Duty Station: Naval Support Activity Naples
Number of Deployments: 3
Number of PCS's: 8
Share your military spouse story:
I have been a military spouse since 1999. In 2004, we accepted our first overseas assignment, an exchange tour to the UK. During that tour, my husband transferred from the submarine force into the Navy's newly established foreign area officer community, becoming an Africa specialist. We have lived overseas continuously ever since--now entering our 18th year. As the spouse of a foreign area officer, it has been my privilege to accompany him (along with our son) to places I never imagined I would be lucky enough to live. While we've been stationed throughout Europe, we've also served at U.S. embassies in Cameroon, Nigeria, and Djibouti. Additionally, as a foreign area spouse, I have had the honor to work alongside my husband in the diplomatic world as a representative of the United States, the Navy, and our American culture.
Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
There is an understanding within the foreign area officer community that spouses can play a valuable role in the overall mission of military diplomacy. I worked alongside my husband in diplomatic postings to further his efforts. Also, during our years at embassies, I worked with our counterparts in the State Department to further the understanding of our military community. While posted at the embassy in Djibouti, I worked alongside the command teams at Camp Lemmonier to discuss quality of life issues for reservists and other deployed or remotely posted military members/dependents directly with the Secretary of the Navy's spouse and team. Additionally, during our years in Africa, I worked with national guard units from across the United States. And our houses in Africa were always a home away from home for our military members sent to the continent on unaccompanied missions.
Describe your involvement in the military community:
In my 20+ years as a military spouse, I have always done my best to support the various communities we’ve been attached to. In the 15 years I’ve been a foreign area officer spouse, I have played an active role in my husband's overall mission. I served alongside him in Africa as an unofficial diplomat, working not only with our international partners but also countries that fall on the adversarial side of the spectrum. My role during those years was multifaceted, sometimes as a hostess, sometimes as a conduit for key relationships, often directly contributing to national security--and it was 24/7, given that in a diplomatic posting there are no "off hours", you are always a representative of your country, whether that’s during an official event, or at the grocery store, or the school drop-off.
Describe how you support your community:
Having been a member of the foreign area officer community for quite some time, I have become a mentor for our newer spouses. Beyond walking them through what to expect in upcoming tours, I also talk to them about the realities of our community's lifestyle and potential hurdles they may face, both when serving at an embassy and when dealing with the larger military community which may not understand our unique situations. In addition, I work with other foreign area spouses to build and maintain community comradery across the service branches. I have also spent considerable time speaking with senior military leadership (all services) and ambassadors about the same subjects.
What do you advocate for? Why?
I am an advocate for having a voice, for being heard. The biggest struggle I have faced as a military spouse is invisibility. As part of a relatively small section of the military, I have experienced misunderstanding and exclusion not only from the civilian world, but also from our larger military community. I derive joy from telling the stories of the life I am lucky enough to lead. I want the rest of the world to know the importance of our work, to know the amazing global partners we work with, and also to just appreciate the beauty of the larger world we are part of.
How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
In my previous life, before the nomadic military lifestyle changed my path, I worked in public relations and communication. When we initially moved to Africa in 2011 and many people couldn't understand why, I returned to that prior skill set to write stories about our life and work on the continent. Over the years, as my stories' subscription list grew, so did the profile of the work that we were doing. My stories have been published in military, foreign service, and civilian publications. In September 2022, Dispatches From The Cowgirl, my memoir about the years we served in Africa, will be published, taking the story of my life as a military spouse to a broader audience.
What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year®
For me, the AFI Military Spouse of the Year title would be a chance to highlight the stories of a military community few know about or understand, as well as highlight stories of military spouses that otherwise may be overlooked. It's easy to lump all military communities and spouses into one or two categories, but in truth, we are like zebras--we may look the same from afar, but our stripes are different. There is beauty and power in embracing our differences and those are the stories I want to tell. Our uniqueness is our strength.
Julie Tully took on the role of unofficial diplomat as wife to a military attaché when she followed her US Navy husband to Sub-Saharan Africa. During her eight years in the African continent, she worked tirelessly behind the scenes of the diplomatic world, often ensuring relationships between countries would remain respectful and solid. Given she was "just" a military spouse, her efforts, passion, and resiliency were never offically recognized by the military world. I wish to use this opportunity to finally validate her invaluable role and commitment to a world, that of the foreign officers, and its diplomatic missions that we tend not to hear about. Julie is an inspiring woman, one who speaks candidly of her life in Cameroon, Nigeria, and Djibouti. A cowgirl from a Northern California ranch, she faced unimaginable challenges while in Africa (Ebola outbreak, Boko Haram attack, and more), yet never gave up. For her kindness, tenacity, and hard work, we are all indebted to her.
- by Brunella Costagliola