Duty Station: Fort Rucker
Number of Deployments: 4
Number of PCS's: 4
Share your military spouse story:
My husband and I met through a mutual friend, and three short months later, we had a beautiful wedding. A month after our wedding, he left on a 12-month deployment to Afghanistan. That deployment ended, and in what seemed like no time at all, we were facing another deployment. My career and education took a back seat to all of the permanent change of stations, military trainings, an overseas relocation, and more deployments. One dead-end job after another, and I was left exhausted and resenting the lack of employment support for the military spouse community. After nearly 11 years of marriage, we welcomed our first baby boy, and 18 months later, a second boy. My focus shifted considerably, and I wanted to make an impact. If I had to spend time away from my children, I wanted it to matter and have a positive and direct influence. I found my calling, volunteering to support and serve my fellow military spouses.
Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
I am currently leading a military spouse transformation at National University. After several months of building a business case and working directly with Human Resources, Finance, and our Marketing Departments, my initiatives and proposal to hire 15 military spouses in remote career positions by June 30, 2022, was approved. Not only have I led the charge on the hiring initiative, but I am also organizing and managing a military spouse ambassador program, a military spouse entrepreneurial grant program, and a military spouse scholarship program. During the summer of 2020, our family moved across the county to a new duty station. This was our second time at Fort Rucker, so I knew the challenges associated with employment in that area. Approval was awarded to me by Hiring Our Heroes to launch a brand new Military Spouse Professional Network, find and train a leadership team, and begin to make community partnerships.
Describe your involvement in the military community:
I volunteer with Military Officers Association of America and sit on the Currently Serving Spouse Advisory Council. We bring forth issues within the military spouse community to advocate for change through legislation. I launched and lead the Fort Rucker Hiring Our Heroes Military Spouse Professional Network, where I work with local chambers of commerce and business owners to illustrate the value of a military spouse in the workplace. I represent military families for the Daleville Chamber of Commerce and work directly with numerous military spouse-owned businesses and organizations nationwide to support our community. I also sit on the MidSouth Advisory Council on Military Education board. We work with education offices on military installations to share best practices, advocate for change, and ensure our military families get the educational support and services they need.
Describe how you support your community:
Military spouse unemployment and underemployment is a significant concern, and unfortunately, the numbers continue to increase. To combat this, I regularly host virtual and in-person events to provide military spouses with the tools and resources they need to obtain meaningful career opportunities. Whether I connect military spouses with guest speakers who are also hiring managers, career coaches, resume writers, federal employment specialists, or business owners, the informational sessions are packed with information to support military spouse professional growth. I meet with employers and Chambers of Commerce to convey the value of hiring a military spouse. One of the Chambers I am involved with created a job specifically for a military spouse and hired one after our meeting! Military spouses are an incredible talent pool. They more than deserve the opportunity to sit in front of a hiring manager who sees their value and will treat them as a priceless asset to their organization.
What do you advocate for? Why?
For the overwhelming majority of my career as a military spouse, I have been underpaid and, in some cases, unemployed. The feeling of being stuck, starting from the bottom in a career with each military move, is exhausting and takes a toll mentally. Empowering our military spouses, giving them the tools, resources, and connections to achieve their definition of success is why I advocate and demand positive change. Not only do military spouse unemployment and underemployment negatively impact a family financially, but it can also have a direct impact on whether the servicemember stays in the military, impacting national security.
How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
Through my Military Spouse Tips segment on the Armed Forces Network I just recorded, interviews with local newspapers, panels with local and state lawmakers, military spouse cohorts and conferences, the board and councils I belong to, my desire is to support spouses while informing hiring managers simultaneously. I have begun to see positive changes involving business owners and hiring managers in the conversations regarding military spouse employment, but there is more work to be done.
What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year®
If selected as Military Spouse of the Year, I hope to continue advocating for changes regarding military spouse employment and how employers view military spouses. Rather than viewing them as short-term employees, I want employers to see well-educated, cultured, career professionals who will bring diversity and innovation to their organization. The Military Spouse of the Year is a highly respectable title and will enable me to gain the attention of people in positions to make positive changes within our community. The title has the ability to open doors, build more robust networks, engage with new contacts, and ultimately transform the trajectory of how people view military spouses in the workforce.
Danielle works for National University where she helps military spouses get scholarships and spends her free time spreading great information to mil spouses. She is the lead of the Hiring Our Heroes MSPN at Rucker and lives and breaths helping other mil spouses.
- by Katie Waters