My family immigrated to the U.S over 25 years ago seeking the American dream. Throughout our journey, I learned that what make this country so special are the people who help you along the way. As I grew up, I wanted to do something special to give back to the country that humbly opened up its doors for me to accomplish the dream of a better life; so in 1997 I joined the Army.
The Army entrusted me the values that are now part of my life: Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, and Personal Courage. However, as many of my brothers and sisters know, the journey is never easy. This is my story:
My first Army assignment was at Fort Campbell, KY as an Operation's clerk for the Sergeant Major of the 101st Airborne Division/502nd Infantry Brigade. Yes, that is correct I was one of three female soldiers that were assigned to an Infantry Unit. Although I was tasked to the Brigade level, I experienced at first-hand what it meant to be an infantry soldier. Brigade staff was required to deploy and perform war exercises with all the Battalions (there were 3 battalions). Therefore, I was constantly training at the field with all of the male soldiers. I must confess that my biggest challenge during those times was Personal Courage. It was not the physical duress but the mental distress that I constantly encountered from individuals that thought females should not be allowed to serve in the Army. To make matters worse, I became pregnant with my first child just six months after arriving. My husband was thrilled with the news, as we had been married for five years (prior to enlisting), the doctor in the infantry Brigade, not so much.
Personal Courage was what pushed me forward as I knew it was my duty to serve regardless of the location or unit I was assigned. Several Officers and individuals from my chain of command approached me and offered me the option to leave the Army (since my husband was military as well) but I refused. The Army taught me that Personal Courage was "facing moral fears or adversity" and "standing up for things that you know are honorable." Therefore, yes, being a female at an Infantry Brigade was not the easiest or most popular decision, but serving this country was the right and honorable thing to do. I proudly served in the Infantry Brigade for two and half years (pregnant and all) before getting orders to another division where I finished my five year military term.
After the military, looking for a job was the new challenge waiting for me. Once again, I relied on the values the Army bestowed on me to go into the civilian world and started my journey. Luckily for me, the Social Security Administration (SSA) was holding a job fair at Ft. Campbell while I was still processing out of the military. The pro: I could apply and be interviewed right on the spot. The con: over 200 individuals (soldiers and family members) were applying for the same job. The process was long and slow as SSA held panel interviews for five different locations (three offices at TN and two at KY) simultaneously. After a stressful day of working on different types of resumes I decided to treat this like any other military mission and do recon (i.e. research about SSA, the programs they covered and their mission statement). SSA mission in 2001 was "To promote the economic security of the nations' people through compassionate and vigilant leadership in shaping and managing America's Social Security Programs." So I transferred my military skills as follows: "economic security of the nation" meant that I would continue to do Selfless service for the welfare of the nation. "Compassionate" by showing Respect and treat others with dignity, "vigilant leadership" by fulfilling my Duty to do a great job with Honor. That is exactly what I told the panel interviewers when I met them that afternoon. A week later I got a call for a second interview which ended with a job offer to work at the Nashville, TN field office. SSA has been a great place to work for me, it has giving me the opportunity to work directly with the public and experience how my work impact them. SSA provides various career opportunities to grow and it is always looking veterans to hire. I am the perfect example of how you can start as a GS-5 (entry level) and become a GS-13 within ten years. Our flexibility to move from state to state and capability to adjust to any challenging situation is what make us (veterans) so appealable to SSA. Nevertheless is our Personal Courage what make us endure difficult times and keep on pushing to the next challenge. Are you up for the challenge?