Shelley Cotton

Branch: Air Force

Duty Station: Grand Forks Air Force Base

Number of Deployments: 3

Number of PCS's: 1

Share your military spouse story:
I fell in love with an Airman who shared the same likes and had similar hopes and dreams. We were sent to North Dakota and my first step in to committing to "grow where I was planted" started. I always said no matter where we go, I'll find a way to be successful and enjoy it with my love. I found Amazon. The company supports my military lifestyle and gives me time off to attend events, welcome my Airman home when he returns, and work from home flexibility to move where duty calls. Not only did I find Amazon at Grand Forks AFB, I found a community that I feel so comfortable with. I have gotten to know so many friends that turned into sisters, neighbors that turned into friends, and Spouses' Club members that are lifelong partners in making a positive impact.

Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
I stumbled in to a meeting that I thought was a career development enrichment lunch. Turns out it was a planning committee for a new women's leadership development group on the base. I was the only civilian in the group. I have provided my input for event topics, speakers, and assisted with marketing. The group is going to be an official private org on the base since it has started and evolved in to a staple for women to connect and learn more about how to be successful in their roles.

Describe your involvement in the military community:
I have served as a key spouse for 6 deployment cycles. I have assisted 18 spouses of deployed members by answering their questions and keeping them engaged in squadron, base, and community events. I have served on the Grand Forks Spouses' Club board for 4 years. The positions I've filled have been: publication/social media, treasurer, and vice president. I commit at least 10 hours per month to helping raise scholarship money, plan and host social events, and coordinate volunteer opportunities.

Describe how you support your community:
I give a lot of time and energy in to spreading awareness about activities, inviting friends to try things outside their comfort zone, and showing the excitement that can come from making a positive impact. I am especially good at helping young spouses who aren't familiar with the lifestyle learn where they can find their niche and what they enjoy participating in. It is difficult to step out of their comfort zones but I offer rides and a friend to participate with them. I really enjoy that social mentorship aspect. I fell that the sooner they get involved with building their network and community the better they will fare the military spouse lifestyle.

What do you advocate for? Why?
I advocate for women's career development and education and accreditation. I raise money for scholarships, provide events for women to learn more about their potential in leadership and develop their career progression plan, and support and mentor new spouses so they can have a smooth start to their military lifestyle.

How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
I have mainly used social media to share about events and ensure that others who may be interested can attend. It's important to me that spouses know where to go and are comfortable attending. I make it a very important point to have descriptive location information and maps. This takes the mystery out of the equation for new spouses or spouses that are new to social and career activities.

What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year® title?
I want to give spouses more opportunities for personal development. My personal passion is career development, specifically helping people realize their leadership style, providing networking and sharing opportunities, and assisting to improve resumes and CVs. This type of support is available but spouses can be maximizing our effectiveness in our career journeys by making this a priority across the Air Force and other branches.