Women of the Military

The onset of Female Engagement Teams

Episode Summary

Amy Forsythe served on five combat tours as a correspondent and Public Affairs Officer. In 2006, she was part of the first-ever Female Engagement Teams in Iraq. I am excited to share her story this week on the podcast as I have done a lot of research about Female Engagement Teams, but have found limited information. It will be exciting to hear her experience being on the first one.

Episode Notes

This episode is made possible by Freedom Sisters Magazine

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

She joined the Defense Information School faculty in 2019 as a government civilian after four years as bureau chief for the Defense Media Activity in Guam, supervising day-to-day operations and coordinating multimedia coverage throughout the Indo-Pacific region. 

She served as a combat correspondent and public affairs chief in the Marine Corps from 1993 through 2010, when she was commissioned as a public affairs officer in the Navy Reserve. 

Her first duty station was Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where she produced daily radio and video reports as part of Operation Sea Signal and Joint Task Force 160, the military operation in response to the influx of Cuban and Haitian migrants attempting to gain asylum in the U.S. She transferred to Camp Pendleton, California in 1995. She served as a military journalist for the base newspaper and operations manager for the commander’s information channel. In 2003, she served as an instructor in the broadcast and public affairs departments at the Defense Information School, and while at DINFOS, was selected to be one of the first on-air anchors of the Pentagon Channel when it debuted in 2004. 

In 2002, she was mobilized and deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. She also deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom with the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force to Fallujah and Ramadi, Iraq, in 2006 and 2008. It was in 2006, the value of the intelligence information was believed to be among the Iraqi women. Women would talk to each other as they performed their daily tasks and had a wealth of information. But American men were unable to gather that intelligence. 

Women began to be integrated into combat arm units to gather that information and the role of Female Engagement Teams began. Many people do not understand the role of women in the Iraq and Afghan conflicts over the past twenty years. Because of the work women have done, now all roles are open to women within the military. This changed was due to the courage and commitment of women starting with Female Engagement Teams.

She was mobilized to active duty for two more deployments to Afghanistan, serving as the senior U.S. PAO at the German-led NATO Command in 2012 and as the PAO for Combined Special Operations Joint Task Force under the Joint Special Operations Command in 2018. 

She served a yearlong tour in 2014 at U.S. Africa Command in Stuttgart, Germany, supporting special operations exercises in Niger, coordinating a large-scale African media conference and helping to develop contingency plans for the military response to the Ebola virus. In 2019, she served as the PAO for naval support facilities and Aegis Ashore missile defense systems in Romania and Poland. 

As a civilian, she has worked as a general assignments and military beat reporter for NBC affiliates in San Diego, and as a producer and anchor for Oceanside Community Television in northern San Diego County, She was an adjunct professor at the California International Business University, teaching at the undergraduate, graduate and doctorate levels. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in communication from California State University at San Marco and a Master of Science in global leadership from the University of San Diego.

She has won numerous journalism awards, including the Marine Corps Broadcaster of the Year award in 2006, and the PRSA Bronze and Silver Anvil awards in 2009.

Connect with Amy:



Related Episode:

When Public Affairs Changed – Episode 67

How A Care Package Created a Business – Episode 74

Finding Herself in the Marines – Episode 12

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Episode Transcription

Amanda Huffman  00:00

Welcome to Episode 104 of the Women in the Military Podcast. This week my guest is Amy Forsythe. She served on five combat tours as a correspondent and Public Affairs Officer in 2006. She was part of the first ever female engagement teams in Iraq. I'm excited to share her story this week on the podcast as I've done a lot of research about female engagement teams, but I have found limited information on the internet. And I'm excited to hear her story firsthand. She joined the Defense Information School faculty in 2019 as a government civilian, and after four years as a bureau chief for the defense media activity in Guam, supervising day to day operations and coordination for multimedia coverage throughout the Indo Pacific region. I can't wait to share this interview with you. So let's get started. You're listening to the Women of the Military Podcast where we share the stories of female servicemembers and how the military touch their lives. I'm Amanda Huffman. I'm an Air Force veteran author of Women of the Military and a collaborative author of Brave Women, Strong Faith. I am also a military spouse and Mom. I created Women of the Military Podcast as a place to share stories of military women past and present with the goal of finding the heart of the story while uncovering the triumphs and challenges women face while serving in the military. If you want to be encouraged by the stories of military women, and be inspired to change the world, keep tuned for this latest episode of Women of the Military. Welcome to the show. Amy, I'm excited to have you here.


Amy Forsythe  01:42

Oh, thank you. It's great to be with you today.


Amanda Huffman  01:44

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


Amy Forsythe  01:49

Well, I think the seed was planted for me early on as a preteen, maybe 10, 11, 12 years old. I was always very interested in military history. My grandparents served in the military. So my grandfather was a Marine officer and my grandmother was an Army nurse. And so I spent a lot of time with my grandparents growing up, and I would always hear their stories of their service. And they served during World War II. And they met while a war was going on. They were both station, the Pacific and Guam and Saipan. And they had been starting to do some reunions with some people that they served with in the 70s in the 80s when I was growing up, so I got really interested in that. And I decided to join the military when I was in high school. I was really committed to it. I had met some Marines, I think and I went to the Fleet Week in San Francisco, it's always a big celebration. And I thought that is so cool. I want to do that. And the Marines said, well, you can do and I said I can. That's fantastic. I'm going to join the Marines. And so I went to an all girls private Catholic school. And of course, they frowned upon that at the time. But I enlisted when I was 22 years old and joined the Marines in 1993. Born and raised in Sonoma County, which is north of San Francisco. So the military there wasn't very popular joining the military wasn't necessarily something that kids do. Most of my classmates went on to college, but I was the one who enlisted in the Marines and joined when I was a little bit older. I went to school and I was working after high school. So I got a taste of what that was like. But it was always in my heart to serve in the Marines and so I enlisted when I was 22 years old.


Amanda Huffman  03:35

And was it just that experience of going to Fleet Week that drew you to them Marines? Or was it Someone once told me it was the uniforms that drew them? Like, what was it that drew you to the Marine Corps?


Amy Forsythe  03:46

Well, if I could pinpoint any particular point at which I said, the Marines, for sure, but that definitely had a big influence. And I meet some Marines, I used to have some marine bases in San Francisco, and when you just see their uniforms, and you know, their history and some of the legacy that they carry with them. And of course, the stories for my grandfather about serving in the Marines, it just really made a big impact on me. And so in the time in the 80s, the mid 80s, of course, Top Gun came out. And so that was the big Navy movie. And I saw that in the theater, some other great movies that really influenced my decision. You know, it was 10 years post Vietnam, really. It was still sort of fresh in people's minds, but some strong influences there to want to serve and be patriotic. And so President Reagan was the president at the time. And so some of those key influences all just kind of came together when I graduated high school and thought that that would be definitely a great way I could combine my patriotism with a job that I really was loving photography, and I was on the yearbook staff and high school and so I just love writing stories and doing articles and journalism was really a passion at that age. And so whenever Found out that in the Marine Corps, I could be a military journalist and serve in uniform. I was like, sign me up, let's do this. So I was really excited to join the Marines. And so I, I really had to chase them down really, I had to chase the recruiters down because they weren't necessarily actively recruiting females at the time, it was just something that they knew that they would, it would have problems or they would change their minds. And so it really was a return on their investment, they decided that if females are really dedicated and want to join the Marines, they will come to us. So I had to come to my recruiter several times and prove to him that I was definitely committed to joining the Marines.


Amanda Huffman  05:42

Interesting. In the early 90s, I know the Marine Corps has like the lowest percentage of females today, and I'm sure they had even less then, so what was it like to join the Marine Corps? And once they knew you were committed, did they help you to get in and get the job that you wanted? And on that path?


Amy Forsythe  06:00

Well, they did. I had a couple of really great recruiters because it was over a span of about six months. So there was one person who was leaving, and then a new person who came in. And so they worked with me on preparing me for boot camp. And they worked with me preparing me for the physical fitness part, although I was I consider myself athletic. I was a tennis player, and I enjoyed hiking and other things. But they want to ensure I was set up for success by working with me for the running. And really, what would boot camp be like. And so the Marine Corps has a pulley program where you go, and you meet once a month or on the weekend, and you go with other recruits who are about ready to ship off to boot camp. And then you have some sessions, some physical training sessions. And so they just really wanted to prepare me for what boot camp would be like. So I get through the 12 week program. And so I did that was Piece of cake for me really at that time of joining. So I was really grateful for their help in preparing me for success. And that was the most important thing is to get you through boot camp and make sure that everyone knew what to expect. And so I was glad they were they were happy to have be able to shoot me off to boot camp because women joining are not very common. And so they do have quotas and requirements. And so whenever they can get women in and not have to work really hard at it. They're really, you know, happy about that. So like other females who join the join the military, it definitely have to think about it, you have to ponder Is this the right thing for me or my and my family, and agreement is the best option. And so recruiters may have to recruit a little harder to find those right candidates. But I was definitely committed all the way. Once I made that decision, it was time it was time to make that commitment and go to boot camp and finish.


Amanda Huffman  07:46

And when you went to boot camp was it segregated males and females separately, because I've heard that's how boot camp is in the Marine Corps?


Amy Forsythe  07:54

Well, as of late, they are experimenting with more of a combined recruit training. But back when I attended in 1993, it was definitely separate, which at the time felt right, it felt like the right thing to do because as females we could focus on our training. And the males can focus on their training, although there was some cross interaction at the rifle range or walking around on the camp that we were we weren't integrated into the daily training per se. But for a while I was a strong advocate for segregated training or separate gender specific training. But after you know, I've evolved in that thought of having served for so many years that those initial interactions with fellow service members be male or female really begins a boot camp. And so I think that that initial training, that entry level training combined with both men and women is really beneficial. So while it may be tradition and legacy and heritage that the Marine Corps has separate boot camp, I think that there is training value in combining those now. So there's been a lot of discussion. And I think they're working towards combining that training just so everyone can step off on the on the same foot on the right foot together and that will last throughout their careers. But at the time when I went through, it was separate. So I can't really speak to the separate part. But I did feel that there was a greater appreciation for women in the Marine Corps of those from those male Marines who also went to recruit training at Parris Island, South Carolina. Those Marines who went to boot camp in San Diego, there's a rink are recruiting people in San Diego, California, there are no women there. And so they didn't necessarily know what kind of training that females got. So they would always question well, what kind of training did you do or same as you they just didn't never saw. So the male Marines who went through South Carolina Parris Island, they saw us every day, although we didn't have combined training, but they had a little bit greater appreciation about the similar training that we went through. So there's some changes happening across the board. And, you know, from entry level to more advanced training. And so it's great to see such a span of how things can evolve with just the right amount of research and the right amount of advocacy that people can attach to what will work because we need the force that for tomorrow's tomorrow's military, we have complicated issues. And so we're always wanting to look for new and more effective ways of training.


Amanda Huffman  10:24

Yeah, that's so true. And let's talk a little bit about what you did you say that you are a journalist, so you got to do public affairs. So what was what was your first assignment? Like? What were you doing?


Amy Forsythe  10:34

So my job in the Marines was as a combat correspondent, or military journalists working under public affairs, so my day to day operations, and what I was trained to do at the Defense Information School was to be a military journalist, as a photographer, a writer, a videographer. My first duty station, I was assigned to Guantanamo Bay naval base, and at the radio television station, so I would literally be playing music in the afternoon as a DJ, but it was it got very serious very fast, because in 1994, we had a named operation Operation Sea Signal was where 10s of thousands of Cubans and Haitians fled their island countries to come to America. And so the Guantanamo Bay naval base became a staging ground for them, they were picked up at sea on their they had a mass exodus trying to get to the States. And so a lot of them were picked up at sea, brought to the naval base, and they were being housed there until they could determine repatriation or entry into the United States. And so it became a named operation while I was stationed there for a year. So I went from being a radio DJ, for the troops on the base speaking English to telling some of the most important stories of that operation. And so a lot of a lot of my work was taking photos inside the tent camp cities and reporting on some of the violence, the riots, the political nature of what were we going to do with these migrants who were trying to get to the States? What were we going to how are we going to keep them from not hurting themselves or trying to escape and break out or hurt the family members that were stationed on the base. And so that was a great first assignment because it really exposed me to the joint world of the working with the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, senior level diplomats, State Department policy, how things really were pulled together, and in a crisis response situation. So that was a great opportunity to really use all of my skill sets, whether it was radio, television, recording, writing articles, interviewing general officers, or flag officers, to walking these camps with the troops to see how they do civil disturbance was a great experience. From there, I went to Camp Pendleton in California in Southern California. And so that was a great duty station. So I came back to the mainland and was working as a base newspaper reporter. And I also manage the day to day operations of the base TV station and where the base has about 50,000 troops assigned to it. So it was a very large base. And oftentimes, we find ourself covering stories training operations policy about the base and interacting with a community covering parades and Color Guard ceremonies, and city council meetings and all of our integration into the community of Oceanside and northern San Diego County. So it exposes me to a lot of different skill sets within public affairs.


Amanda Huffman  13:33

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Amanda Huffman  14:35

Let's get back to the show. Yeah, that's one of the coolest things when I get to talk to people who are public affairs that they get to do. I feel like it's the coolest job maybe because like I found my passion with podcasting and now I'm like all into the media space, but I'm like, you got to do the coolest things and so young like it's not like you had to be like a senior enlisted member or senior officer there. Like, here's a camera, go find the story and you get interview Generals, that's just so it's just a really cool job. I think everybody should consider doing public affairs because it's just, it's a really neat job and you have so much responsibility. And then it translates really well, if you want to leave the military.


Amy Forsythe  15:18

It does. And so we at the school house at the Defense Information schools, where they train all the services on how to do these basic Mass Communications functions. And so there is a lot of responsibility. Usually, the troops who go into that field are very mature, very responsible, they're aware of how powerful their input is. And by taking photos and be responsible for some of the most strategic level communications tasks, it is really a big, it's a lot of responsibility. And so we take that very seriously. And so it's just been a great career. And so it did help me translate into a career in the media industry. And so I served eight years on active duty as an enlisted Marine, and then I left active duty in 2000. And I went straight into work in TV as a reporter, and I also hosted a lifestyle TV show in San Diego County. So it really just, I didn't miss a beat. So it was really set me up for success to go straight into really storytelling was my passion, working in TV, I love to meet new people and be able to tell those creative stories and bring that to to viewers. And so but then 911 happened right after I got off active duty. So I stayed in the reserves, because I love I love the Marine Corps, I just wanted to go and finish my bachelor's degree is really back then I couldn't achieve that goal while being on active duty because that was before they had online or distance learning. And so the only way to really accomplish and get that bachelor's degree was to go back the traditional way. So I use my GI Bill. And I attended and graduated from California State University at San Marcos, and a degree in communications. Meanwhile, I was working during TV working as a reporter and a host of a couple days TV shows. And then also I stayed in the reserves. And so right after 911, I knew that obviously, we're ramping up to go to Afghanistan. So I ended up getting mobilized. And I deployed to Afghanistan in 2002. I was assigned to an army unit during civil affairs in Kabul, Afghanistan. And so that was a really fantastic experience to see it was really before iraq kicked off in 2003. So I got this unique opportunity to go to a really mysterious place that a lot of people have never heard of don't know where it is. So at the forefront of our operations there before things got really big and institutionalized, I would say, but at the same time, I was there in late 2002, early 2003, when the Iraq War kicked off. So a lot of my fellow Marines who were stationed in Camp Pendleton ended up going to Iraq. So I was watching the Iraq War kickoff from Afghanistan. And so it just got to be so complicated and watching all these dynamics take place, but I definitely was set up for success, going to cover cover all these stories and make sure that we had that strategic messaging piece in place. And so from there, some great opportunities to meet people and really see things progressed through the years. Because I did stay in the reserves. I ended up staying in the reserves, and then I got mobilized, I came back from Afghanistan, finished my degree. And then in 2006, I got mobilized to go on active duty again with the Marines, this time to Iraq, in Anbar Province, the place where the war had just really got even worse there in the in that environment. And so in 2006, was at the height of the combat operations in Iraq.


Amanda Huffman  18:58

Yeah. And so were you still doing public affairs when you went to Iraq?


Amy Forsythe  19:03

I was. So I was there as a public affairs chief or visual information chief or my my responsibility was to lead a team of combat correspondents to capture video and imagery of our combat operations out with the troops and so and to get that information and get it back out to the media. So at this time, the combat operations were so dangerous that they weren't sending media to necessarily cover everything that was going on and Ambar and Felucia places like Felucia, Ramadi, Haditha and Alkine were definite hotspots and so a lot of the media had stopped coming because it was just too dangerous. So it was up to us to go and capture the imagery of what was going on. We were training the Iraqi police and the Iraqi army to stand up on their own. Meanwhile, there is still insurgent activity going on throughout the throughout the province, all of western Iraq, the Syrian Jordanian borders. And so it was my job to manage the flow of information and set up satellite dishes so we could transmit the imagery back to the media. And so a lot of the media, the imagery that you see on the media now even to this day was captured by our team of the Marines that were there. And so we were able to bring that story and do live interviews with commanders on down to our troops from the field live from Iraq, we would do satellite uplinks. And so that was my job for we did a 12 month deployment there, and 2006. And this was at the same time when we were emerging some alternative solutions to these combat operations. So what we're finding is that when combat troops were doing foot patrols, or going from village to village, they realize that this insurgent activity was was a known thing to to all people in the village, not just the men, but it was the women of the house or the village who knew and had the Intel intelligence that could help prevent further insurgent activity. So if we thought if we can get to the women and get their information, we can reduce the amount of insurgent activity. So when we started having female uniform troops, accompany the combat troops along for patrols, or sessions, interviewing families, or these House members, we would find that the women, Iraqi women would tend to open up to our our females and uniform and tell us where the bad guys where's the wetware, the weapons, where are this? Where are the bad guys hiding. And so a lot of the times we can win over their trust, if we knew that the women of the house could give us the info, we could make progress. So we started the idea kicking around the idea of forming women, female engagement teams, or FETs, is what it was called female engagement teams where female Marines would partner up with combat patrols and go with the soldiers and Marines into the houses into the villages to get the information that that was going to be a way to really reduce the violence. And if we can just collect enough intelligence to connect the dots and put things together, that's the direction that we're heading. So I was a part of that, at that time in oh six when the war was at its height. And so it was just a really interesting time to be there. And now the evolution of the female engagement teams, and that was now called the cultural support teams and the special operations forces is that these women are trained to to a certain standard or task that allows them to partner with special operations or combat troops to identify key people or places and certain operations that they can identify intelligence to help gain an upper hand, great gain a foothold in a certain area, if we know that the women feel more comfortable talking to other women, whether it's screening them, putting them down for any weapons, or separating the women from the men and let's say a village or in a house, and we knew that that was going to be the answer to a lot of what we're what we're struggling with is that we don't know what is going on. Because the men in the village, don't talk to the other men, but the women will talk to other women. And so through the evolution of the last 15 years really has been an amazing way to incorporate females in the marriage in the military to this task. And so they really have an effective place and been able to make great games and proving that they can participate. They can have value, and it's something that men actually could never do, because it's just a different dynamic. And so I'm seeing that incorporated from its earliest days of incorporating women into the combat operations in that specific way. It's been really great to watch it progress.


Amanda Huffman  23:53

Yeah. And I think a lot of Americans don't really understand the way that culture is so vastly different. And like, men can't talk to women. It's just not really allowed in their culture. And so if like, an American man is trying to talk to a woman, she's she's not going to feel comfortable talking to a man because she's not even comfortable talking to anyone who's like, not her husband or her father. And so it makes sense. And I liked what you said about like, men don't talk to other men but women talk they like all the women probably went to like go wash their clothes, or they work the fields and they just talked to each other. And that's just the way women are. So it makes sense that like so much though Intel would be with the women population because they talk to each other. It's it's really interesting to hear you say that and in 2006 Well, up until 2016 women weren't allowed to be in combat roles. And so I thought it was funny because I was in the airforce and I deployed on a prt. I was attached to an infantry unit and I was like, I didn't. I didn't know anything about the military and the Air Force for what I knew I could do anything. I wanted, I didn't realize that there were jobs off limits to women. And I didn't know that like, I wasn't supposed to be there. And so it's kind of funny because someone was like in 2013, someone asked me Well, now that you can be in combat roles, are you going to get out? And I was like, I didn't really know that that wasn't an option when I signed up, I don't know. And I was like, I already went to Afghanistan and got shot at. So I don't I don't think this law really changes anything. It was just it was kind of funny how their perspective was like, well, didn't you sign up knowing that you couldn't get shot at? And I was like, that's not how it works?


Amy Forsythe  25:35

Yeah, no, that's a great point. And what being my first tour to Afghanistan was setting up the PRT is. And so it's great to see that you had, you know, your experience with working in the PRT realm of where you're really out there. And you're doing everything with the community, and you're, you know, mitigating any more actual direct combat. But what's interesting is that the, the women who are serving in the military didn't probably realize that at the time, either, and when you go forward, and you're serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, or wherever, you don't necessarily think about like, is this a combat job, I'm in a combat zone, so I'm not really sure. And so, unfortunately, in 2006, and towards the end of our deployment, in December of 2006, my boss who was a Media Relations Officer, and she was escorting media, it was actually Oliver North, who was working for Fox News at the Time and Newsweek team, a team of journalists from Newsweek, she was writing in a Humvee, escorting them back from the Ramadi Government Center, where her vehicle was hit by ID. And she, along with two other soldiers were killed in the ID. And so she was a Marine, a major an O for major public affairs, and she was killed. And so it really opened a lot of eyes to that when just because you are not Combat Arms doesn't mean you're not at risk. And so anyone who puts on a uniform and goes forward is just as just as much risk as anyone else. Although combat operations, troops fighting fighter jets and you know, if you're at a on a destroyer at sea, obviously, you're at a higher risk. But when you put yourself in certain circumstances, you're not worried about necessarily Am I Combat Arms roll or not everyone is at risk for, you know, getting injured, wounded, and or making the ultimate sacrifice. And so by removing those Combat Arms restrictions, really levels the playing field, and so not that I've ever been for necessarily women serving in combat. If you give people the option to do that, and pursue goals and doesn't change anything, because we need all capable people on the battlefield and to serve our nation in the right, the right person for the right job at the right time. And so her name was major Megan McClung, and she was a Naval Academy graduate and super high speed motivated triathlete type girl. And so we thought the last person who would get killed would be her because she was the super fit, always squared away, Naval Academy graduate. So but that just goes to show you that there are era of Battlefield, whether it's Iraq or Afghanistan or Syria or anywhere else, it doesn't necessarily mean that there is no frontlines. And so it's eye opening so that anyone who wants to serve is putting themselves at risk. And so flattening that that hierarchy or that pecking order, if you will, of who's serving who's putting themselves more at risk than another person. And so through the years, we've seen a lot of leveling up where women they want to serve that maybe our male counterparts realized, hey, if she's willing to put on a uniform and go forward, she's putting herself at at risk, just like I am whether regardless of your designator, your Combat Arms designator, or not really seen a lot of growth through the years of dynamic shift in perception of females willing to serve and willing to make those sacrifices that are needed. It's it's been very interesting to see the progression through the years of perception serving pre 911 and then after 911. So it's a wonderful time to join them join the military for for men or for women, but for women in particular for women like you and Megan McClung and all the others who have really kind of paved the way to say, Hey, I, I'm, I'm out there, I'm doing it, you can do it too.


Amanda Huffman  29:38

Yeah, I think some of the like, it's important that they made that law change, but like some of the way that the general media portrayed it, they acted like it was like, oh, now and it was like, that's not the right story. And so it's been I think it's good and it was necessary, but sometimes I'm like, sometimes I'm like if they want to just not if nobody would have cared about it then maybe the stories of what happened from the beginning of the war, because I feel like sometimes like that girl who asked me Well, now that you can be in combat, and I was like, No, I don't think you understand how the military works or even war cuz like, when you're on a convoy, you don't know like IDs and all the stuff that happens. And so yeah, I know that you deployed a bunch of other times where you in the reserves the whole time, so you would come home, deploy come home, and like, how did it work with like keeping your job and like that sort of dynamic, I don't think I've really talked to anyone about that.


Amy Forsythe  30:37

Yeah. So I was so fortunate to have employers that were very supportive. And so as part of being a Reserve or Guardsman, you really have to have a balancing act. And if you can keep your reserve and your your reserve life and your civilian job, and they can peacefully coexist, that's fantastic. A lot of people can't, it's very difficult. So I was very lucky through while I was getting my undergraduate, and then my master's degree and working and doing these deployments, and when opportunities would come up, I was just very lucky that they were supportive. So when I was deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, a lot of times when I was working for TV, I would send them my footage and be able to do some reporting while I was on location. And so they loved it, although they hated to see me go. But they were very grateful because I can get like exclusive stories or footage or tell stories about our local San Diego based marines and sailors. And so it worked out really well to be able to make that work. And so a shout out to all the employers out there who support their guard and reserve. It's really a fine balancing act. But there's been a lot of sacrifices by my employer to support and then reintegration back into position upon return. And so I feel very lucky about that, although it is a setback, you know, a lot of times because you come back and you're kind of starting all over again, and people don't know you, because there's a lot of new people. And so for those who do that, and volunteer or get deployed, and then come back and reset, it isn't easy, but it's definitely worth it, especially when you can have these really life-enhancing and life-enriching experiences by deploying and being able to serve. So it's a real privilege to be able to continue serving with that all the task readiness, the training that's required before you can deploy, you really got to want it, in addition to all the other things that go into that the separation from your family, and your job and your routine, it takes so much to really want to do a mission. And so a lot of our missions now are done by garden reserve members. And so shout out to all those garden reserves are for those who are on active duty now, to think that transitioning off active duty but staying in the reserves is a great opportunity is a great way to go if you're looking to maybe start your family or go back to school. And keep that in mind. Because those are I never expected I would stay in the reserves this long. I didn't really have a plan. I didn't really know how that would come out. But I it's hard for me to just kind of walk away from it all. I'm really kind of maximized my opportunities by staying in the reserves. And I continue to stay in the reserves. About 10 years ago, I transition from the marine enlisted Marines to a commission in the United States Navy. And so as a public affairs officer, and so while I love, love, love the Marine Corps, and I didn't want to leave and deprived the dress blue uniform out of my hands. But I've enjoyed my time in the Navy. Because to do more of that there's a lot more opportunities, I think, to deploy and serve in different capacities in the Navy. I'm still a drilling reservist, and I was actually deployed last year I was in Romania and Poland working on ballistic missile defense for NATO. So there's just an open to the aperture and an expanded my horizon by continuing to serve even in the Reserves.


Amanda Huffman  34:02

I think we have a lot of good points like a Military Navy Reserves, but it does take a lot of sacrifice. I think sometimes people think like the hardest thing is that duty. And I don't think one is harder than the other. They each have their own challenges where some of it you get control. But then you also have to make all these sacrifices as a balancing and the military active duty, you don't really get any control and like where you live and what happens. But that's your life and your full time job. And so it's a little bit different. So and when I left the military, I didn't do Reserves, partly because I was pregnant and about to have my son and I was like I don't want to do this. But then sometimes like maybe I should have done that. But I know it worked out for the best but it is something that I wish I would have at least considered instead of just being like nope, I don't want to do this.


Amy Forsythe  34:51

So but you can certainly look into if it's something or re affiliate You know, a lot of people take a break and come back and it's just sometimes it's works into their lives. style and they miss it. And there are some great benefits for networking professionally, and you're already in the system or last, you know, you just re affiliate and they they welcome your experience already from your active duty time. And a lot of the reservists that we have within the ranks are actually, you know, professionals working in an industry and they bring that skill set to the reserve mission. It's integrated into the active component. And so a lot of the time, it's just a great crossover of talent, because people who are working in, let's say, civilian media industry, and then they bring that experience back to the reserves, they may have had a break in service or their medical professionals, and then they're working, they're sports certified, or nurse practitioners, and then they come back and fulfill those commitments like in the recent COVID response from the Navy, they've had a lot of they had so many people working as medical professionals, and then they can bring that to the mission and when the nation needs the most.


Amanda Huffman  35:59

Yeah, it's a really cool mission. It's so important. And, and yeah, COVID is a great example of like people getting activated, and yeah, my friend was in the IR, and she got a letter. And she was like, What do I do? And I was like, well, you're not a doctor. So I wouldn't worry too much. But like she did get notified. And she was I don't even ever expect this to happen. But yeah, so it's kind of crazy. So you haven't transition left yet? And you kind of went from doing pa and then you did pa in the civilian world. So have you found any struggles while serving in the military?


Amy Forsythe  36:36

Well, I'd love to see the progression, you know, of women, assuming more responsibilities and seeing the where we started, where I started, from my start point in 1993, to where we are now in 2020. A 20 year career goes by in a blink of an eye and I can't believe it's been this long, but there's certainly things I wish I could have told my 22 year old self and you know, things I How will I transition out and retire, whether I continue serving for the next year or two or try to take it all the way to you know, the maximum age limit or continue serving. So there just always is something pulling me back in thing in the Navy, a great opportunity or a great mission. And those are the things that I enjoy. And so it does, it definitely takes time away from family or hobbies. But the life enriching experiences you get when you get to go on a mission or meet new people and have those connections is definitely worth it. So while I've actually transitioned out of the military several times, so to speak, because of redeploy, redeploying coming home, going through the out processing, I have, I think I counted 10, dd 214. So I've emotionally gone through that cycle of getting out off active duty so many times, and every time I'm relieved, but then excited if there's another opportunity that comes up and so been able to manage a civilian career where I worked in civilian media for many years. And then five years ago, I took I accepted a GS position. So as a federal employee working for defense media activity, living on the island of Guam. So there, I served as the bureau chief for the defense media activity, where as a civilian, I got to travel all over the Pacific to places like Singapore, Malaysia, Palau, Sri Lanka, and I was able to continue my Navy service and my federal service, peacefully coexisting, if you will. And so it's been a great, it's been a great way to keep those together. And so even just by working as a federal employee definitely keeps you connected to the mission under the Department of Defense. And so I would definitely recommend staying in the reserves for one. But for those who are transitioning out, it's just like, after I left the Marines, I was sad. But then again, that's something that no one can ever take away from you, once you've served, you've got your dd 214, it's always with you, you can never change that. And that's definitely something you know, a highlight of my career, being able to serve in the Marines was just really such a great accomplishment, considering I never thought I would get that far, really, even after four years, but then eight years, and so I'm sure just like you and other women out there when you tell people yeah, I served in the Air Force, or I served in the Marines and that people's eyes get really big and like, you're in the military. And so sometimes that sort of shock and awe is kind of gets I get a chuckle out of it, because there are still a lot of people out there who don't think that women can either one serve in the military. I mean, they I think they know that but like for your experience serving in Afghanistan as well. I think what you did and you know what, what your own experiences are, and so I'd like to be able to share that to help you know, prep, I say prep the battlefield, if you will, for opening people's minds. Up to the idea that we are all citizen if you're a citizen, we all share that same burden of service, despite your gender is that we all if you're able bodied, and you have the passion to serve and want to serve, that you should be able to. And there's been discussion and moving forward with even the draft, that women not necessarily being drafted, but that women will be required to register for the Selective Service is, I think, a really good step in the right direction, because that even is more of leveling up. That is leveling the playing field saying that each and every citizen is required to register. So that it's not just the burden of males and our in our society is that all, all citizens, all people are required to at least register, not that they're going to be called up for a draft. But that is our burden as citizens is that we're equal. And we all have to register for the Selective Service should our nation need us and the time of need, whether it's a pandemic, or national security is at threat, but that I think was a step in the right direction.


Amanda Huffman  41:13

I agree. Yeah, I really loved getting the chance to talk to you and hear your experience. I really loved hearing about the female engagement teams, because I have done a lot of research. And there's not a lot out there on the internet. So it's kind of cool to hear the story and even that you started up a prt, which obviously, that's near and dear to my heart because I was on a prt. So it's been really cool to just connect with you and hear your stories. But I have one more question. What advice would you give to young women considering joining the military?


Amy Forsythe  41:46

My advice to young girls or young women thinking about joining the military would be to follow your heart, follow your passion, follow your your goals, look at where other women have already been and and find out is that for you is that something that you are passionate about? Because, as you know, Amanda, you can't really fake being in the military, you're all in, you're all in 100%. And so for young women who want to serve who want to make a difference, you want to be a part of something bigger than themselves, go for it. Because you'll never want to look back when you're 40 or 50. And say I should have I wish I would have I could have but you never did. And so if you think that you're up for the challenge and want to take on those challenges, pursue it go for it for years, or 20 years, it doesn't really matter. But four years of your life, just to say that I served, I did it I accomplished this goal is really just a blink of an eye and in the span of a lifetime. So if it's something you think you want, go for it, because there's a lot of great women out there, great women leaders, there's a lot of great male leaders, and you just won't find a group of finer group of people, to have his friends have his colleagues to have his neighbors to work come to work every day. So if you're going to work somewhere awesome, make it the military because life is short. And so you want to maximize all these wonderful opportunities that the military afford. afford gym. Now it's not for everyone. So do some research, talk to some women, talk to some men and find out is this a good fit for your lifestyle. But it's definitely a great launching pad for other things you want to do in life finish college like me, I just wanted to finish college too. But then 911 happened and it really changed the trajectory of my life. I was going to be the next barbara walters TV interview anchor. But you know, life had other plans for me and I am absolutely you know, no regrets and I'm so glad that I got a chance to continue my service even after I left active duty.


Amanda Huffman  43:56

Thank you so much for being on the podcast. I really enjoyed hearing your story and I'm excited to share it with everyone. 


Amy Forsythe  44:03

Well, thank you. Thanks for having me on today.


Amanda Huffman  44:08

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