jamie schneider

Branch:
Air Force

Duty Station:
Offutt Air Force Base

Number of Deployments:
10

Number of PCS's:
1

Share your military spouse story:
When I married my husband Lance in Nov. 2014, I had no idea what it meant to be a “military spouse.” From four years of dating and our engagement, I knew what separation meant, with our respective careers, mine then within the Olympic Movement, moving us apart after meeting. I knew what deployments meant, as there was a long trip every year. I knew the fear, loneliness and heartache. But when we got married, I learned the good. And there is more good than I ever imagined, not just in our love but in this life. Now a couple months into our fifth year of marriage, I have discovered that being a military spouse is more than being married to someone who serves. It’s an invitation to an incredible group of women and men who selflessly work not just for a strong family but a better community. My favorite part of being a military spouse is seeing so many answer the call, not of our nation, like our spouses, but of spouses and families who need assistance, encouragement and support. When you marry a service member, you are not “just” a spouse, but a vital part of a community that thrives on the spirit and the volunteerism of those who take the challenge. Every day, it is an honor to watch Lance serve, and it is an honor to serve alongside him in a different capacity, creating a community that allows our military spouses and families to thrive so our service members can focus on what they do best. It took me awhile to get here. Like many, I had to be uncomfortable, and find my way. But other spouses supported me. Becoming involved in the Offutt Enlisted Spouses Club, which I am now the president of, is what helped me realize the importance of the military spouse—as everything the organization does is built on “spouses supporting spouses.” It is the place where I have received mentorship and guidance, whether it’s with navigating the military world or personal life, and learned how to serve others. “Spouses supporting spouses” inspires me every day.

Describe your involvement in the military community:
Long before becoming a military spouse, I worked with wounded, ill and injured service members in my professional role at U.S. Paralympics. I am now the president of the Offutt Enlisted Spouses Club, growing it to an all-time high 52 members. As president, I have seen the need of my fellow spouses, and have helped the club organize events like an all-base resiliency event, an all-base cookie exchange and a “spa day.” Before becoming president, I was secretary and assistant treasurer. I was twice the chair of Winter Wonderland, an event for 800, and have served on other committees. I became a key spouse for the 38th Reconnaissance Squadron in Feb. 2017, serving as a liaison between approximately 30-40 spouses and squadron leadership. I help maintain our squadron Facebook group and an unofficial group for all Offutt key spouses, which I created. I also run the Offutt Spouses & Family Facebook group, promoting a positive environment for over 3,000 spouses to connect with each other.

Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
While many of my leadership roles are traditional opportunities, an unexpected opportunity began in March 2019 when Offutt was hit with devastating floods. Within days, I created the OESC flood relief fund with over $10k in corporate donations, which helped fund morale events on base, clean-up and rebuilding on base and elsewhere, and the personal needs of Offutt’s flood impacted families in the aftermath of the flooding. The fund was just one of the many ways I was able to give back during this time. In the early morning hours when sand bagging began, I built morale by bringing snacks to those working through the night. In the aftermath, I volunteered for flood clean-up, transporting items from flood ravaged areas. I organized supply and toy drives. I also volunteered to run the Sarpy Flood Facebook page, a cooperative between local churches and organizations in and Sarpy County EMA, serving as a central place for victims and volunteers to be updated.

Describe how you support your community:
Every spouse needs to feel a part of the military community. Whether it is online or in-person, they need to have a place where they are welcomed. Daily, I support the Offutt community as an administrator on the Offutt Spouses & Families group, where I aim to promote a positive environment for spouses to connect with and learn from each other. The group has over 3k members and 1k posts made each month. I post not just about events and news, but personally promote important messaging like suicide prevention and Military and Family Life Counselors. My inbox is open for those who need help but are uncomfortable asking in a group. I am the OESC president, expanding our membership to a record 52, and a key spouse. In both roles, I promote one-on-one relationships, and making group events inviting. I took the lead on events like Winter Wonderland, created an all-base resiliency event and an all-base cookie exchange, and helped plan a “spa day.” “Spouses supporting spouses” inspires me daily.

What platform do you advocate for? Why?
One of the most important issues facing military families is spouse employment. A recent study showed 38 percent of military spouses are underemployed, compared with about eight percent in the economy as a whole. About 12 percent are unemployed, nearly three times the national rate. Under and unemployment causes huge hardships for military families, not just financially but emotionally and mentally as well, which is why I advocate for this issue. Studies also show that military spouses who feel unhappy with their employment situation are less likely to feel positive about their life as a military spouse. When a military spouse is unhappy, it can have an impact on the service member and their work. Military spouses need appropriate employment opportunities, including the ability to easily (and inexpensively) continue in their career field when moving.

How have you spread the message of your platform?
While there are national organizations that focus on military spouse employment, there was a void in the Offutt community, which is how the Bellevue Offutt Rising Professionals was created in 2017. I was one of the first members, approached because I am a military spouse and professional. BORP’s focus is to bridge and connect our local Bellevue residents and businesses to our military professionals and spouses. Through the group, I have spoken to businesses in the area about military spouse employment, and why military spouses are a benefit to their company even with the chance of a PCS, and have participated in panels on the issue. I have also connected spouses to the group for resume workshops, networking and free headshots. Beyond these more grassroots efforts with BORP, I have helped in government advocacy by connecting Nebraska legislatures with spouses who can speak about licensure bills, and I have also helped two local stations speak with military spouses impacted by the bills.

What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year® title?
If I received the 2020 Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year award, I would hope to make strides for military spouse employment. As a military spouse who juggles this lifestyle with a professional career, I hope to serve as an ambassador who can show companies the value of having opportunities for military spouses and help them form military spouse friendly hiring practices. I also hope to be an advocate for change in legislation. Many laws, specifically with licensures, make it difficult for women and men to be both a military spouse and a professional. Military spouses deserve a champion. With this title, other accolades like Midlands Business Journal 40 Under 40 and involvement in groups like the Bellevue Offutt Rising Professionals, I think I can be this champion. I want to make the military spouse experience better.

Nominations

Jamie is deeply committed to bettering lives every day. As president of the Offutt Enlisted Spouses Club (OESC), she recognizes the needs of her fellow spouses, empowering others and guiding the group’s activities. Her constant need to engage with others who need a helping hand or supportive shoulder means she oversees numerous Facebook groups meant to provide a nurturing and welcoming place online for Offutt spouses and families – a role she also carries out each day as a key spouse for the 38th Reconnaissance Squadron. When Nebraska was hit with record flooding in 2019, Jamie volunteered for clean-up and relief, helping to oversee flood relief funds and outreach to fund morale on base, clean-up and rebuilding, while also paying special attention to the personal needs of impacted military families. She is committed to making life better for others and will never say no to someone in need. Jamie inspires, empowers, engages, and advocates for her community and people around the world.
- by lindsay wyskowski