How about female active duty service members? How can they balance successful military careers while keeping a happy home life?
I found two great, successful military women to pose those questions to - a military spouse and nurse, and a Master Chief with the U.S. Navy with a family of her own. To make things interesting and to keep the ladies on topic, I asked them the same exact questions.
Interviewee #2 - Master Chief Petty Officer Cris Galvez - E9 and Active Duty Spouse
What is your profession?
MNW: I am a nurse in surgery.
CG: I am a Master Chief Petty Officer in the Navy. Currently, I serve as the Operations Department Leading Chief Petty Officer aboard a warship out of San Diego, California.
Are you married? Do you have children?
MNW: I have been married for 12 years with two children ages 9 and 6, and another one on the way.
CG: I am, and I do. I married Alex in 2000 and we have two sons; they are 12 and 10 years old.
What are your professional intentions? Where do you see yourself in two years?
MNW: I plan to study for a Doctorate in Nursing Practice (DNP) and become an acute care nurse practitioner.
CG: Professionally, I intend to stay in the Navy for at least four more years. I have one year left on my current assignment and will be deploying in a few months. When I return, I am due to rotate to shore duty in San Diego. In two years, I see myself enjoying my shore duty and hanging out with my kids a lot. I hope to be finished with my Project Management Professional Certification, and starting to network a little more while I decide if I am ready to retire or not.
Have there been any surprises in your profession? Did a career change surprise you?
MNW: Yes. When I first met my husband in 2001, I was in Germany doing a research project for a Biochemistry company. The research was written up as my dissertation for my first degree - Bachelor of Science with honors in Biochemistry and Immunology. My intentions then were to pursue a career in research and get a master’s degree and later a PhD in biochemistry. After we transferred to Phoenix, Arizona, I worked for a drug company coordinating clinical trials for a short period before we transferred to Pensacola, Florida. It was a lot harder to find work in my field there and I decided to pursue a Master’s Degree instead. At this time I realized that I may have to make a few changes if I wanted to stay both gainfully employed and married to the military.
CG: My entire career has been surprise. Never in a million years did I think I would have a career in the Navy. After getting over my first enlistment, unusual opportunities were given to me. I was blessed in having amazing mentors that helped equip me with the tools I needed to be successful. The biggest surprise as far as career changes are concerned was the news that the Navy was disbanding my rating (job), which was Electronic Warfare. That ended up being the biggest blessing in disguise, as it resulted in my conversion to a great rate that has made me extremely happy.
Have you experienced professional growth, even with all of your transfers?
MNW: I probably do not appear to have experienced professional growth with all of our transfers. I was actually called a job hopper when I consulted a professional resume writing company while looking for a job this time! What I have achieved is personal growth. Faced with the challenges with which we are faced during each assignment, I feel that I have overcome more obstacles than I ever would have if my husband had chosen a more traditional career. While we were in Pensacola and I was half way through a master’s degree in forensic Science and had a baby, I found a bachelor’s degree in nursing degree program in Alabama that was only one year long. There was a shortage of nurses at the time and I was sure that I would be able to maintain employment through all the moves if I had a profession that was in higher demand. When I was accepted I had to make one of the hardest decisions of my life. I had to decide NOT to complete my master’s and jump into this degree instead. Nursing was NOT something that I would ever have chosen. Ironically, now it seems like it was meant to be. I have had a much easier time maintaining employment as a nurse and a lot of doors have opened for career progression as a result of having a BSN. It’s still not without challenges though. Three years in Germany took its toll even on this career; I could only find work as a substitute teacher there. After returning to the U.S., it took 8 months of job applications, 20 continuing education units and 3 months to process my Texas nursing license application before I found employment. Then I had to get back into an ever changing field and figure out how to do my job again. It was terrifying at first! The inconsistency has often left me feeling over qualified and under experienced in the work force.
CG: I believe that my professional growth has been because all of the transfers. It has been amazing to be able to change roles and responsibilities every three years. Each job has been more challenging than the last. Truth be told, I am nervous about the prospect of not changing jobs every three years once I retire.
Where is “home?” Has that location changed since you’ve been affiliated with the military?
MNW: Home is a small town on the west coast of Scotland called Ayr. That is where I was born and raised. However, since marrying my husband and taking on the commitments of his career, home has become wherever my family is at that time.
CG: Home is San Diego, California. I am originally from Georgia, and will always love and cherish the memories I made there, but now that my family has left that state, it isn’t home anymore. Home is where your family is, and my family is in San Diego. So far, it has been my favorite place to be stationed. I am looking forward to doing a shore tour here, as my two previous billets here have been sea ones.
What is next? What happens after the military?
MNW: After the military, my husband gets to stay at home with the kids! He can work part time and keep up with all their school work and activities while I play catch up. I hope to be graduating with a DNP in time for him to retire and be at the beginning of my new career while he gets to take a break.
CG: That is something that I am still deliberating. I finished my B.S. in management a few years ago. I want to get my real estate license, which I plan on working on as soon as I get to shore duty. What I like about real estate is helping people; I want to help them find their dream home, or at least a home that meets their needs and doesn’t kill them financially. But I am nervous about having such an unpredictable line of work. I am also working towards my Project Management Certification in order to aid me with getting a “regular” job when I get out. Maybe then I will slowly work my way into property management and real estate until I feel confident enough to do it full time.
Where is the line between spouse pride and a spouse trying to wear their spouse’s rank?
MNW: I don’t really think that ranks should matter. I know this seems to differ between Air Force, Army, Navy and Marines, but I feel lucky that the Air Force doesn’t seem to push the issue. I like to feel part of the Air Force, but separate enough that I am still an individual and my husband’s job is just that! His job! I am happy to provide support to other wives but I don’t believe there is any hierarchy between spouses. We should all respect one another as we would anyone else. If you want that respect then earn it through your behavior and service to others. That is regardless of any military affiliation. That does not mean that I don’t feel proud of my husband’s achievements and our family’s sacrifices that have made it possible for him to make those achievements. I never forget that when interacting with other spouses either. Being proud of those achievements and recognizing them as a whole family effort is very different from expecting to be treated as though you have the same authority as your spouse.
CG: Spouse pride is a beautiful thing. I personally believe that none of us (people who have made the military a career) would be where we are and what we are without having a support network at home. However, I think that the line between pride and trying to wear the rank occurs when the spouse treats people negatively because they feel entitled by their spouse’s rank. If the person with the rank hasn’t the right to be nasty, why would the spouse think it’s appropriate for them?
How does your spouse support you best?
MNW: My spouse supports my need to keep a life separate from the military. He understands that I am a much better military wife when I don’t feel suffocated by his commitments. That can be difficult while dealing with constant PCSs and deployments. He hasn’t complained about the thousands of dollars I have spent on education. He didn’t say a word when I stayed in Pensacola for 6 months after he had to move to Texas so I could complete my nursing degree. He just figured out how to help us achieve our goal. Now he does the best he can to work his schedule around mine so there is always someone there to pick up our kids. He understands that it’s important that I feel fulfilled as well as him. He shows appreciation of the fact that I juggle work, kids and everything that he would normally be doing while he is gone. He appreciates that I have worked hard to stay employed and keep a profession with all the moving. He knows that I have put things on hold for him several times and gone backwards instead of forwards on several occasions. He always shows me that he appreciates my sacrifices. I feel that this is so important in a military marriage.
CG: There isn’t enough paper to write it all down, but if I had to narrow it down to just one thing, I would say he supports me best by doing such an amazing job with our children. I have deployed four times since we’ve had children, and spent 6 months away for training while the boys were only 2 years old, and 6 months old. Our boys are amazing. They are grounded, intelligent, well-rounded, funny, and confident. Alex has had to be their mother and father for so many years; there’s no way that I could deploy and do this job if I didn’t have full faith and confidence in him as a father.
If you have a daughter, would you want her to have your job?
MNW: As a nurse – yes. It’s a career that pleasantly surprised me. It can be as easy or as challenging as you make it. It has opened a lot of doors for career progression. A couple of people who graduated with me went straight to medical school from nursing school so it really has no limit these days. Do I want her to become a military spouse? That’s a little harder! It’s definitely not for everyone. You have to be a person who can figure out how to adapt to your situation and do it fast and do it by yourself with no help. You have to be able to face frustrating circumstances. For example: being held back in your career choice despite working twice as hard as others around you. When I say “working twice as hard” I am referring to the times we have to repeat education or retrain for the same job because we were without work for three years, or having to convince an employer to give you a job, even though you have never stayed anywhere more than two years. We military spouses often have to get our foot in the door at a lower position and prove ourselves again and again to get back to the level we were at previously. I wasn’t always that type of person, but I learned to be and for me it’s been a good thing. Yes, if my daughter fell in love with a military guy I would be happy for her. It has made me a better person and I feel better equipped to handle whatever life throws at us.
CG: Today - absolutely! Would I want her to have my job 17 years ago? No, as it used to be a bit different. However, the Navy has come a long way with equality for women. It has incredible opportunities for all people, and not just women. Because of that, I would want my daughter to have my job. It is a workplace that compensates similarly qualified men and women equally; sadly, the same cannot be said for jobs in the civilian world.