Career Advice

Marine and Mother Leaves Office Life To Fight in Iraq

This Mexican-American Marine left her comfortable corporate job to return to the Marines and serve in Iraq. In her interview she shares how hard it is to be away from her sons, but that the rewards of the job and the satisfaction of knowing she is a part of protecting the United States makes it worth the sacrifice.

What is your job title and what industry do you work in? How many years of experience do you have in this field? How would you describe yourself using only three adjectives?
I am a United States Marine, with 10+ years experience. My career road has varied and is ever-changing. I have worked in the areas of Logistics, Administration, Civil Affairs, and Operational Planning. I would describe my self as a positive thinker, hard charger, with a passive aggressive personality.

How would you describe what you do? What does your work entail? Are there any common misunderstandings you want to correct about what you do?
I plan the movement of 10,500 Marines and their equipment to Iraq, Afghanistan, and over 100 operations and training exercises. I feel lucky to be one of the few defending our nation. It is an honor to serve my country, and the US Marine Corps has given me the opportunity to do this and learn and grow so much. A common misunderstanding about the Military is that war is all we do. I often talk to civilians about the many amazing and humanitarian services our Marines are doing all over the world, rebuilding roads and towns, resupplying schools, orphanages and hospitals, handing out medications and medical screenings all over the world… and they always ask the same, “Why aren’t more things like this reported in the news?”

What’s your ethnicity and gender? How has it hurt or helped you? If you ever experienced discrimination, how have you responded and what worked best? Do you speak another language, and has it been helpful in your career?
I am a Mexican American female. I am fortunate to work in a brotherhood where all our Marines are not male or female but Marine, all one color “green”. Although there are some jobs that females can not do in the Military, I have always understood why and I do not feel that being female has held me back in my career field. On one occasion, being female has opened a small world were Males are not allowed, the opportunity of talking to Iraqi females and interacting with them in their homes and daily lives in Iraq.

On a scale of 1 to 10 how would you rate your job satisfaction? What might need to change about your job to unleash your full enthusiasm?
I would rate my job satisfaction as a 9, only held back by the fact that I am a single mother. I have two beautiful, wonderful sons that I love so much. However, the military is a highly demanding, high stress job, working 50 to 60 hours a week, sometimes weekends and traveling constantly. I sometimes feel that my children need more time with me and I make the most of the time we have together.

If this job moves your heart – how so? Ever feel like you found your calling or sweet spot in life? If not, what might do it for you?
Of course this job touches my heart every time one of our Heroes is lost in Afghanistan. Every time a little child has to say good bye to daddy for a year long deployment. Every time the news reports on the latest celebrity gossip and neglect to mention our lost heroes… and on a more personal note, every time I am in uniform and somebody approaches me and says “Thank you”, when I know they are really saying it to all our Military in harms way.

How did you get started in this line of work? If you could go back and do it differently, what would you change?
I was a young 17 year old girl, unsure of what she wanted to do with her life and I didn’t know if college was the right path for me. Then one day I was approached by a sharp looking Marine in dress blues who asked me if I wanted to be one of the worlds finest. Many people tell me I should have gone Air Force or any other service, but I wouldn’t change that decision for any other service.

What did you learn the hard way in this job and what happened specifically that led up to this lesson?
I learned that I love the structure and order of the Military. There was a time when I felt that I didn’t want to be a Marine anymore and I ended my contract and faded away into another corporate job without rewards. I spent three years of my life in a business skirt and went home each night wondering what difference I was making. That’s when I decided to come back into the Military and deploy to Iraq.

What is the single most important thing you have learned outside of school about the working world?
I have learned that if you work hard and do your best at what you do, people will notice and it will open up many doors and opportunities. I have learned that with more obligations and responsibilities comes more work, and you have to make time for family because they are what keeps you grounded.

What’s the strangest thing that ever happened to you in this job?
I wouldn’t say there is anything strange about this, but every time someone knows I am a Marine they always ask me if I know their son (or someone they love) who is a Marine somewhere… and I never do but it usually leads to a long and interesting conversation where I find out a lot about a stranger I never knew only because they knew a Marine once.

Why do you get up and go to work each day? Can you give an example of something that really made you feel good or proud?
I get up and come to work because I have a contract and would be locked up in jail if I don’t show up. In actuality, I show up because I know that the job I do has a lasting effect on our history and that I am a small part of something important.

What kind of challenges do you face and what makes you just want to quit?
The constant change and 180 degree turns of the military life is both a blessing (I get restless and bored of routine) and something that I hate. I wish my sons had a steady home and normal childhood, but they can only to a certain extent because I have to move my family across country every two to three years.

How stressful is your job? Are you able to maintain a comfortable or healthy work-life balance? How?
My job is highly stressful, but I balance it by spending as much time as possible with my children. Every weekend is dedicated to fun and relaxation to the max… fishing, the park, the zoo or a little staycation.

What’s a rough salary range for the position you hold? Are you paid enough and/or happy living within your means?
My salary is $45,000 a year for 10+ years of service. I have a modest and comfortable life but there is a lot of cost cutting and not a lot of savings. With two growing boys it is hard to save for a broken down car which is almost inoperable by now.

How much vacation do you take? Is it enough?
We are lucky to be able to take 2 weeks of vacation each summer and several smaller vacation through out the year… I like taking a couple of days at a time to spend important days with my children.

What education and skills do you need to get hired and succeed in this field?
None, everything I need to know I learned in the Marine Corps.

What would you tell a friend considering your line of work?
To really think about it and make an informed decision.

If you could write your own ticket, what would you like to be doing in five years?
Driving my boys cross country on a summer long road trip.