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Christina Smythe

Branch: Army

Duty Station: Joint Base San Antonio

Number of Deployments: 2

Number of PCS's: 6

Share your military spouse story:
I never imagined my milspouse story would begin as a Sophmore in college! Before I knew it, graduation happened and the packers were at the door. I was off to Ft. Benning with my sweet one-year-old in tow. To say those first years were a whirlwind would be quite the understatement. I worked to learn everything I could, becoming a 'key spouse' and earning the Army Family Team Building (levels I, II & III) Certifications. I packed Ranger School packages, destroyed my kitchen weekly to send baked goods out into the field. I distinctly remember trying to take in each of the new experiences that Army life had to offer. To this day, some of my most treasured military friendships were created in those first few years. It wasn't long until I found myself 8 months pregnant, toddler in tow, on the way to the other side of the country. Isolation hit me like a ton of bricks. Deployments with two under two quickly overwhelmed me. By grace, I found my stride within a military running community (wear blue run to remember). This community motivated me to start my first business, fulfilling a need, by helping military spouses to be more active without needing childcare. While running my fitness business, I volunteered and partnered with the host expansion of national-level Veteran Service Organizations and continued this at each of our following duty stations. I felt, and still feel, the need to create an impact within the military community. Within this time, I experienced loss, indescribable joys and discovered first-hand what it felt like to truly lead someone out into the light from their darkness. During this time frame (8 years at this point) I wanted to do more. I went all in. This led me to a National Fellowship, leadership conferences, and the opportunity to give back in even bigger ways & capacities I had not even fathomed! Here I am, 12 years later in this beautiful, crazy military life - still striving to give back, support, empower & educate milspouses and veterans.

Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
Volunteering within the military community has given me tremendous opportunities to cultivate and grow my leadership skills. I've been very fortunate to have the opportunity to lead teams in support of Family Readiness efforts (during deployments and state-side). I was able to lead elite fitness training utilizing my national certifications for multiple active-duty units on post earning several unit coins, and certificates of appreciation from multiple command teams across several duty stations. I have held several leadership positions and executed chapter launches, within Team Red, White & Blue, a national non-profit Veteran Service Organization, while helping to plan and deliver engaging, transformative events and content for Veterans across several states while mentoring other leaders within their chapters as an Eagle Leader fellow and Chapter Captain. I truly enjoy building communities and creating a positive impact while supporting the community to the best of my ability.

Describe your involvement in the military community:
I grew up in Pensacola Florida, with the Blue Angels as a military brat. Attending college just outside of Maxwell AFB, my first job(s) were working directly with the military community. I have volunteered for the FRG as a Key Spouse while completing the Army Family series of courses & anywhere else I was needed! I had fun building out care packages for deployed soldiers solo & with several different organizations. I volunteered with the FMWR in their marketing & events departments to help plan, photograph & promote post-wide events for soldiers & their families. Having completed the 'Manchu Mile' (a 25 mile overnight ruck march) twice earning the coveted belt buckle taking pride in regimental heritage all the way to building out posters of the fallen for the wear blue mile at races nationwide and launching a fitness program for milspouses while volunteering within several Veteran Service Organizations. Philanthropic efforts within the military community have changed my life.

Describe how you support your community:
With each PCS, I have been able to support the community by bringing the civilian community and the Veteran/military communities together via the Veteran Service Organizations that I volunteer and lead within. I have hosted coffee events, lunches, dinners, runs, bike rides, hikes, and so many other amazingly fun activities within my community. Some of the work I've been able to do through the military public affairs offices' in assisting the relationships between the local communities and post resources and events ended up being tremendously successful. As a military spouse, I honestly feel as though the communities in which we are so fortunate to spend our time (albeit sometimes it's a short amount of time) end up giving us more than we can even begin to reciprocate them with. I can only hope to be a value-add and to be blessed enough to have a connection to everywhere that the Army sends us!

What do you advocate for? Why?
I advocate for military spouse employment! Far too many spouses are unemployed, underemployed or searching for months, sometimes years on end. This is not the way it should be. According to Forbes, Active duty military spouses face a 24% unemployment rate. And over 31% are working part-time even if they would prefer to work full-time. I have personally witnessed through dear friends as well as having been a part of several roadblocks to military spouse employment such as; interview biases, resume gaps, prejudice against the military as a whole, and being excluded from 'veteran' hiring programs, and so much more. The majority of Military spouses are highly educated, motivated and want to work. The costs of childcare equaling to a rent/mortgage payment partnered with an everchanging (and generally demanding anything but a '9-5') spouses' military schedule mixed in with little to no family support and uprooting every 2-3 years creates a recipe for tremendous struggle.

How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
I have chosen to partner and work with organizations that support military spouse employment. Whether I can dedicate my time, experience or education, I find it incredibly fulfilling to advocate on the behalf of the entire milspouse community. In addition to spouse friendly Veteran Service Organizations, I have previously worked with "Milhousing Network", "Spouseforce" and currently with an agency near and dear to my heart, "AMSE" (The Association of Military Spouse Entrepreneurs) whose mission is to provide a worldwide network of organizational support, resources, education, and mentorship for military spouse entrepreneurs to further impact the military community. I hope to grow and build amazing resources and tools for spouses and to be able to open the eyes of employers nationwide and show them just how valuable military spouses are to the workforce and ultimately help create financial freedom for more military families.

What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year® title?
I would like to continue advocating for military spouses, while seeking out additional opportunities and ways to further this mission. Highlighting the value of spouses for and within employment opportunities, remote work, and outstanding strengths while working towards a solution for the disparity in childcare availability. I strongly believe that making efforts to specifically improve the personal and professional lives of military spouses will have a direct positive impact on our service members, veterans and the communities in which they serve. I am humbled and thankful to have even been nominated and considered for this title. Thank you!