the mission was, I got very energized and I joined the Air National Guard, because I think because the guard is such a community-based organization, and I have very, very close ties to my community that I grew up in even now that I no longer live there. So I joined in, ultimately it became I'm going to say an international venture because I was able to, you know, go different places and serve in different places and so forth. So that's why I joined.

Amanda Huffman03:07

Yeah, and that's pretty interesting that you were working as a civil servant, and then you you learned about the military, and then you were like, I'm gonna do this. So that's really cool that you found it that way.

BG Crockett03:17

Yeah, it was a very, very welcoming place. And I think when I joined one of probably the most positive impacts on my entire career was a gentleman by the name of Lieutenant Colonel Ralph page, and he had nine children. So oftentimes, when he talked to me at work, he would say, Oh, I forgot, I feel like I'm talking to a child. Because I was so so much younger that he provided a lot of mentorship and really encouraged me to join. And then he actually encouraged me to go on to OCS when I switched from the Air Guard to the army. So it turned out to be a whirlwind and a very, very present.

Amanda Huffman03:57

That's so great to hear that you had a mentor so early on, and that he was able to take you under his wing like you were one of his kids. So that's really cool. Is there any particular aspect from your career that you're proud of?

BG Crockett04:09

I think probably the culminating event in my career was I was promoted to Brigadier General. And I was the first Latina in the guard in the National Guard. If I'm not mistaken, I might be mistaken here. But I believe I was the first actual Latina to be promoted to Brigadier General. And because of that, I was able to, I want to say sit at tables that I wasn't previously able to sit at. And by doing that, I was able to shape decisions and ultimately able to provide I say mentorship to a lot of different people. And that was very important to me and in and in my path on my path to Brigadier General. I actually commanded the 223rd Infantry Brigade, which is a basically a school house and we trained so many people that came from across the entire United States and I feel like I had a lasting impact. Those people and a lot of my personal values in the way that I saw things I was able to impart. And so I feel like I had an impact throughout the United States by being that commander there,

Amanda Huffman05:11

I'm sure you did. And I'm sure the women and men who were Latina, felt empowered by seeing you up there. And you've probably had an impact that you don't even realize how you touch people's lives.

BG Crockett05:24

That was probably the biggest issue. No, attaining the rank is always a good thing. But even today, I have people who call me from the guard, and they asked my opinion on things. And so I felt like I'm still mentoring them. But I still am very much involved in different organizations and a lot of Latino organizations. And as such, people always want to introduce me, Brigadier General Sylvia Crockett, and I remind them that I've been retired for a while, but the different organizations just like me being there, and like saying that because it shows that you know, what everybody can reach what they strive for, but they simply have to strive for. 

Amanda Huffman06:01

So how did you get involved in the Military Officers Association of America?

BG Crockett06:07

years ago, I think I may have been a Lieutenant or a Captain, we were told there are different organizations, you have the organization that represents the California National Guard, all states have National Guard associations. And they also were also told about MOAA and so I joined when I think I was a Lieutenant or Captain and I remained a pretty, I'm going to say, active member more of a recipient getting the information and using the information till I retired. And when I retired, my husband and I were both retired, and he was an active member. So we both basically benefited from it and and were able to learn about things that were current and pass that off. Yeah. And you talked that you and your husband are both retired military. And so you're both members. And so that's kind of an interesting dynamic, I thought it was interesting in the emails back and forth, when we talked about how you guys are both members. And so it's, it's an interesting dynamic to both be prior service. My husband was in the army, he was a colonel when he retired. And so I was able to stay in the guard, we actually had kind of figured it out where he would retire earlier than me. So anyway, he retired as a colonel, he had opportunities beyond that, but he decided to retire. And I stayed in. And as such, we both get information. My husband was an avid consumer of the army times he used to read the army, you know, read the army information on a regular basis. And over the years, it's waned, but we still get the MOAA magazine, and we get the information online. And we read that all the time because it just keeps us current.

Amanda Huffman07:43

Yeah. Do you would you say that the information in the MOAA magazine is the biggest benefit from? Or is there something else that you guys really like?

BG Crockett07:51

Well, I think the information is probably the most powerful because it keeps you current. And if you are, you know, interested in supporting various issues, like writing letters, to support legislation and or talking to your local legislative staff, and you can do that, and it's simply reading a magazine. And so so for me, that's the most important but the other thing that I think is critically important about MOAA is that their lobbying power, that, you know, they seek out those issues that are pertinent to serving members and serving in past members, and then they lobby, you know, our Congress for them. And, and that is critically important, especially when you start to become removed from the organization such as I say, the organization mean, the military affiliation because we all know we can go to the commissary and get health care and so forth and so on. But those benefits oftentimes can change. And MOAA is at the forefront of that type of endeavor. And they are able to help, I think, well, they are they very, they are very impactful on making sure that the benefits remain available to us.

Amanda Huffman09:05

Yeah. And the first two interviews I did with Aniela, and with Rachel, we talked about Aniela was lobbyists. And so she talked about some of the work that she did and the the impact that MOAA had on Capitol Hill. And then Rachel is a MOAA council member. And she talked about storming the hill and what Moe was doing. And so it's if you want to learn more about the lobbying part, definitely go back and listen to those episodes, because I found those just so interesting to hear about all the lobbying and I think you're right. MOAA plays a really important role in lobbying and getting our voice heard in Congress and to make sure that the benefits that we have stay or that they get better and not worse,

BG Crockett09:47

Quite frankly, when I retired, I before I retired, I was a director of Strategic Communications for the California National Guard, California is one of the largest guards out there and so I had the opportunity to work with various People to, you know, make sure that there was legislation not only that would impact California support California, but oftentimes it would be more of a nationwide issue. And MOAA was one of the resources that I use, you know, I would simply look it up to see what they were doing, see what they were doing, because they they remained very, very current on health care, paid benefits, and also different types of services that are available to us or to China. And so if I was pursuing something, for instance, the health care benefits for a reserve component are a lot different than an active component member. And so when we first started that initiative in California, MOAA was one of the resources that we use.

Amanda Huffman10:40

Yeah, they're doing such great work and so important. So I think you talked about it a little bit, you said that you use some of their programs. Were there any particular programs MOAA was involved in that you think Veterans Service members or their families should know about? You talked about the reserve health care, but is there anything else?

BG Crockett10:58

Well, I think that the families, especially those that are separating from the service via retirement, or they're simply moving on, I think they need to really pay attention to those benefits that are available, because they have educational benefits that are available, you know, there's criteria, obviously, but they have lots of educational benefits that you can get a scholarship, you can get an interest free loan, and grant etc. So that's a great program. But the one that I really like is the educational and say resume writing, you're converting your military resume to a civilian resume. And then more now, when I got out was not at the time, but more this is connected with LinkedIn. So you can put information in there. And there is a way to communicate with others that are pretty much in your same same boat, if you will. So there are a lot of benefits that are available for not only the members, but also the spouses. So that's what I think will be most important. But I have to tell you, I just have to emphasize the information. Because just going through and looking at maybe not even reading the entire magazine or update but just going through and looking at those things that are of interest to you know, as a person who is otherwise not, it doesn't have that type of stuff available at their, at their fingertips, it's a great place to go and point you in various directions.

Amanda Huffman12:18

Yeah, there's so many resources, especially for those transitioning out of the military. I was I've been doing a lot of research about MOAA, as I've been working on this project, and I keep going to their website. And I'm like, there's more stuff. And like, for the longest time, I really thought the work that they did was just like the information that they put out and some of the stuff they did on Capitol Hill. But I had no idea how vast and the tool of being connected with LinkedIn that's so important for people transitioning right now. So it shows how they're always adapting and on the cutting edge and on the front of the technology. So that's awesome.

BG Crockett12:54

It is it is I will tell you, one of the biggest benefits, as I said was for me and my husband both is the information. But for me, I'm always looking at the different aspects of healthcare, because one of my assignments, I was the army chief, and that was, you know, I don't know, probably 15 or 20 years ago, but at the time that I became the key one, we were just starting to deploy vast numbers to Iraq and Afghanistan. And so we would deploy these soldiers, and when they got home, you know, something with the wrong, I don't know, if they had an issue that they didn't want to disclose at the redeployment platform or whatever, they hit home and after, you know, maybe four to six months or something, they would have an issue that would not be addressed by the military because there was no clear link. And so we were able to work and MOA was very, very much at the forefront of this. But we were able to get all that taken care of to our soldiers now have benefits that go beyond, you know, actually had benefits that only was like 60 to 90 days about your 180 out and then now you can buy it, pay for it yourself and get better. So you know, without MOAA and the power lobbying, I will tell you that that may not happen. The other thing that MOAA has very, very important and very impacted on is the fact that you know, the components change of time either always evolving where we have different chord structure in more in the actual lesson that was like you might have more infantry in the active component and lessons but one of the things that MOA does, and in fact, in their current legislation is they're looking at the villains that are available, because apparently, we're coding and I didn't know this until I read the most recent additions that we are considering in Congress during the reorganization, we're decreasing the number of medical billets that we have, and I can tell you we move for medical billing. So it's all the time sometimes it's hard to get them filled. But when you do that, those nurses for a long, long time and so that's a great thing and the other I'll stop talking about healthcare, my issue. But the other thing is that health care oftentimes can be very remote when you get out of the military at Fort Hood, and you stay in order for it to work. And you can go back to military coverage right here at Fort Hood. But if you do not do, and you move to a place like Sacramento, where I live in Sacramento, and most of the military is less than you, you don't have the ability to just go to various military installations. So that's another thing that making sure that you have your outreach resources that are available via civilian versus military.

Amanda Huffman15:39

Yeah. And that healthcare thing that you talked about, I listened to the Spouse Angle, and she interviewed someone and I'll go find that and I'll link to it in the show notes where she was talking specifically about how they're trying to change the billets, and they're trying to make it so there's like more outsourcing, which is, like you said, it's the opposite of what the military needs. And I know that the mole is advocating and working to make sure that the right thing is done for military families. So that's an important thing to bring up. Because I remember listening to that episode and be like, what are they doing? 

BG Crockett16:11

And you don't think about it? Because you think when you join the military, and if you do 20 years, okay, you have health care for life? Well, yeah, you might have health care in Alaska, and you live in California, I'm exaggerating, but you know, it's not readily available.

Amanda Huffman16:25

Yeah, yeah, exactly. So why should servicemembers and veterans get involved in MMA and become members,

BG Crockett16:33

because MOAA represents very broadly, every service member out there, because here's the beauty of MOAA. MOAA is an organization that is predominantly staffed with prior military members. And those military members have lived the life if you will, and therefore they know what it was like when they were in the military. They know what benefits they had available to them. And so when they talk to a younger serving member who is about to get out, or who's in the military, and having concerns, oftentimes they've encountered that issue, maybe not very specific, not the specific issue, but they're familiar with. And so they can help people along the way. And therefore, I feel like their focus is very, very onpoint. Because they are not civilians who are running a military organization, they are military who are out there advocating for other military. So, you know, they basically walk the walk and talk the talk. And so I greatly appreciate that. And I think that if other servicemembers that are looking for information or find that they don't know where to go, then mo is a place where you can start and I will guarantee anybody who joins and who gets any type of information from them, they will then want to know more. And they will use more as a resource.

Amanda Huffman17:56

Yeah, you can go to www.moaa.org/forthepeople to sign up. And the coolest part about MOAA, at least I think it's cool is that the BASIC membership is free. So you can get involved and you don't even have to give money. And then they have higher levels of membership that get you like the magazine and more resources, but just to get the information that's free. And so I think everyone who's eligible, should check it out and join.

BG Crockett18:27

I agree. And you know, you find that there's information in mo for MOAA is vast, because you will find the whole lobbying issues about for structure, about health care about educational benefits, all the way down to the type of benefits that are critical, oftentimes to spouses who are, you know, they're with their their spouse, they go to an installation while the military member gets there. And for the most part, he hits the ground running because they get there, they're assigned to unit, they have a job, they know what they have to do. Whereas the spouse hasn't necessarily, you know, adapt that quickly. Because they have to find out the resources, the childcare, the so forth to different schools that are available at their schools on post, etc. and MOAA has information that is encompassing that will kind of help the spouse orient him or herself also.

Amanda Huffman19:18

Yeah, that's a good point. It's not just for the service member. It's also for the family and the spouses through all the information that they have available. And that's so important. So what's the first step that someone who decides to join MOAA should take if they want to get involved?

BG Crockett19:36

I think first thing is to join, get the magazine, get the information, read it and look at it and see what interests you. For me personally, leave right on the regular basis. My husband and me are always my husband, especially I may be the author, but I'm gonna say I'm the silent partner, if you will, but my husband is always writing letters to different members. You know, and we do it to advocate or whatever is concerning to us not necessarily something that specifically benefits us something that's concerning to us. So if you have a youth service member considering joining, well, then they join, they look, and they can determine to what degree they want to be involved in how they want to be involved, or if they just want to be a consumer of information. And then they can pass that information on, and therefore other people will be.

Amanda Huffman20:25

Yeah, I think that's great. Do you have any other advice or anything that we should talk about from MOAA that we didn't cover? 

BG Crockett20:32

Well, I don't think that it's advice necessarily. But one thing that's good about, I will tell you another thing that is critically important is mentorship. And you don't get the personal mentorship, if you will. But when you read mower, what you do is when you read the information from mower, you learn about other people's experiences, and you have a person that is providing information that you can benefit from. So to me, it's a form of mentorship, and you will be able to maybe read more about what the president of MOA is saying or about what the board members say, how do you get in a form of mentorship by getting the information and looking at the different people that are in charge, because the people that serve in the various positions, they have names, they have titles, they have files they have, etc. And you can look at that. And you can you can get mentorship, if you will, because I always look when I'm reading stuff, I'll Google that person and learn just a little bit about what they search for was known. And so it's just a good solid organization that I think advocates for serving members past and present.


Amanda Huffman21:45

That's so true. And I think I think the military has this really good type community where you can use resources like that to get connected with people see their names, look them up on LinkedIn and get connected with them and get that mentorship. So that's the podcast is all about mentorship. So that's really exciting to talk about. And I'm really glad you added that last point in there. So thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate you taking time out of your day to come and talk to me about MOAA and just thank you so much. 

BG Crockett22:14

Thank you very much I know you serve. And so thank you very much for your service and I believe your husband is still serving. He is wonderful that you have this tool servicemember organizations so you have a great day. And thank you very much I appreciate your time.

Amanda Huffman22:35

Thank you for listening to this week's episode of women of the military podcast. Do you love all things women in the military podcast become a subscriber so you never miss an episode and consider leaving a review. It really helps people find the podcast and helps the podcast to grow. Are you still listening? You could be a part of the mission of telling the stories of military women by joining me on patreon@patreon.com slash women of 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 military podcasts are located in the show notes. Thanks again for listening and for your support.