Ashley Marshall

Branch: Air Force

Duty Station: Fort Rucker

Number of Deployments: 1

Number of PCS's: 3

Share your military spouse story:
My husband and I I have known each other since seventh grade. I’d like to tell you that we’d been together since then, but the truth is that we did not start dating until later in life. I had heard that J.B. was deployed, and I sent him a message thanking him for his service. He must’ve been bored as we began messaging back and forth on a regular basis. We were engaged within two months of his coming home from a one year deployment. Fun fact about us: our first “official” date was a Jimmy Buffett concert as our mutual love for his music brought us together. We’ve been trying to see Jimmy play live every year since then. As a military spouse, I have struggled with maintaining my career. Each time we've moved, I've accepted jobs that have required me to develop a new skillset and start the learning process all over. In some states, I haven't had opportunities to work because of licensing issues.

Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
I am most proud of the Military Spouse Club Leadership Forum. Military spouse clubs are vital organizations for military spouses to network. As President of Barksdale OSC, I realized that leaders of these clubs have no good place to turn to ask advice for matters outside the realm of JAG and the base. With that, I formed the Leadership Forum. I reached out to every military spouse club I could find and asked if they wanted to join in. Since it’s inception, we’ve grown to 500 members. The forum works together to answer each other’s questions—from recruiting to running thrift shops to new ways to welcome new members. We are now formalizing the group into an association so that we can host seminars and conventions to provide education and training to our members. Many of our members haven’t kept accounting books, planned socials, fundraised for charities, etc., and we’d like to provide trainings to teach these skills.These developed skills can provide experience to find employment.

Describe your involvement in the military community:
I served as a Key Spouse and Key Spouse Mentor at Fairchild AFB. I also served as the Commander Spouse, where we prided ourselves on family involvement and high morale for our troops. At Barksdale AFB, I served as President of the Barksdale Officers’ Spouse’s Club. When I realized that there is no network for milspouse club leaders, I formed the Military Spouse Club Leadership Forum, where spouse club leaders could come together and ask questions. We’re currently formalizing the 500 member group into an association. I’ve formed a network of all helicopter spouses in the USAF as well. I’ve started my own law firm where one of my focuses is to help milspouse businesses succeed. I provide highly discounted services to these companies so that they can be legally compliant. I also help run the Ft Rucker Military Spouse Professional Network to help milspouses connect and find work in our area. My husband and I started a non-profit that delivers care packages to deployed soldiers.

Describe how you support your community:
I support my local community by working with the Fort Rucker Professional Spouses to provide information of available employment in our area. We are currently working to provide education and networking for local spouses. I started and built a USAF helicopter spouses networking community to share information that is pertinent to us.

What do you advocate for? Why?
I believe that military spouses should have the ability to have a viable career, whether through employment or serving as an entrepreneur. When I first married my husband, I was forced to take a pay cut in order to find employment where he was stationed. Once we PCS-ed, I had trouble finding decent opportunities in our location and was challenged by licensing hurdles. I was penalized for my husband’s career. Unfortunately, my story is common in our community. According to recent surveys, military spouses are both unemployed and underemployed. We face more hurdles than most in developing our careers—whether because of licensing issues, PCS-ing multiple times, or relocating to an area without opportunities. We need America to realize that we are an important and hard-working group of people who just need opportunity. I want to advocate for spouses to have these opportunities.

How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
I’ve spread my message by being featured for my work in MOAA’s digital publications, by being featured as being a military spouse and an attorney by the Alabama State Bar, and by attending multiple town halls and community round tables to discuss these issues. I also try to plug hiring military spouses in any speaking engagement that I accept. Employers should not be wary to hire us, customers should not be hesitant to buy from us, and clients should not be nervous about utilizing our services because we are military spouses.

What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year® title?
I hope to shed more light on our employment issues and to lobby Congress to consider implementing a tax credit for hiring military spouses, much like the credits that exist for hiring Veterans. I also hope to work with businesses to help implement more training programs for spouses to utilize remote work opportunities. Finally, I would like to be the voice who represents all of us.