Stacey Ecelbarger

Branch: Marine Corps

Duty Station: USAG Stuttgart

Number of Deployments: 1

Number of PCS's: 2

Share your military spouse story:
My husband was a marine reservist, so when he went active duty with orders overseas to Germany I was thrown into the military spouse un/underemployment mix. I had just opened a real estate brokerage days prior to my husband receiving orders to Germany, so I stopped the brokerage before I could even start it and packed our family up and moved across the ocean to Stuttgart for three years. I quickly became aware of the challenges military spouses face. I was surrounded by chemists, engineers, nutritionists, attorneys - you name the profession and there was probably an unemployed military spouse. There were various entry-level options, but that doesn't solve the problem for military spouses that desired to stay within their chosen field they worked so hard to be in. We heard the typical advice to volunteer, get a job on base at the coffee shop as a barista or work at the commissary to keep your resume filled, which confused me. I simply couldn't comprehend why no one had come up with a better solution. Virtual employment that kept military spouses in their chosen field. So my service member and I did. We founded Freedom Learning Group - an educational content provider - and we hire chemists to be chemists - nurses to be nurses - authoring and editing content in their CHOSEN field keeping them relevant in their workspace from anywhere in the world. PCS? No problem - pick up your laptop and go.

Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
I think it's incredibly important to walk the walk and not just talk the talk. You don't have to be loud to be heard. There's plenty of voices distributing the problems military spouses face, but are they contributing to some of the solutions? Freedom Learning Group (FLG) is a solution. I co-founded FLG to push them out of the shadows of their service member - helping them invest in their careers and in their future too WHILE they support their service member from anywhere in the world.

Describe your involvement in the military community:
I'm on a mission to crush underemployment among military spouses - I provide employment for fellow military spouses and veterans keeping them in the job "they wanted to be when they grew up". I've hired over 200 military spouses or veterans in under three years and have paid out over two million dollars to them.

Describe how you support your community:
I want to push military spouses to believe in their ideas. I came up with the idea for Freedom Learning Group with my husband in our kitchen overseas in Germany. I didn't have a huge support system. But, I believed in myself, my husband and an idea. An idea that is employing military spouses all over the world and that is now a multi-million dollar company. I want to show military spouses to invest in themselves too - that it's ok to not accept less than what you deserve.

What do you advocate for? Why?
I'm on a mission to hire as many qualified military spouses that I can reach and to influence other employers to consider virtual employment for military spouses. My company is 100% virtual - many companies can jump on this bandwagon and hire virtually and offer more jobs to military spouses. I want to show the world the value military spouses bring and demolish un/underemployment, so that it's a thing of the past for military spouses. And the more military spouses that I can get in front of - I can show them that there's the hope of another option out there.

How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
I've been featured on Military Makeover with Montel Williams, various magazines and social media. In Oct'19 the Assistant Sec Def recognized FLG's military employment outcomes (200+ hired/ >$2M paid) and approved our EARLY induction into the Military Spouse Employment Partnership--MSEP with guest Second Lady Karen Pence, alongside other corporate giants like Google and LinkedIn. We have done various press releases, social media reach and organic word of mouth.

What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year® title?
My goal is to crush military spouse underemployment in 2020 by educating employers with our results and reaching more military spouses to employ... and I'd love to do that alongside AFI with the Military Spouse of the Year® title. Thank you for your time and consideration. :-)