Women of the Military

The Challenge of Officer Candidate School in the Army - Episode 85

Episode Summary

It is challenging to be a woman in a leadership position in the military, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done. We get a chance to see how Gwendowln overcame the challenges she faced especially when she made the switch from Enlisted to Officer through Officer Candidate School.

Episode Notes

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Gwendolyn Jules served in the US Army from November 1990 to December 2012, started out as an enlisted Private (E2) 71L-Administrative Specialist and retired a Major (O4) Logistician. Became a mother four months after retiring, got my MBA, and began researching how to have an online information marketing business so that I could have the flexibility to travel with my husband who was still in the military. Currently, she produces a weekly podcast called "Manage Money Build Wealth" where I talk about how my military career was my mode of transportation to reach Financial Independence and Retire Early (FIRE). And now she wants to help other women reach FIRE and have peace along their financial journey.

In this episode, we talk about her joining the Army Reserves while in high school because she needed money for school clothes. The reality of what the military was all about and making the transition from Reserves to Active Duty. Going overseas and working on her degree. Getting to the rank of E-6 and determining that becoming an officer was the next right step. The challenge and struggle of Officer Candidate School (OCS). We also covered her deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan. And ended with how she met her husband and becoming a mom after transition out of the military. 

She tells young women to join the military if they are interested in it, but they should also realize the benefits come at a cost and the mission always comes first. If you are not ready to do the mission you should not join the military.

Connect with Gwendolyn:

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Mentioned in this episode:

Episode 59: Transitioning isn’t the same

Episode 43: Joining the Army While Still in High School

Episode 46: Enlisted to Officer (Danielle Kilian)

Do you want to hear more stories of military women? Check out my book Women of the Military! I share 28 stories of military women from women joining the military, currently serving and those who have left the military behind.

This episode was made possible by my Patreon supporters! Sign up in the month of July and August to get a free copy of Brave Women Strong Faith!

Read the full transcript here.

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Episode Transcription

Amanda Huffman  00:00

Welcome to Episode 85 of the Women of the Military podcast. This week my guest is Gwendolyn Jules. She served in the US Army from November of 1990 to December of 2012. In this episode, we talk about her joining the Army Reserves while in high school because she needed money for school clothes, the reality of what the military was about and making the transition from reserves to active duty going overseas and working on her degree, getting to the rank of e6, and then deciding that she wanted to become an officer the challenge of getting through Officer Candidate School, and then we also covered her deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan, and we ended with how she met her husband and becoming a mom after transitioning out of the military. So it's a lot but I'm really excited to dive in. 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 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. Welcome to the show. I'm excited to have you here.

Gwendolyn Jules  01:29

Thank you so much, Amanda. I'm happy to be here.

Amanda Huffman  01:31

So let's dive in with Why did you decide to join the military?

Gwendolyn Jules  01:36

Honestly, I joined the military because I needed money for school clothes. And I know that's hard for some people to believe. But when I was between my 10th and 11th grade year in high school, they had a summer hire program for high school students. And then we found that the next year they were not going to have the summer hire program and I am one of 14 children. So as you can imagine, there wasn't very much money to Go around. So I grew up rather poor. And so working these summer job gave me an opportunity to make some money and then buy some school clothes for myself. But when we learned that they weren't going to be doing the summer hire program. The next year, I had a female cousin who had went into the army. And I had already had two male cousins who went into the army, but it didn't register with me until I saw my female cousin do it. And it's a one day I was just riding through town and I remember I was near the main bridge in our hometown. And I was like, if my cousin Cynthia can do it then so can I and I didn't ask my father. I didn't ask my mother. I didn't ask anyone. I just ended up at the recruiter station in Montgomery, Alabama, and told them I wanted to join the military. So between my 11th and 12th grade year in high school, I went to basic training.

Amanda Huffman  02:45


Gwendolyn Jules  02:46

Going to be a senior when I got that because I went between my 11th grade year I had finished my junior year and I went that summer and then I came back home to go finish my high school year. I mean, my senior year of high school,

Amanda Huffman  02:57

And what time frame was it when you went to the recruiters office?

Gwendolyn Jules  03:01

I ended up in something that they called delayed entry. So I know by March of my junior year marks before that summer that I went to basic training, my parents had to sign the paperwork. I was in delayed entry programs. I didn't have to go to any Army Reserves, like trainings on the weekends, I was just in what they call delete injury. So I was officially in. And then once I went to basic training, then I was officially a part of the Army Reserves. And I spent my first 20 months in the army as a member of the Army Reserves.

Amanda Huffman  03:30

And so your senior year of high school after you got back from basic you were drilling on the weekends. You're in high school.

Gwendolyn Jules  03:38

Yep, I sure was.

Amanda Huffman  03:39

Yep. Oddly enough. I think you're the fourth person I've talked to who went to basic training, who did our National Guard or Reserves I went to basic training this summer and I was like, I didn't even know that was possible, right? I didn't all these women who've done that 

Gwendolyn Jules  03:54

right and neither did I. But you know, like I said, my reason for joining was because I wanted money to buy school clothes because my parents just did not have the money to be buying 14 Kids schools. And by that time, I mean, I'm 17. So I'm sort of, you know, on my own for that stuff. They're reserved their money for the younger children. So I was trying to figure out a way to make it happen. And then like I said, my female cousin had joined the army. So I was like, Okay, I could join the army too. And that's how I ended up going to basic training between my junior senior year of high school.

Amanda Huffman  04:23

So what are you did you feel prepared to go to basic training in the summer like being so young? 

Gwendolyn Jules  04:30

Yes, and no, because I felt prepared in the fact that my father is a long distance or was a long distance truck driver. He drove trucks for over 40 years. So he was at home all week. He would come home maybe on Wednesday, but mostly he came home on Friday through Sunday, right. So my siblings and I were primarily reared by my mother and as you can imagine, it takes something to rear 14 children. So there was a lot of, you know, strictness do it this way. You know, there was a lot of stress. witness. So you had to follow the rules. There was a lot of do it this particular way. So my mother raised me that way. And then maybe I'm the fourth oldest child. So being the fourth oldest child, I had to help with my younger brothers and sisters. So when she's taught you how to bathe the baby, the baby, the baby, step by step, those sorts of things helped me when I went into the military. So when I got into the military, and there was a drill sergeant, I was already used to being you know, that for not doing, you know, things that I was supposed to be doing. So I really wasn't intimidated by that as much I was used to cleaning. I knew how to clean I knew how to be thorough when I cleaned. So you know, in basic training, you have to clean the bathrooms and that sort of thing. I was used to following orders. So that helped me I was used to making up my bed and cleaning up my space and taking care of my area. So all of that sort of thing helped me in basic training. Guess the thing that I was it used to be so young was, I guess, like think like the amount of dinner with other people now I had 13 brothers decisions, but we all do what my mother said. Right? But when you're in basic training, and you have all these people who weren't necessarily raised the way that you were and they don't do it to Gerard says, and then you have this mass punishment thing going on that sort of thing, I wasn't prepared for it. And it just, I guess it left a bad taste in my mouth. I didn't like the whole mass punishment, you know, piece of it.

Amanda Huffman  06:19

That makes sense. That makes sense that especially because if all your brothers and sisters like did what your mom said, because they knew they had to do and then you were all getting punished because someone wasn't doing something that they were supposed to or they did something Yeah, that makes a lot of sense, right?

Gwendolyn Jules  06:35

We the event you either did it or you stuck with the consequences. But when one person did something, you know, my mother would get on to that one person but then in basic training, they like punish everyone, everybody traffic, give me 20, that sort of thing. And I was like, What is this? I'm not used to this. I don't like this. So yeah, that was a little hard to get used to do as a young person.

Amanda Huffman  06:55

When you finish basic training, you went back and you did you do the Reserves or Guard?

Gwendolyn Jules  07:00

I did Army Reserves. I was never in the Guard.

Amanda Huffman  07:03

So you did the reserves for you said two years?

Gwendolyn Jules  07:06

20 months? Oh, right at two years. 

Amanda Huffman  07:09

So you went almost two years in the reserves and then switch to active duty? 

Gwendolyn Jules  07:14

Yes, I did. And the reason I switched to active duty was because the Army Reserves were like so boring. So I would go there doing those drills on the weekends, and I would just sit in this office, I was a 71 Lima I was an enlisted person at the time I was what they call a 71 Lima, which is administrative specialist. So I did typing and filing and those sorts of things. But you know, Army Reserve units have people for that stuff, right. And so when I went there, I was just sitting in the office on a sofa, looking at the NCO, whoever was in charge. So I was so bored. And then plus I had a job at McDonald's. So I was thinking to myself, like, I'm sitting here wasting my entire day. I could be at McDonald's, you know, working and earning more money than I'm going to for this drill weekend, and that just became really bored, it's I start skipping some of them. And then somebody wrote me a letter, they was like, Hey, you don't have the right to skip your drills. So either you're gonna come to your drill or you can go on active duty or some other option that they gave me. So I was like, You know what, this is kind of boring. And then plus, I had worked like, between going to basic training, doing my army drills. Now I'm out of high school. And so I'm trying to find my way if I had went to several different jobs, trying to make it because I wanted to go to college, I wanted my own place, I want to move out my parents home and I wanted a car I didn't have money for any of this stuff. So they sent me the letter and it said that I had an option of going to active duty so so and so the next day, you know, I found myself back at the recruiters office saying, hey, I want to go on active duty. I was, you know, a perfect candidate. There wasn't anything stopping me from doing it. So I ended up on an impulse I was interviewing for a job at my local Power Company in the day, I was supposed to go back for the third interview at the power company, I was on a plane headed to Fort Carson, Colorado. I enjoyed active duty. It was the best decision that I made. It really was.

Amanda Huffman  09:12

Yeah. So you kind of were trying to figure out your way you're in the reserves, but you didn't like it very much. And then they were like, Hey, you, you need to do something else. And so they got you to go on active duty. That's right.

Gwendolyn Jules  09:24

They said, I couldn't keep missing the drill. But I was so bored and the thought of just you know, I'm young. So the thought of just going and sitting on that sofa for a whole weekend. I was like, I'm just not gonna go. And so I just didn't go in. And so they were like, Hey, you know, you don't have the right to be missing these reels. But you know, I'm young. I don't know anything about the military. Yes, I didn't realize that. But I was glad that I went to active duty. It was probably the best thing for me.

Amanda Huffman  09:46

You were like, no one will notice all I do is sit on the couch. 

Gwendolyn Jules  09:50

Right. That's what I thought. But you know, they do this thing called accountability. And so they got I wasn't there. So

Amanda Huffman  09:59

You said you went to Colorado. Did you switch jobs when you went on active duty? Or was it just different because you were on active duty? 

Gwendolyn Jules  10:05

No, it was just different because I was an active duty. I still stayed a 71 Lima I was an issue. I think when I left or maybe I think I got promoted to PFC on active duty. So as soon as I got to like the new unit, because I had those 20 months of time already, I was coming up on getting promoted to PFC Anyway, you know, within I think it was 24 months maybe. So as soon as I got active duty, I probably got promoted to a three and then eventually to E4.

Amanda Huffman  10:29

So what was your career like? What did you do when you were on active duty?

Gwendolyn Jules  10:33

As a 71 Lima on active duty the first job I had when I got to Colorado, Fort Carson was I was the Colonel's secretary. So there was an S1 office where they do all of the admin stuff, but then someone gets plucked out of the S1 office to go up to the, you know, the command area and work as the Colonel's secretary, you're essentially you're the secretary for the battalion commander, which is a lieutenant colonel the Adjutant which is his, I guess really his secretary, but you know, then she has to have a person. So that was me. And then there's a Sergeant Major there. So I essentially did any administrative tasks that any of them needed. I did a lot of doing interior yards at the corner had to sign or doing things like OERs that he had to sign awards, printing, typing, those sorts of things. I did a lot of that sort of stuff. And then there was I had a guy who sat next to me, he was like the driver for the command team. So he drove the cars on the side major, the Adjutant wherever they needed to go.

Amanda Huffman  11:28

And then you said that you will you retired as an officer. So let's talk a little bit about how you made the switch from being enlisted to being an officer.

Gwendolyn Jules  11:38

So I see I had eight years in the Army by now I had I went to Colorado and then I did like what they used to call a, it was some type of voluntary change what you could do so I left Colorado, and I volunteer volunteer to go to Fort Bragg so I went to Fort Bragg but that wasn't like an army's PCs move. So it's my own stuff volunteered for that so only stayed there like nine months. And then the regular army move came and they moved me overseas to Germany. So I went to Germany for three years. And then I went to Italy for two years, I came back to the United States and I went to Virginia, and I ran back into a girlfriend of mine from Germany. And so her husband was participating and stuff, but he was a dental hygienist. And so he had gotten selected to Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning in Georgia. And so she was like, in my last night used to be cautious. She was like, hey, McCall, you'd be great for you know, Officer Candidate School, you meet all the criteria, because you know, she knew me when we were in Germany. And so she told me about the program. Her husband had like paperwork to show like, this is what you need to know in order to prepare and go to OCS and I met a lot of the criteria but I had the college education already. I was I had the PT scores that you know, qualifies you to get in already. I had the military education that I needed, but you know, I was current up until that point, so when she mentioned it, The candidate school and they told me about the program now. That sounds good. So first thing I did was I did the math and I was like okay, I'm an e6 and you know when you get promoted from a six to a seven that's a board selection so I was like you know as a seven one Lima it was taken people in my field seven, eight years to you know, go from an E6 to an E7, instead of waiting all of that time I can fly to get it to Officer Candidate School, there's a promotion to you know, immediate promotion to second lieutenant once you're finished, then a two months later, you get promoted to First Lieutenant, and then another 18 months after that you get promoted to captain I was like best easy math. So, you know, instead of sitting around and waiting, you know, for a board to select me both emotion I put my paperwork and I went to the local board to get selected for OCS. And then once I went to the local board in Virginia, they sent all of my paperwork up to the human resources department for the army, and then they selected before the program got selected in October of 98.

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Amanda Huffman  14:47

Yeah, so I think one of the things that we should talk about is how you got your degree because you were in Germany. Yes, you and Italy like you could have easily like been like, I don't need my degree. I'm just gonna like Traveling, you find time to get your degree while being on duty and, and make it all work.

Gwendolyn Jules  15:08

It was tough because the thing about it was I was a centrally administrative specialist, right? So you would think I would just be doing admin stuff inside of an office but in the army, they have this thing called an identifier. So I was a 71 Lima right, that was my primary job. But then I had an identifier of a fox five Foxtrot, you know, f5, which was a postal worker of all things, right? So I was saving my lemo Fox five. So I was opposed to work. And even though I hadn't had the official postal worker training, it doesn't take much to, you know, show someone how to do you know, pitch mail on, you know, the OJT. So anyway, I get to Germany, and that is the job that they gave me. I had to be a postal worker. So for five years, three years of Germany and another two years in Italy, I was a postal worker. So I was working on the night shift. And because I was working on the night shift, I was able to go to some college classes, you know, during the Day, it was incumbent upon me to get up even though I may have been tired and go to the classes, but there was something in me that just really wanted that college degree. Because when I was 16, that was my goal. My parents can pay for it. So the army was a way that I could, you know, get that. And then plus, when we were in Germany, the army was offering what they call tuition assistance. So if you went to classes, you didn't have to pay the whole feet, and then being overseas. I think sometimes it may have been free. And then sometimes you had to pay 50% of the classes, but the University of Maryland, which is known for working with, you know, the military, they were overseas in Germany, they were overseas in May. So I was able to take classes with the University of Maryland, I was able to take classes with a school called City Colleges of Chicago, and I was just working on trying to get my degree. Now, granted, I did not know what I was doing. So I didn't know how to put together and I think a counselor had put together what are those little transcript like plans for me in order to get the degree but the thing about it is that you don't necessarily had the time to go full force and go full steam ahead and work it like you're supposed to. So I had to take the classes whenever I could around my military schedule. And so that is what I did. So by the time I applied to OCS, you know, six years later, or whatever it was, I had, I think it was maybe 60 hours that you'd need it, but I had like 90 college credits By that time, and I was taking classes on the weekends, because every other weekend, I had my entire weekend off. And so I was taking classes on the weekends, I was taking what they called, I can't remember what they were but they were like one credit courses that you could take on a Saturday and a Sunday and then you would get one college credit for it. So I was taking all those days just trying to fill in those elective spots. Sometimes I asked my supervisors if I have time off because I really wanted to get that degree and so if they allow me to go to class, you know, from whatever time in the evening and then I would just get to work late because we didn't start working until six in the evening. So I was just from six to six I was just get to, you know, work maybe at eight instead of getting there at six o'clock. I take the evening class.

Amanda Huffman  17:59

Yeah. So a lot of hard work and lots of like, I have an hour here,

Gwendolyn Jules  18:04

So I'm gonna make it work and yes, so I had to pay my own money for it. Now my peers were I mean, my peers were eating pizza, you know, drinking whatever, buying up the classics and having a good old time, but I was spending my discretionary income taking college courses, because it's just something that I really wanted.

Amanda Huffman  18:22

Yeah, I think that shows the dedication of like what you have to do, especially like when you're on active duty, yes. And you're already working a full time and like you're working 12 so you're working lots and lots of hours. Yeah, yeah. So that was why I wanted to slit go back to that just because I knew that there was a story and like, how much work you had to put to know Yeah,

Gwendolyn Jules  18:44

Yeah, you really have to be you really have to want it and you really have to have some dedication. And this is a thing like I took statistics trying to pass it three different times, right, because you have to pass and six is one on one or 100 or whatever it is in order to get into the 102 and I just I wasn't really good at it. So I took it like three or four different times. And then I remember taking it one time so that it I even went on a deployment during this time, I spent six months in Hungary in support of the Bosnia Herzegovina incident. And I took statistics over there. I even took college classes while I was deployed, because the Army makes it available to you. And it started, like you said, taking my free time and doing whatever, I took my free time and I went to college classes because I was trying to get that degree. And then because I had all of those hours, it proved beneficial in the end when I was ready to switch over to become an officer. I was qualified, you know, to do so whereas someone else who hadn't taken college courses may not have you know, been in a position to go

Amanda Huffman  19:41

Yeah, and I think it's really important you talked about like, you had to wait for the next promotion from E6 to E7. And if you didn't have a degree, you would have kind of been stuck because you would have had to wait for the next promotion or start going to school then which was going to take you six, seven years anyway, exactly

Gwendolyn Jules  19:58

It would have taken even more time. So things lined up to where I was in a good position to make the switch from being enlisted to becoming an officer in to take advantage of the OCS program. Because when I first came in Army, I didn't know how you became an officer. I had no idea about that. I just did not know I remember when I was in Fort Carson, one time, I was just walking along the sidewalk coming from embarrassed headed back to work. And there was an officer, you know, you hit the head on with the eagle on it. And I didn't even know that was an officer head. So I didn't salute it. And he stopped me and, you know, schooled me on what I was supposed to be doing. And I was like, Oh, sorry, you know, thank you. And I saluted, and we're about my business. So that just shows you I had no idea. But you know, you live and you learn and I learned a lot being in the military. So it was good for me.

Amanda Huffman  20:40

Yeah. I kind of feel like I got lucky because I was about to enlist into the National Guard, and then my friend out to lunch and he said, let me tell you about this officer program. And I was like, Oh, I didn't even know that was an option. I thought you had to enlist and like I didn't know and so when he told me about that, and then I could keep going to school and I could try out ROTC I was like, Oh, well, that sounds like a better option because I was gonna list and I was gonna go to boot camp and then go to tech school and then come back and go back to school. And I just, it felt like a big disruption in my life. And so yeah, I think you just

Gwendolyn Jules  21:14

don't know what you don't know. And then it's true. You just don't know what you don't know. Because even when I first got to Colorado as an 18 year old, I wasn't offered an opportunity to go to West Point. You know what, I turned it down, because I just didn't know. Wow, right. Wow. No, I still ended up on the officer side of things. But look at the look at the route that I took. I did not know I did not know. And so when you don't know and then you know, like, even my company commander had to be the one to like write a letter saying, hey, this person is not going to go I couldn't just say it. So that tells me it has some level of significance. But I didn't know at the time and then I didn't have anyone who you know, right, who mentored me who could give me the right advice about that.

Amanda Huffman  21:55

Yeah, that's part of the reason why I made the podcast was because I know A lot of young women today are still looking for answers and they don't yet have anyone to turn to. So hopefully through listening to our stories and people should know, they can always reach out to me if they have direct questions, because I can help connect them with someone if I don't know the answer, right.

Gwendolyn Jules  22:15

Yeah. And that's part of it, like asking questions, but like you said, you don't know what you don't know. So you don't even know what questions to ask. Right? So yeah, your podcast is an awesome resource for anyone who is considering joining the military and they can hear all of our stories and you know, get some information that, you know, we know we didn't have when we first started out,

Amanda Huffman  22:34

Yep, you became an officer, and I was OCS like, compared to boot camp. 

Gwendolyn Jules  22:41

Oh, my goodness. Let me tell ya. OCS was without a doubt the worst experience I ever had in the army and I'm not joking. I have never been treated so bad. Never basic training wasn't that bad. The training I got from my mother was not that bad. was the worst time. I mean, it really was. And it was because the people there, I feel did not want to see me become an officer now. And I say that because this stuff that happened to me didn't happen to everybody. Like I felt like I was targeted specifically to be taken out of the program and to not make it and it was the worst time that I ever had in the army. I've never been treated so bad. And then I wasn't really prepared for that because I hadn't had you know, that rough of a go at it up until then. And I really wasn't prepared for people to be targeting me specifically like that. And so it was like the worst time and it probably started maybe a week or two after I was there and it went on for OCS was 14 weeks. So let's just say it started in week number two and that went on for like 10 weeks of them trying to put me out of the program over and over and over again for I mean, I don't know you don't know if you know anything about OCS but there is an element of I'm trying to toughen you up and break you so they can make you into an officer and thank them for that, because that's exactly what they did. Mental Toughness was what I gained out of that, because it got to a point to where I was just like, I'm not sure what these people are trying to do here. But I have made it too far that I'm not turning around. I'm not going back as an enlisted person, I came here to become an office and that is what is going to happen. So I don't know if that was their goal or not. But that is the mentality that I took on. And that is what I made happen, because I felt like initially, there was an incident where some girl says something, you know, while we were in the female bathroom, and of course, you know, man can't come into the female bathroom. And so she said, Whatever she said, and then she said that I said it and for some reason, they believed her, you know, and so I had and there was a cadre member who used to be an interrogator for the MP department. And so you know, an interrogator has a job to interrogate you. So they brought him over and he tried to interrogate me and get me to admit whatever the words were that this girl said, I said, and of course, they were saying You can't say that about the CADRE. So it was a means to kick me out of the program. And then I kept telling them, it wasn't me. I didn't say that, you know, and then, you know, just the way that I was raised and my eight years that I already had in the army, I was disciplined enough not to say anything so crazy. And so they believed her over me and and they fought and they fought, and they fought, and they made me write down my statement, they had the guy to interrogate me, they made me go for a board of my peers, all of these things to try to get me out of the program. But as you can see, I made it and I think that having that experience just gave me the mental toughness that I needed in order to become an officer.

Amanda Huffman  25:37

Yeah, that's a really hard story, because it sounds like she didn't want you to become an officer, maybe like she had something or do you think she was just playing games and trying to get the pressure off her or I think 

Gwendolyn Jules  25:49

Yeah, the bottom line is she was trying to save her own behind. So she just said, you know, she said it, you know, she just just pointed at the first person she saw and they for some reason why wants you to believe her. And so they harass me for 10 weeks straight about this particular thing. And I went to OCS in October so I was there during the holiday season. So I didn't graduate into February. So we went home for Thanksgiving. We went home for Christmas. And this entire time, I'm being harassed and his stuff is hanging over my head. So I'm not even really able to enjoy myself for Thanksgiving or Christmas because I had this issue or these issues hanging over my head the entire time.

Amanda Huffman  26:28

Yeah, that will make it someone that I talked to and a previous episode and I'll put a link to the show notes to her story. She said that OCS was way harder than in basic training, but she didn't have any of that. But she just said like, she felt like the people who were the Cadre wanted to like make sure you were like extra tough before you got through the officer training. But to add that mental that would make it even harder. It was

Gwendolyn Jules  26:56

It was very hard the mental pressure and the mental stress. was really distressing to me. As you can imagine. I just I couldn't figure out like, why were they continuing to mess with me over and over and over again, I couldn't even. I mean, I did my leadership positions, but with that stuff still hanging over my head, and then I did my so that was the first thing that girl said something. And then the second thing was, I am an African American woman. So I cover my hair at night when I go to sleep in order to, you know, maintain it. So I had this thing that I used to cover my hair with, and then you know, I'm just thinking, that's what I do every night. So when they came in and do their inspections in the middle of the night, they said that I was because I had that thing on my hair. I had an unfair advantage and that the thing was contraband. They harassed me about that. They was like, Oh my god, she deserves to be put out of here because she didn't ask permission to bring that thing in here it is contraband and she has an unfair advantage you know that I don't have to get up you know, do extra stuff to my hair in the morning that I can just get up and go because I hit this thing time my hair down. So that was another one. issued. And then they said that I was in a leadership position and they asked me, hey, did everybody read the OP order? Let's just say, and I was like, Yes, everybody, all of the Team Read the OP board, but I hadn't read the OP order, or whatever it was that we were supposed to be doing. And it was like, Oh, my gosh, she lied. She said everyone had done it, but she hadn't done it. And that was really, what are you people doing? So they had to go before a board of my peers, all of these things. And of course, you know, my peers knew me by then. And so they elected to leave me there. right not to put me out. And then that made them even more angry. And it was. That was the worst time I ever had in the military. It really was. I had never heard someone harassed me so much while I was in the army, never

Amanda Huffman  28:42

But you made it through it was a testament to your character that your peers kept you in. Right. And so, I mean, yeah, right. I mean, it's something but at least you know, it all worked out.

Gwendolyn Jules  28:56

Yeah. Because you're gonna imagine an environment like that was really tough. You Bond and you bond quickly, you know, and I had a roommate, my roommate was running around like, she didn't do it, you know this stuff. And so the whole, you know, like my whole squad or platoon was with me. So that helped.

Amanda Huffman  29:15

So let's talk a little bit about your time as an officer. How long were you on active duty as an officer?

Gwendolyn Jules  29:19

13 years I got promoted in 1999. Right? And then Yep. 2012 was when I retired, so 13 years as an officer,

Amanda Huffman  29:29

So that's when September 11th happened. Yeah, did that I really changed the way the Army was like, you feel like you were in the army. And then September 11 happened and like kind of changed it to a new army, or were you guys always doing the same thing, and then it's just adding the war to it.

Gwendolyn Jules  29:44

I feel like the army stayed the same. I just felt like we ramped up our security measures because I was in Texas at the time I was stationed at Fort Hood and coming in Texas, and for him, it is a huge post. I don't know if you've ever been out there but it's one of the largest but you know, what can you expect? The State of Texas. So there was a lot of gays that you could use to get into the post. And then when September 11, had been they made all of us come into one, you know, the main central gate and then forget about it was ours, people were just late to work because we weren't prepared for that. And there was no way you could go everybody's ID and then it was checking vehicles and hot dogs and all of this stuff. And so it just changed the whole. So now you have to leave home an hour earlier and be sorts of things that changed like the PT. I think we stopped doing PT for a little while because no one could get in at 630 and be ready by 630. It was just too many people or too many cars. So I think it changed the Army a lot in that way. Like the security and the measures that we took were really enhanced now. And I hadn't seen that before

Amanda Huffman  30:42

But the training and the exercises and all that stuff was already going on and 

Gwendolyn Jules  30:46

Oh yeah, yeah, I was I we were already doing it. They had this thing at Fort Hood. And I was a part of, I guess they call it the sustainment brigade now but back then it was called an ESC which is like a high Echelon unit. And so we did this annual exercise and I think They already done it exercise before 911 happened. Yeah, I'm pretty sure we had we had already done that before 9/11 happened, maybe I'd done it twice because it was something that they did annually. And it was a huge exercise. When we left the post, we went into, you know, on the highways in Killeen, Texas and through different places and you went to a training area, but I believe that we were always up on our training because we did things annual exercise, they know what to prepare for the annual exercises, you know, you do smaller ones leading up to it. So I felt like I was trained already when that stuff happened.

Amanda Huffman  31:30

And did you deploy after September 11th?

Gwendolyn Jules  31:37

Yes, but I did not deploy until 2005. So the whole year 2005 I've spent in Iraq, and then in 2009, I was at Afghanistan.

Amanda Huffman  31:45

Okay. Were you still in the personnelist career field?

Gwendolyn Jules  31:48

No. When I switched over to become an officer. I think personnel was one of the main ones that I said I wanted, but it's always about the needs of the army. So they gave me what they needed, which was I was in ordinates Officer which I was there's several different parts to ordinates but I was the maintenance piece. So I was a maintenance officer that helps maintain fleets of vehicles like Humvees or lm TVs, that sort of thing. And then eventually the maintenance officer, the supply officer and the transportation officer, we all fall in one branch called logisticians. So if you look back now, it was just say that I was a logistician.

Amanda Huffman  32:23

What are you doing, like vehicle maintenance in Iraq?

Gwendolyn Jules  32:26

When I went to Iraq, I was a company commander. So I wasn't I was in maintenance maintenance unit, but I was a company commander. And so I didn't, you know, deal with in vehicle maintenance. I was just the commander for the headquarter headquarters company. So that was really different.

Amanda Huffman  32:44

Yeah. And what was your experience like being in Iraq for a year

Gwendolyn Jules  32:48

There was tough, and I think it was another one of those experiences not know what you don't know, because some of my a couple of my peers a couple of my fellow company commanders had already been the very first time when they initially went in 2003 And then we were all going back in 2005. And so they knew what to expect. I didn't quite know what to expect. So I just leaned on the trainer that I had gotten up until that point and tried to do my best to be as prepared as I could, but I don't know if you can really prepare to go to a combat zone. And then we were in a place called Ballade Iraq and that's the logistics hub or it was the logistics hub. And so that particular place had a little nickname and called mortar reveal. And so it was, I mean, we walked around and all of our full gear if you were outside of your working area, you had to have your catalog you have to have your fist on you have to have your weapon all of this stuff the entire time now there was like one small period where he tried to relax the dress code and let us walk right in our you know, bu caps but people always you know, there was always that that siren was always going off in that area. So we just pretty much stayed in high gear as a you know, protective measure though, and it was hot and it was tiring. There was a lot of work to be done. And then I don't know. But like when you're in a combat zone, it's like family members, when you're all made to stay there for so long together, people start picking at one another, and you know, all sorts of little in house things were happening. And then of course, you know, we had some tragic incidents. But yeah, it was it was tough, but it taught me that it taught me that life is going to happen. And you can either jump into life and get it done, or you can just sit on the sidelines, but guess what life is going to continue to happen no matter what you do. So either you can do what it is that you want to do with your life and be productive or you can just hang out on the sidelines waiting to jump in, but you just got to be hanging out on the sidelines waiting because life is just going to continue to happen with or without you. And that's what my year direct taught me.

Amanda Huffman  34:49

But similar lesson from my nine months in Afghanistan, my commander told me before I left when you tell them no great chasm in life jump it's not that far. And that was kind of fun. Like my motto for the deployment and kind of the model for my life from then on out because like you said, like, it's gonna happen, right? You can either or you can jump in, like the fear that, you know, the military doesn't give you an option. So jumping really wasn't that hard because, like they're in the check and I was like, okay,

Gwendolyn Jules  35:20

You have to follow your orders. So you have to go ahead and do it. And then also, you know, not just for the military, but it taught me that about my personal life too. There's something that I want in my personal life, I just need to go ahead and go after it because guess what, time is still ticking and while you're waiting when and wasting it is still ticking it you're not going to get your money back.

Amanda Huffman  35:38

You're just not right. And you can do all kinds of research and figure all this stuff or you can just do it anyway, right?

Gwendolyn Jules  35:47

I was so much I was at in the Army, right? Just on the job training for everything and it's, you know, that's a good way to do it. Sometimes just you know, go ahead and jump in and get it done. It's just like, even with me getting online and have it online business I heard I saw this YouTube video one time, I can't remember the guys name but you know what he said? He said, You got to be in business in order to be in business. Okay, just take research into that nauseum think I may do this, you just gotta put yourself in the business in order to be in business and you'll figure it out along the way.

Amanda Huffman  36:17

That's true. No, that's really good advice. I think a lot of people get paralyzed into the like, take action. And that is like, I think deploying really kind of makes it so that you're like, well, I'm just gonna do it. 

Gwendolyn Jules  36:30

You have no choice when someone position with with an issue, you know, even you're gonna solve it. Are you just gonna sit there and look at me, you know, and I'm motored that's not an option to look at people. You have to figure out a solution. Right?

Amanda Huffman  36:41

Yeah. Especially while lives are on the line. 

Gwendolyn Jules  36:44

Then you know what is really important. 

Amanda Huffman  36:46

That's true. Yeah. Did you feel like deploying to Afghanistan was kind of similar. Did you feel more prepared because you had already gone to Iraq? 

Gwendolyn Jules  36:53

I definitely felt way more prepared. Not only had I been to Iraq, but I have been back and forth to Kuwait. I don't know maybe three times by that. Point had been to our REG and then back and forth took awake and I spent when I went to Iraq, I was with the third Infantry Division out of Fort Stewart. And they may say about the third Infantry Division, that's where rubber meets the road and they have never lived in that place. If you don't get prepared to be an officer or get promoted to the next rank, do what you need to do at their Infantry Division. No place will prepare you. I feel like I learned the bulk of what I know as an officer at the third Infantry Division and I went from being a captain with two years in all the way up to being a captain promotable while I was there. So I really felt like by the time I got ready to get promoted to major, I was ready to get promoted to major because I had learned so much and I had done so much. So I think it just, I was way more prepared when I went to Afghanistan than I was when I went to Iraq. Absolutely.

Amanda Huffman  37:46

So let's talk a little bit about your transition unless there's something that I missed from your military experience.

Gwendolyn Jules  37:52

No, that was great talking about that. Brought back a lot of memories,

Amanda Huffman  37:56

So you transition out in 2012. Yes. What was that transition like after being in for so long? 22 years, right? 

Gwendolyn Jules  38:04

Yes, I was ready to go, actually. And then I was in South Korea, when I went to South Korea, I knew I was going to transition out of the army there because I got promoted to major. And then when you get promoted to major, the next thing you try to do is get your military schooling out of the way. So I had asked to go to my next school, which was called io e. And the army said, No, the schools are ready to fool you can't go and so I try a different angle my way into the school anyway by calling some people into doing this, that or the other, but they just say, hey, there's no more room, right? So you can't go up. I was gonna go to Kansas, but I didn't get a chance to vote Kansas. So I said, I was going to retire anyway in three years. So I said, Okay, well, I know I've been to Korea before. So I said, Hey, I want to go to Korea. So they allowed me to go to Korea and I knew that when I came back from Korea, I was going to be at the military because I knew I could transition out over there but when I got there, I met the gentleman who is now my head Big. So I married while I was in Korea, I was studying preparing myself to get out and I still was going to I was going to transition out the summer of 2013. But I got out in December of 2012, because I got married and my husband was still in play. So right before I got out of the military, I became pregnant. So when I left the military, I was maybe six months pregnant. And so four months later, I had a baby girl. So the transition out was I was ready to go. And I was prepared to go and went from being a soldier to being a mom. So it was a good transition from me.

Amanda Huffman  39:37

Yeah, that's cool that right at the end, you went to Korea and you met your husband, like, have your, your next phase of life.

Gwendolyn Jules  39:45

Right and I hadn't planned any of that my goal when I went to Korea was to just get myself set up to transition out financially and everything else. And I was just going to get out in three years. I was gonna stay in Korea for the whole three years and just get out but you know, God has his own plan. And those are all the things that transpired which was not my plan at all, but those are the things that happen in so when I transitioned out, I was married with a husband and get ready to have a baby. So I move right into a whole new phase of life, which I was happy about. And is he still in the military or didn't get out? He's out now. We spent I got it in 2012. And he just got out in 2017. So we spent another five years in the military traveling around and then he got out in 2017. So now we've settled down in my home, what not my hometown, but I'm from the state of Alabama. And we settled in Huntsville, Alabama, because Redstone Arsenal is here. So there's a military community here and and my husband's from New Jersey. And so we just didn't want to go to the cold weather. So we settled here.

Amanda Huffman  40:42

That's cool. That's, I love the ending of your career that you met your husband and I have your family. So let's talk about what you're doing today before we wrap it up with one more question. So what are you doing right now? 

Gwendolyn Jules  40:58

I am currently because my husband was in the military, I wanted to have the freedom of travel and flexibility. So immediately after I had my daughter, I got my MBA. And then I started researching online, how to have an online business. And so now I have a podcast that I produce on a weekly basis called Manage Money, Build Wealth, and I am going to, you know, further the podcasts and then further my online presence with you know, probably counseling services, personal finance, counseling services, and that sort of thing to women to help them with their personal finances.

Amanda Huffman  41:31

That's awesome. And the links to her website and social media are in the show notes so that you can find them and connect with Gwendolyn. And the last question I have is what would you tell young ladies who are considering joining the military?

Gwendolyn Jules  41:47

If you want to do it, go for it, but just understand what you are getting yourself into the military, joining the military so you can get a college degree is probably not the best idea. One of the things that I found out about military life We're talking about earlier, I didn't know what I was getting myself into when I initially joined. But what I found out years later about the mission of the army was to go to war right into we had at war. So the, the mission of the military isn't for you to get a college education. It isn't. So you can pay for your standard of living. So you, you have to understand where it is that you're getting yourself into, if you go into the military. And I just want to, I think that would be the biggest thing that I would tell people know what the mission of the military is, and that yes, you may do all those other things, you may get your standard of living taken care of you may get a college degree, you may travel the world, but that's not the mission of the military. You just need to know what you're getting yourself into if you'd want to join.

Amanda Huffman  42:40

Yeah, that's really true. The benefits are there, but that's not the primary reason why you're in the military. Right? And the mission does come first. 

Gwendolyn Jules  42:50

Absolutely. And you find that out the hard way if you have to, but you'll figure that out eventually. So just know that going in.

Amanda Huffman  43:02

I've really loved getting a chance to talk to you and hear about your military experience. I think that you brought up a lot of interesting perspectives of joining while you were in high school, working to get your degree while you were on active duty, and then transitioning to being an officer and deploying. So I'm really glad we got to cover all those topics. And thank you for your time. Thank you so much, Amanda. I really have enjoyed doing this. One of the things that I wanted to ways that I wanted to give back was to talk about my military experience with young women who may be considering doing this or just need some mentorship period about leadership and making good and how you can survive and whatever it is you're doing. So I appreciate you a form and I appreciate the opportunity to come on here and speak with you and your guests. Thank you. Thank you so much. 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 airmantomom@gmail.com so I can set you up to be on a future episode of women of the military.