Is military life like a rollercoaster? If you answered no, you need to listen to Annie’s story this week on the Women of the Military Podcast. Annie had her degree and was unable to find a job and as she was walking to interviews she passed the recruiting station for the Army. Growing up as a military brat she knew about the military and decided to join. Four days later she was headed off to Bootcamp and began her military career.
Because she had her degree she was an E-3 and the highest ranking enlisted member. This gave her additional responsibilities during boot camp and she worked hard to get through it. Even facing injuries (mainly shin splints) she would march on crutches at the back of the pack.
After graduating from AIT she headed off to jump school. While at jump school she was offered the opportunity to be a Black Hat instructor. But her time there was cut short when her father intervened and got her moved to Fort Bragg. She was one of the first 100 women integrated into the 82nd Airborne. She said the leadership was determined to make integrating women a success and she enjoyed her time there.
When her contract ended, she asked to stay another year, they agreed, but also told her she needed to have a plan for what was next. If she wanted to stay in the military, she should consider becoming an officer. She ended up getting direct commission and while at training for the medical corps she was given the opportunity to become a helicopter pilot.
Her first assignment in Alabama had her doing humanitarian missions along with work for the Army and she really enjoyed her time there. Next, she moved to Germany. She was welcomed by a sign that read “Any Female Lt.” She knew that this was not going to be a welcoming environment. And with each new commander, it would only get worse.
Luckily, she was given the job of driving around a General for a week and within the first thirty minutes of their time together he asked her about her plans with the military and she told him she was getting out and why. He was able to get her reassigned to a hospital at Ramstein. There she had a much better work assignment and was able to do a lot of positive changes to help patients get seen. She also got married and left the military.
She transitioned from service member to military spouse and struggled with identity. But was able to get involved in the military spouse community and stayed active. In 2018, she launched Leader Transition Institute. Things were growing slowly and then with the onset of COVID they were quickly able to pivot to an online model and have been able to help so many people.
She tells women to join the military. The path has been laid for you to do so much, but make sure to keep your principles and values. Find a group of women you can trust and lean into the experiences of the women who have gone before you.
Ramstein Air Show Disaster
A Muslim American in the Army - Episode 98
The Challenge of Officer Candidate School - Episode 85
Army Women Out to Change the World - Episode 4
Check out the full transcript here.
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Welcome to Episode 117 of the Woman on the Military podcast. This week my guest is Annie Brock. I really enjoy getting to talk to Annie about her career because it is quite the roller coaster adventure and she had her degree but was unable to find a job and and she was walking to interview she passed the recruiting station for the army. And since she had grown up as a military brat, she knew all about the military and decided to join four days after she walked into the recruiters office. She was headed off to boot camp and began her military career because she had a degree she was in a three and the highest ranking enlisted member and this gave her additional responsibilities during her boot camp. She was also one of the first 100 women integrated into the 82nd airborne. She said the leadership was determined to make integrating women a success and she enjoyed her time there. There's a lot more to her military career. So let's get started and dive right in. You're listening to season three of the women on the military podcast Here you will find the real stories of female servicemembers. I'm Amanda Huffman, I am an Air Force veteran, military spouse and mom. I created women in the military podcast in 2019. As a place to share the stories of female service members 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 on the military. Welcome to the show. Annie. I'm excited to have you here.
Well, thank you. I'm honored to be your guest, Amanda. Thank you.
So let's start with why did you decide to join the military?
That's an unusual reason I didn't join it. Maybe it isn't an unusual reason. I didn't join because of any real patriotic feelings. I joined because I had a college degree and was wanting to get a job in the Washington DC area couldn't find one didn't type well enough to get a job, even as a secretary was living with some friends of my parents. And it was really uncomfortable for me. And I needed a roof over my head and food on the table. So grew up as a military kid was walking by the army recruiting office every day as I walked to the metro to go pound the streets of Washington, DC, because that was back in the days when you had to actually show up someplace to apply for a job and walked by an army recruiting office every day, the guys inside looked familiar. And so you know, because I had grown up as a military kid went in and talk to them one day. And that was also back in the days it was a 1979. I'll make it clear, and you can enlist much quicker. So from the time that I first went into just talk to them and find out if it was an option to the time that I left for basic training. It was three days. Oh, yeah, they I went in, talk to him. I went back the second day and took the test. And they said I could virtually have anything any job in the army that I wanted. You know, I had a good educational background. So I did well on the test. And I asked them if they if there was something with computers, because I had at one point in my college career, learned how to do computer programming. And I knew they were in big air conditioned buildings that I was going to do something smart and and they said yes. And I didn't listen carefully enough. And I thought I was going to be a telecommunications center operator, I signed up to be a combat telecommunications center operator, which meant that I was going to be headed back of a truck. And so the third day was the physical and then the I passed it in the fourth day I went
Well, I guess you found a job like you were looking for.
Yeah. And so that's one of the things I always tell people in life. And if I'm teaching a book right now called thinking grow rich with who was written by Napoleon Hill, and one of the things that he talks about is having a definiteness of plan having a really detailed plan. I had a plan, but it was not as detailed as it should have been.
Yeah. And you said you already had your degree, but you ended up enlisting instead of going the officer route was that because you didn't really know about the officer route or you were just in need of a job and the door open? Like you said, you didn't have a plan? You had an idea, but not really a plan?
Yeah, well, the pre story is that I skipped first grade because I went to German kindergarten as a military kid did High School in three years because I ended up at a small New Hampshire town with not a lot of options in high school and I was bored. So I did High School in three years got accepted into an Ivy League school, spent two years there, but because I hadn't had to work in high school, I didn't know how to study and so I experimented with most everything that Dartmouth College had to offer, but not a whole lot in the way of academics. I've been down the stairs by a fraternity house in a grocery cart. I will say that and and at the end of my sophomore year, they sent me a letter saying that I couldn't Come back because my GPA was only at 1.42. And what happened then was that my self esteem took, like a huge, huge hit my father, when he retired from the military had become a college professor. And so that letter didn't go over well, in our house that I had been kicked out of college, because he hadn't wanted me to go to an Ivy League school in the first place. So I had, I really, I really screwed up, I felt about two feet tall. And so my self esteem, I had no self esteem, really, and the thought that I could be an officer in the military, which is what my father was, it just that was beyond me. They had offered it to me at the recruiting office, but I was I just didn't think that I could make it through OCS. So I enlisted.
What an interesting backstory about like, your self esteem and how that has such a I mean, it makes sense, because you felt like you had failed. And that's a really hard thing, especially like you are on the top of your game. And they went to this Ivy League school, and then the distractions of life kind of led you astray.
I mean, and truthfully, it haunted me for that for about 50 years for it until I I don't think I was I really came to grips with that. Look, you were only you know, 1617 when this happened, but until I was over 50, it haunted me, no matter what I did, no matter what I achieved, that was always in the background, you failed.
Wow. I feel like I should wait till later. But I have to ask the question. How are you able to get past that because when I left the military and became a stay at home mom, I felt like failure was like a huge part of my life. And it was only through going through Celebrate Recovery and finding freedom that I was able to not not forgive myself, but not judge myself so hardly and to give myself grace. And so what was it that after all that time I've seen failure? Were you able to break free from that?
Well, you know, I can relate to where you were when I when I left the military. There was no transition program in 1988. I went from being a medevac helicopter pilot to being a stay at home Air Force spouse, and my husband was a type A personality, you know, and I, so he was working back to working 16 hours a day and I was at home and I crashed. I didn't have luckily for me, I didn't fall into an addictive behavior. But I was really, really depressed and, and so I can relate to the struggles that you felt when you became a stay at home mom, and how I got out of it was just spending, investing myself in personal growth opportunities, and just really just digging into that and making that the focus of what I did.
Yeah, so sounds sounds similar, like investing in yourself and learning about yourself and who you are and how much freedom that cranks. Yeah. Okay, so let's go back to your military story. Sure, after a little detour, and so you've thought that you were going to be in an air conditioned building, but you they added that word combat in front of you or in the back of a truck. So what was bootcamp like? especially having like such low self esteem? Did you just fly under the radar?
Flying under the radar was, unfortunately impossible. So I went to basic training at Fort Gordon. And it was one station unit training. So I was there for basic training and a it it was back in the days when you lived in the big huts, the rounded the half rounded building because I had a college degree I came in as an E-3. And that's why I couldn't fly under the radar because I ended up being the highest ranking female in my basic training platoon. So I was the platoon leader, you know, and I was not physically in great shape. When I started basic training. I was in a size 14 uniform. And when I graduated, I was going from a size 10 to a size eight. I had lost so much weight, but because of that, I'm just trying to keep up with everything in basic training. I got hurt a lot. I suffered a lot from shin splints, but I never gave up and so I stuck out to because I insisted on going on road marches and all that kind of stuff on my crutches. I wasn't I might have been at the back because I couldn't set the pace. But I was always there. And I was always doing my damnedest to keep up. And so that was what I did. Yeah, it was it was an experience. That year that winter is that January, it snowed at Fort Gordon, Georgia, and I can remember, we were having a training session in our barracks about m 16 that some of the women were just being obnoxious. And I can remember our drill sergeant decided that the solution to it was that we should low crawl around the barracks with our weapons in our arms. It just in our uniforms, no, no field jacket or anything. So got to do that in the snow. The barracks door in the bottom of the door was about an inch and a half, two inches higher than the floor. So at night, all the cold air would blow in it was just the old world war two style barracks it was it was an experience. I didn't know that women would beat each other up. I had never been exposed to that. There was one woman in my platoon somehow every time she went to take a shower in the evening, somebody would steal her underwear. So it's my memories of basic training are really crazy.
Yeah, it sounds a little crazy, such an experience. And so you said that the fit, which is the training that you go to after basic for your job was in the same place. And so that right, it just rolled right into
Yeah, we stayed. We even stayed in the same barracks. Yeah, they just, you know, nothing much changed. We had a little except we had a little more freedom. And so we rolled right from basic training into our tech training. And I learned how to be a telecommunications center operator, it was the day in the days of punch cards and connecting wires into consoles and learn to do some of that in the classroom, but then ultimately learned how to do it in a truck. Yeah. And, and happily, I was good at it. I it was something that that resonated with me. And so I aside from the physical things of basic training, the rest of it wasn't hard. I mean, my dad had been really rough on us. I it was not always a good situation for me at home, as far as as he just was wanted things his way. And, and so I knew how to make my bed. Well, even, you know, that was a piece of cake. Everybody else was struggling to make their bed to the quality of the drill sergeant. I knew how to do that. Because my father had said that I couldn't the rule in the house was you didn't go catch the bus until your best bed was made. So I learned how to do that. Not that I'm a good Baker now. But you know, I make an effort and and so the only thing I really struggled with in basic training and in tech school was the physical stuff, but I got through.
Yeah, and unlike in today's military, where a lot of times you have to wait a few months or even a year before you go active duty. You are like three days later. So you had no time to like prepare for the fitness aspect. It was like you just went in and I mean, you lost so much weight in that. Yeah, that's crazy.
So I kind of I call myself the original private Benjamin. I don't know if you've ever seen the movie. But in in the movie, Goldie Hawn who plays a private Benjamin, there's one scene where the drill sergeant is pulling her up and down by the back of her pants to do push ups. And that really happened to me, you know, they I put my clothes into suitcases thinking I'm going to get my clothes when I get there. And no, the suitcases were put away in a storage room and I just had my uniforms. It was it was a real shock to my system. And the reason I think ultimately, besides the fact that I was so physically active, the ultimate reason why I lost so much weight was because that was where I first learned about leadership. And as the platoon leader, I held the door open to the mess hall for everybody in my platoon for meals, three meals a day. And then by the time I got my tray of food, there was only time for me to go stand at the end of the line to turn my tray in every day there wasn't for those meals, there wasn't time for me to sit down and eat. So I only ate as much food at every meal as I could eat from the time I got into the turnin tray turn in line to the time that I got up to it and had to put my tray down.
Wow, that's crazy.
Not a diet plan that I'd recommend. But yeah, it was sufficient. Yeah.
And that was because you were the highest ranking that you had to hold the door open and yeah, yeah.
Leave your seat last. My Platoon, my platoon sergeant, my drill sergeant. He taught me well.
Yeah, that's kind of crazy to think, like because you had a degree you went in as a leader for your enlisted troop. And like, how much of that had an impact on your whole experience and how you went through boot camp? So let's talk about your first assignment. Where did you go after basic and ay ay ay t.
So I went to jump school between a i t and my first assignment because when I had signed my contract, I had that drill, sir. The recruiter had asked me where I wanted to go. And the last place my father had been assigned was at Fort Bragg. And so I remember that he had been an instructor at the Special Warfare school. And he would they would go out on the weekends and do fun jumps to maintain their proficiency. And I mentioned that and jump school had just opened to women just a little bit before then the recruiter told me that and I said, Well, that sounds like fun. I could do that. So they signed me up in my contract to go to job school. So I did that. And that's a whole nother story. In and of itself. A jump school is a three week course. And it took me nine weeks to graduate, but I did it. And then they actually offered me a job as a blackhat, which is an instructor at the jump school because they were so impressed by my persistence and they wanted to bring a female on board and I went through the interview process and got hired. But before I got to hang around for very long, I was pulled up to Fort Bragg, which was where my assignment was. And that was all because of my father. So when I joined the army, my parents were on a trip around the world. My father was on sabbatical from his job as a professor. And so they were backpacking around the world and they didn't know I joined the army until after I was in for at least six weeks. And then what turned out was that the Commanding General at 18th Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg happened to be a guy who was a captain with my father years ago, my father knew where he was I wrote him a letter and said, Where's my daughter find her. And so he inquired into the system and found me and found that I was at Fort Benning and insisted that I should be at Fort Bragg. So my job, my time is a black hat cut very short. And I was sent to Fort Bragg. And that was where the story takes another kind of kink, because my contract had said that I was supposed to be assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division. But at that time, women were not allowed to deploy with the brigades. And they could only take female signal officers, they couldn't take female signal enlisted soldiers. So they gave me two options, I could either stay in my MLS, which was called 72 Echo, and be assigned to the 18th Airborne Corps, or I could do on the job training assigned to the 82nd. And I would become an admin clerk. And somehow By that time, I'd gotten smart enough that I should inquire about going to the 18th Airborne Corps and I found out that the women who were working in Iowa MLS, there were spending most of their time in the motor pool working on the jeeps and vehicles that they used when they went out to the field. And that was definitely not my style. So I said, Okay, I'll stay in the 82nd, I'll learn to do something new. So yeah, so I got assigned to the 407 supply and Service Battalion and became one of the first 100 women assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division. And that was awesome. That was really awesome. I, the the leadership at the 407 recognized that I was not just your average, a three that showed up in a unit, and I got trained to do everything in the battalion pack, the Personnel Administration center. And then when there was an opportunity, when they we needed a new legal clerk, they let me retrain and do that. And I became the battalion legal clerk. So that was a really great almost four years.
So even though you were one of the first women and at second, it sounds like they were ready for you guys. And they were supportive, and recognize the skills that you brought, or did you face any discrimination, being a woman?
You know, that's the irony of it. When people ask me about my military career, I will tell them that in a lot of respects, my time in the 82nd was the best part because they did not they were so bounded, determined to make having women in the division a success that we had permission from the division commander, that if we were out on the streets, walking somewhere, or running PT by ourselves that if a cat call came out of a formation coming by, we could stop that formation and drop them for pushups, that's how serious they were about it. And so they were, they were just bound and determined to make a success at the 47th head, probably more women assigned to it than any other battalion. So that was a great place. For me, the s one was a female, and she was very well respected. And so yeah, they they It was the first start the place where it where they kind of fell down, but it really wasn't their fault was they didn't have a good place to house us. And so that it because there weren't enough of us to give, like the whole floor of a barracks to and, and they insisted on housing people by company, if I think if they had combined all the women in the battalion in one place that they could have, you know, had like enough women for one floor, but they thought and I think it was really smart that for unit cohesion to keep the women with the rest of their their units, their attachments and companies that that was important. So there were three of us women living in an NCO room. And so that meant we had two bunks stacked and one on the floor, and three wall lockers and one desk and one bathroom for the three of us. And that was you know, that was an experience. That would be an experience. So my roommates, one of them was a kleptomaniac and she would steal stuff from me. And then my other roommate was from Puerto Rico. And I think she was probably a really great woman, but I spoke no Spanish, and she spoke very little English. And so it was, you know, we struggled but happily, all three of us were pulled pretty much to work all the time. So we it was rare that we were, you know, in the room to do anything other than sleep. Besides, there wasn't even a chair. I mean, there was no place to sit. If you were in the room, you were in your bed. So
that would make it really hard being you have like no personal space for sure. And then you're either working or sleeping. It's almost like a deployment but you weren't deployed because like that's the tents are really tight. I was in I was deployed and locked in a tent, and you had like no personal space, and you really only went into your tent to go to bed because like so there's nowhere to sit. There was nothing. So just kind of reminds me of my deployment.
Yeah, it was kind of like that. Yeah. So finally when I made an f5 I had enough money and I could go get a little apartment by myself.
Yeah, that must have been nice after that. It's like yes, freedom. I think that sometimes the Military does things the right way. And like they were so determined that they made sure that it was a safe environment for women and like it made such a positive impact. So that's really good to hear. And it makes me think like, there's so many things the military can do for sometimes they get a little, they're like, well, we can just fix it by doing this tiny thing, instead of like making that a real priority and focus.
Yeah. And and the truth is, it really starts at the top, we had a division commander who was bound and determined that it was going to be a success. And, you know, I, as I moved around the military, and saw more of military units, not every commander was willing to make it a success with women.
Yeah, that makes sense. So you had a great four years there, right? And then you moved. Where did you go next? Well,
I got a direct commission when I left the 82nd. And so I had my contract was going to run out. And originally, I should have only been there for three years. But I had, I was like, so many people, when they get to the transition point, I don't know what I'm going to do. And at the very last minute, I asked, Can I stay in and they said, Sure, they were happy to have me hang around for another year. And then they sat me down and said, you know, you need to make a plan to do something other than the in the military, you know, if you're going to get out and so but if you're going to stay in, we think you should go to Officer Candidate School and, you know, get or actually get a direct commission was, I should say is what they said. So they said, I applied for a direct commission in the quartermaster Corps, because that's the battalion I had been in. And they felt like I had been exposed to enough logistics that I could be trained to be a Quartermaster officer, but I got turned down. So they walked my paperwork down the hall to the OCS office. And, of course, that was no problem. You know, at that point, I had three college degree, three years in the military, I got accepted for OCS right away. And so then that class date was several months off, and the battalion commander decided that they required all of their officers to be jumpmaster qualified. And so they weren't going to have me leave the division without being jumpmaster qualified. So they signed me up for jumpmaster school. And one day when I got home, from my training at jumpmaster, school, I had a letter from the Medical Service Corps in the army. And it said, Dear spec five Schlesinger, Congratulations, you've been accepted for a direct commission to the Medical Service Corps, and I'm reading it, you know, and it set a date I was going to get commissioned, I was like, well, this is really weird. I don't understand it. But I think I'm, you know, I think I'm gonna be a second lieutenant in the Medical Service Corps. So on my way to jumpmaster training, the next morning, I stopped by to see the battalion commander, because he was always in really early, and it showed in this show to my letter, and I said, Sir, I don't think I have to go to OCS anymore. I think I'm going to get, you know, be commissioned in in October. And he said, Yeah, you're right. He read the letter. He said, Yep, you're right. So I left the 407 to go to Medical Service Corps officer basic training at Fort Sam Houston. And that's really what led to my my next adventure. Because one day during training, they came in and asked who wanted to go to jump school? Well, it's obvious I didn't need to do that. And then they said, who wanted to go to Air Assault school and learning to repel out of helicopters sounded like much more work than what I really wanted to do. And then they, they asked that infamous question, well, who wants to go to flight school and the private Benjamin in me leapt out and I figured I could drive a car that somebody could teach me to fly an airplane or a helicopter. So I raised my hand. And out of the five of us who volunteered for my class, I was the only one who made it through the whole process, the physical, the interview, and everything. So if my next step was flight school at Fort Rucker,
Wow, that sounds so cool. I love that slide pointer and do this. But then you're gonna do this. And then they're like, you want to do this? It's so different than the military the day where it's like, I don't know, I don't feel like I hear the stories of things just randomly changing like I do from women who served. You know, earlier,
I think there was a lot more flexibility. I think, I think some things have gotten a lot more rigid.
Yeah. So let's talk about fly school.
Well, that was fun. Actually, it turned out that after I got the hang of flying, the th 55, which was the starter helicopter back then it's kind of like a lawn mower with a rotor system attached to it and a tail rotor. I got I was pretty good at it. And what if I can remember the very first time though, that I landed the helicopter, the teachers divided, my instructor pilot looked over at me and he said, Well, we've arrived, could we go around the traffic pattern and other time and land the next time. And so that's I, my, my husband looks at me every time when we when we fly somewhere together, and I judge even even today, whether we've arrived or whether we've landed and as I learned, so I did that. And it turned out that I was a pretty good navigator. We did learn and back then actually, we use maps. They gave us these, I don't know 25 sheets of maps, and we had to glue them together and tape them together and fold them into a big map book. And we learned to do to fly nap of the earth which is just right above the treetops on navigating and So that turned out to be a really good skill for me as a as a medivac pilot, but I got pretty good at it and one of my stick buddies was pretty good at it. And so when it came time for graduation we we didn't have back then I don't know what they still do at Fort Rucker, I should check it out one day, but back then on your graduation day, the whole class did a huge flyover of the main parade field on Fort Rucker. But john and i didn't fly over the parade field, because what they did was everybody took off and mast way out in the training area, and then flew in but john and i had the honor of navigating the way in and so we brought our class into the parade field and then took off and everybody flew across. How cool Yeah, it was really neat.
Yeah. What did you do after you graduated?
I was assigned to the crash rescue unit called flat iron at Fort Rucker for a few months, did that they flew white hueys there and and so that was that was an interesting time, I learned that that's where I got my first experience, you know, just really doing crashes flying too heavily. There weren't too many of them on on the on the in the training cycles. But there were a couple and we also at that time flew mast missions, which was military assistance to safety and traffic. And so we would fly civilian patients from accident scenes, occasionally accident scenes, but more commonly from the Doulton hospital, up to the hospitals in Montgomery and Birmingham. So I learned to land that was the the most different kind of thing that I got to do there was landing on the rooftop of the Doulton hospital, because that's where their helo pad was, and we would fly. We flew the U h, one V's and what made it a V as opposed to an H was that we had a fuel tank and extra fuel tank and auxilary fuel tank on one side of the helicopter. So that made a weight issue. So learning to land a full helicopter on the rooftop so we could pick somebody up. And you know, I flew babies that weren't any bigger the size of my hand and in incubators up to up to Birmingham to the neonatal center, you know, really kind of amazing things. That was a really good experience.
Yeah, that sounds really cool. That's like such a cool story. And I love listening to like how your career just like zig zags all over the place. And all the cool things that you got to do is really cool.
So yeah, so from there, I went to Germany, it was my last assignment on active duty. But it was not the happiest. I arrived there to be the first female pilot from any country's military service in the southwest corner of Germany. And we had four commissioned officers and 12 warrant officers in our unit. So there was a commander and ops officer, a supply officer, and then me as the commissioned officers, and so I can remember being picked up in Frankfurt, and the way they welcomed me was with a sign because they didn't know what I looked like it was, you know, back in the days where you didn't you couldn't look up on the internet or do anything like that. So I was welcomed two by two men that I had never met before with a sign that said, any female Second Lieutenant,
And that that kind of beat that I what I didn't tell you was when I went for my interview as a black hat at Fort Rucker, I mean, at Fort Benning, that I had driven. I had a car by that time. And I had driven to the parking lot where the instructor cadre was headquartered. My interview was at one o'clock I got there right before one o'clock, the Command Sergeant Major was just getting back from lunch. And what he said to me, as we walked into the building was, well, at least you're pretty. So I went from that as an E three to any second lieutenant, female.
All right, and after having such a good experience at like, the 82nd, and then go on to flight school and, and doing really cool stuff, and Alabama, and then to go to Germany. And you're probably we're really excited to go to Germany and then like, you have arrived, and we're like, oh, well, this is gonna be fun.
Yeah, you know, I mean, I had my first I should say, I had my first indications of what would happen at my officer basic course at 14 Euston, because in the 82nd, we didn't, the women didn't wear skirts, we wore pants and blouses or boots, like the men. And so that's what I was used to doing. And I didn't know all the ins and outs of the dress rules like I should have. And so when I went to Fort Sam Houston for a OBC that's what I did. I put my pants on with my shirt, my green uniform that I was required to wear, the senior officers are not not the most senior officers, but like the majors and Lieutenant Colonel's. They were like, what is this woman doing with bloused boots? And so I think if a man had, if I had been a man, they wouldn't have said anything. But because I was a woman they stuck out and they pointed out to me that the regulations said that if you are going to if you were in route to a non airborne assignment, which at that point, because I hadn't, you know, I was scared. I had been scheduled to go be a hospital administrator at four Devon's. That's what my order said. So that was a leg assignment. So technically, I wasn't authorized to wear to blouse my boots anymore. And so they made me stop then but I think if I had been a man I wouldn't have stuck out they would have just said she's prior service. or going on to you know, he's going on to an assignment and they wouldn't have said anything but I stuck out. And so, you know, that was my first inkling that people weren't going to be happy. And yeah, so when I got to Landstuhl, it was interesting it was I got a lot of good flying experiences. Some of the warrant officers were pretty much stuck in the old school I had one Warrant Officer that refused to sign his OCR because I wrote it. But he refused to sign because I was a woman. And he wasn't even signing that he agreed with what I wrote, all he was signing was that his demographic information on the piece of paper was correct, but he refused to sign because I was a woman. But the enlisted soldiers were awesome. They would come and check on me and make sure and ask me are you doing okay? You know, that kind of thing. But I mean, I went through a series of commanders there. My last one was the worst. The day I pinned on, Captain, they had a nice ceremony for me on the heliport, and then we were walking back into the building. And he said to me, oh, by the way, I'm Captain Schlesinger. I'm flying the flight surgeon in later today to give you a psych eval, because I don't think you're fit to fly. So they brought the flight surgeon in and the flight surgeon interviewed me and every other of the pilots and talked to some of the enlisted soldiers. And then he got all of us officers together again in one room, and he looked at me and he looked at them, and he said, she's not the problem. You guys are the problem, but it didn't fix anything as you can imagine.
That sounds really hard.
Yeah, that was that was the beginning of the end for me from that point, you know, it just went downhill and but I had one thing that saved me and that's it set the trajectory for every everything that's happened to me has set the trajectory for the next step. The journal officer who controls doctor's assignments, was coming to Germany for a one week meeting in Garmisch, and our operations officer had been scheduled to go rent a Mercedes go meet him in Munich, take him down and spend the week with him. Well, something happened, and I can't remember exactly what, but that fell through. And so I was given that assignment. And my commander made me promise not to say anything bad about the army, literally. He said, You can't say anything bad. I said, Okay, sir. And I'm inside, I was thinking, you're really stupid, because I knew that, you know, this guy. He was going to ask me how long I had been in Germany. And when I told him three years, because I was bumping three years at that point, he was gonna say, and where are you going next? And I was going to say, I'm getting out because that had been my plan. And that happened in the first 30 minutes. So general rumba was astounded when I told him that and then we had a lot of time to talk that week. And he arranged for me to stay on active duty another year because I had the opportunity to apply for a regular commission. And so they arranged for me to be reassigned to for my last year to the Landstuhl army Regional Medical Center in their clinical Support Division as a hospital administrator for that year because they already had a guy coming in to replace me in the unit. So that's what I did. And that was where I first learned about personal growth and organizational development. The major that I worked for there was into that. And so my jobs there were that all the receptionists and the outpatient clinics and the hospital, they all were, they're all civilians, they all worked for me, the patient appointment system, that was my responsibility. And then the outpatient part of the emergency room was my responsibility. So among my you know, the good things that I did was I revamped how the outpatient clinic worked in the ER, we made it much more efficient from the perspective of seeing patients so that people didn't have to wait as long the doctors worked harder, but the patients got seen faster. And then, you know, we we just, you know, I took good care of the receptionist took good care of the patient of the people who worked in patient appointments. So I did that until I got out. And the interesting things that happened during that time was that I remap the sign system I literally, I had to make all the sides of myself that I was given the task of revamping the signage in the hospital because it was a relatively new building. Back then it was big and people were getting lost. So I created a science system and made them and got them up. And then, unfortunately, that was the during the time period of the big crash at the Ramstein Air Show. I don't know if you've ever heard about that. But that was one of the things that the 63rd med detachment, which was the medevac unit there did every year was to provide crash rescue support for the Ramstein Air Show, which was one of the biggest air shows in Germany every year. And I typically was one of the pilots who did that after I'd been there for a year just because I didn't have family to bring to the airshow. And so I did that. But then the year that my husband and I got married, I was already on the staff at Landstuhl and the crash happened it was the Frankie tricolori. Their demo pilot made a small mistake and hit one of their other pilots. Right over the crash happened right above the medevac helicopter and Kim straighter actually the officer who had replaced me at the 63rd he had been underneath the helicopter in the shade because it was was really, really hot out there. And he had his flight suit down to his waist, but he had come out to watch the freaky tricolori fly. And that burning jet flew, came down on top of him and burned him and he died of his of his burns. But my husband and I were across the airfield and he was an aircraft maintenance officer there at Ramstein, and I had left and right before the, the, the Italians flew to go get us a pretzel. So I was off in the crowd when the crash happened, but towards the area where when the one airplane and the jet fuel fell straight down, and then the other airplane actually landed parts of it in the crowd. So that's where my husband thought I was, he thought I was like in the thing there. So he comes running to find me, we found us. And I realized that, you know, there wasn't anything really that we could do that was efficient there. But I knew that with all the injuries being pushed up the hill to the hospital, because we were the closest hospital that was on a Sunday, the doctors weren't going to be able to see patient. So actually, I guess maybe first or second day of the year, so But at any rate, the doctors were not going to be ready to see patients in the hospital on Monday. So I told my husband, we had written our bikes from the small town that we lived in, we rode our bikes home, jumped in the car and flew up to the hospital and ran into the patient appointment area. And I started pulling out running off the sheets of all the appointments that we had in the hospital on Monday and Tuesday and gave my husband a script and said this you need to call people and tell them that their appointment is being delayed. And we will call them back later in the week and tell them where their appointments going to be. But I just knew we could not have you know, hundreds of people descending on the hospital for doctor's appointments with doctors that we're going to be busy.
Wow, what would and the military career.
Yeah. And that was like two months before I left active duty. Wow, that's really just it I you know, my military career was just like a roller coaster ride. I never deployed, but I you know, it was a roller coaster ride.
Yeah. And then you made the transition and you were married to a military person to become a spouse. And we don't have a lot of time. But what do you want to talk about from the time that you left active duty to where you are now.
So another another roller coaster ride? You know, I really I didn't know who I was, I had joined the military as a young 20 something I had never done anything in the world as a civilian, came out with these, you know, amazing experiences behind me and all of a sudden I was an Air Force spouse and a second lieutenant maintenance maintenance officer, spouse and a flying Squadron as it was and there was back then. And there is still to a certain extent, a huge difference in the flying squadrons between the maintenance side of the house and flying side of the house and I was really off put by that because I was a pilot, you know what, what made me any, any less of a person. So that was a really interesting experience. But my fellow Air Force spouses really dug in and they took care of me and I got involved in the community. And then I really like baskets. Somebody turned me on to Longaberger baskets. And so I sold Longaberger baskets for a couple years and one of them one of my friends who was Mary Kay consultant said, you know, people never run out of baskets, but they run pink bottles get empty. So I was like, well, that's really smart. And so I changed and became a Mary Kay consultant and became a sales director where I earned the privilege of driving a free company car, it wasn't pink, but it was red and they paid the insurance payment and the car payment. So that was a good thing. I mean, just got really active in the community. everywhere we went. I was a lifetime Girl Scout so I led my girls into Girl Scouting and led Girl Scout troops around the world led the Girl Scout program in Stuttgart, Germany during the 2001 2002 school year, we had 21 Girl Scout troops on for military installations. And I used everything I learned when in my additional duty as the physical security officer at the Lonsdale heliport to keep our girl scout program going. During that school year, all the other extracurricular activities shut down, but we kept going and grew. So that's really awesome. And I'm still in touch with some of the wonderful women who were leaders of the Girl Scout troops back then. So that's really cool to still be connected with people. And then as my husband retired from the Air Force in 2007, I got really active than with veterans, because I started writing his resume and seeing what people service members go through when they transition. So I did that got active in my community, with veterans and so it's just really kind of rolled into where we are now back in 2018 2016. I came up with the idea for changing focus the veteran transition program that I found it but my self confidence wasn't good enough. I had gotten past the point of of letting myself be held back by my past, but I just was too afraid to launch the program. So I sat on it for two years. We launched in 2018. And and then use a slow start over the first 18 months, but then COVID I would have to say that we have thrived in the COVID era. Oddly enough, we're one of those organizations We were able to jump into the virtual arena. And prior to COVID, we had done five iterations of our programs in five different locations. But since COVID, we've served over 100 people in 22 states, the District of Columbia, and Germany. So it's really awesome to be able to serve people in such a wide area. And then we've cut our costs and increased our attendance. So we're, we're on our on our road. And again, an opportunity fell in in my way that I was able to turn into something positive. And and so now we have instead of being primarily an in person program, we are a virtual program.
But it sounds so awesome. And it's, it's great that you had that resource available and ready for when COVID hit and people needed it. And you guys were able,
were you guys already kind of online. So it was an easy pivot to connect with people or did you have to make changes, we had been once a month, we had been doing a virtual training and coaching session, but I joined the john Maxwell team in as one of the founding partners back in 2011. And we had built a team around the world of coaches. And and so I was comfortable operating in the virtual environment, I had been part of a program that launched the first john Maxwell youth program in 2012. And the 10 of us that put the program together, we were spread across New Zealand, South Africa, Canada, Mexico, the United States. And so I had gotten really comfortable operating in that environment. But the one key difference was that we did it using free conferencing.com. And so we didn't see each other there was no video component to it. So I had to learn to get comfortable in the in the video environment in zoom. And but we had done some of our meetings that way. So I had the basics of understanding zoom. And that's Yeah, so just rock and roll with it. I you know, you have to, to learn by trying sometimes.
That's so true. Yeah, that's so awesome. I, I really have enjoyed hearing your military story and all the twists and turns and all the things that you got to do and the hardships. And but I have one last question for you, which is what advice would you give to young women who are considering joining the military?
Number one, do it because the military needs you. Because that is the way we make change, there are still big changes that need to be made in the military. And we can't do it without women. But I think the thing is to go into it with your eyes open to stay hard and fast to your principles, to find the other women with you and to band together with them so that you have a squad and to rely on those of us who have been there to support you. And to go for the top and not to be afraid. to anytime there's an opportunity to try. I remember when when I was at the 82nd, one of the one of the other women who was there with me, she really wanted to go to Macondo School, which was a lower, not quite at Ranger School, but at another level. And she fought and fought and fought for that, you know, never got there. But it takes people to lay the way. And so those of us who have come before we've laid a path, but there's so much farther to take it. So we need women to join the military and not be afraid of it just to reach and grab for every opportunity. They're offered not to be afraid of those doors, walk through them.
That's great advice. It's so true. The women before have laid a path and there's so much more. And yes, we need more women to serve so that they can still keep pushing and breaking barriers, because there's so much we can do. And one thing that really resonated from your story. We didn't I didn't ask you a question about it. But you talked about how the enlisted people checked on you. And one thing that I think women are good leaders, because they take care of their people, and you never talk directly about it. But I could hear through your stories that you took care of your people throughout your whole career. And that's something that I think the military in a male dominated way, sometimes they forget to take care of their people. And so that's one of the key aspects of women service that I think helps make the military better and stronger. I mean, we break barriers, and we we are are rock stars. But that femininity of being able to take care of people and make sure that people are taken care of is something that I heard you say over and over. And it's something that's so important for the military.
It's really key. And that is that that is how the military will change overall and become much stronger is by having that mentality. And women have women Britain that overall it sounds sexist, but we do.
Yeah, it sounds Yeah. But it's just the truth. It's the way that we're wired and the way that so yeah, and it's something that I've heard over and over through all these podcasts. And I just I really liked how you mentioned it over and over throughout the interview, just by telling your story. So thank you so much. I really appreciate your time. Well, thank
you, Amanda. Thank you for the opportunity to tell my story to reach more women. encourage more women thank you for for spending your efforts on on highlighting women. It's important to
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