Branch: Air Force
Duty Station: Misawa Air Base
Number of Deployments: 1
Number of PCS's: 3
Share your military spouse story:
Before I met my spouse, I had a job, apartment, and I could travel around Europe; overall, I was well of for a 24-year-old. In 2014, I met my spouse in Aviano while stationed there, and then I followed him to the USA. Once in the USA, I was waiting for my green card, and during that time, I was unable to work, which was very rough on me as I started working when I was 14. When I waited for my green card, I began to volunteer as a key spouse and at the Airman's attic, which helped fill the hours but didn't help my career progression. After I got my green card, I was lucky enough to get a job in property management. During my time in property management, I thought that real estate would be a good career path with all the moves; while I may need to retake the license for each state, I will build on the knowledge. In March 2017 received my real estate license and started working as a realtor, and I got pregnant with my first child. I thought to myself, we have community, and I have a career; it will all work out. In May 2017, my spouse received orders for a short tour in Korea, with follow on orders to Japan. That is when I realized that my real estate career would have to be put on hold. During the short tour, I traveled with my daughter between the USA, Europe, and Korea, to ensure that the family spent as much time as possible with their first grandchild and that my spouse wouldn't miss out on too much. With the follow-on to Japan, and I wasn't a US citizen at the time, everyone I talked to told me that I would have a hard time gaining employment while in Japan, so we decided to try for a second child since I would be at home anyway. Once we got to Japan in 2019, I was lucky enough to get a job through NAF. After I received my US citizenship, I transferred into the GS position. After we got to Japan, there were multiple TDYs and a deployment my spouse went on while I juggled work, kids, numerous volunteer opportunities, and covid restrictions.
Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
I lead Misawa - Hiring Our Heroes Military Spouse Profesional Network(MSPN). With a team of 2-3 volunteers, Misawa MSPN provides networking opportunities and professional development. Misawa MSPN was established in December 2020, and in 2021, the network provided ten events, either in person or virtual. Misawa MSPN was awarded the best New Network in 2021.
Describe your involvement in the military community:
I became a key spouse in 2016. In 2016-2017 I volunteered at Airman's attic to sort donations for E5 and below. Since I arrived in Misawa in 2019, I have volunteered for Operation Birthday Hugs. On Facebook page Operation Birthday Hugs, moms and spouses can request a birthday hug for their member. Then the volunteers coordinate between a requestor and leadership, so it is a pleasant surprise for a member to celebrate. During the summer of 2021, I was also part of the board that unified the Misawa Enlisted Spouses Club and Misawa Officers Spouses Club, so now there is one Misawa United Club that unites all the spouses of Misawa AB, without exclusions. My favorite volunteering opportunity is being a Lead for Misawa MSPN. I can provide resources to the spouses to further their careers, build a professional network, inspire, and see other spouses succeed.
Describe how you support your community:
Through the Misawa - Military Spouse Professional Network (MSPN), we provide a supportive environment with professional development for military spouses on the base. Additionally, we provide peer-to-peer resume reviews, mentorship, and networking. In 2021 the Misawa MSPN team provided ten events for local military spouses and provided other resources for professional development.
What do you advocate for? Why?
I advocate for military spouse employment, with a focus on overseas. It saddens me to see how many families choose to live separate lives because the military spouse cannot gain employment overseas or because the company is unaware of legal regulations of how they can keep a military spouse as an employee. During the pandemic, the majority of the companies and some government agencies transferred to full remote/virtual positions, but when it comes to OCONUS locations, the companies tend to get overwhelmed with country-specific SOFA regulations. Through the Misawa - Military Spouse Professional Network, I try to provide information on job opportunities that we came across.
How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
I spoke at the Heart Link to provide incoming spouses with the resources to find employment opportunities. I volunteer and spread awareness of the Military Spouse employment overseas issues during local networking events, meetings with the Senior Leadership Spouses, MSPN lead meetings. I briefed a Deputy Director for Military Spouse Advocacy Engagement about the problems of the remote work in overseas locations.
What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year®
I hope to spread awareness of spouses' issues and employment difficulties overseas. Today, it is normal for the families to be two-income families to provide for their families, and the military families are not any different. However, military spouse employment is an issue while stateside, and it becomes even worse overseas. I hope to educate companies and recruiters on various SOFA agreements and educate, giving military spouses overseas an equal opportunity with employment.
Although Manca has been an AF spouse for less than a decade, she has done more for her fellow spouses than most accomplish in a 20 year active career. Manca is an inspiration to many; taking on leadership positions throughout the base while maintaining a full-time GS position and raising 2 kids. She is a boss in her own right; refusing to give up even when life knocks her down. I've watched her spend hours filling out applications for her dream job, only to be turned down. Instead of giving up, Manca took the rejection to do even more- gaining additional certifications and specialized experience to make her next application undeniable. She assisted in standing up the Misawa chapter of the Military Spouse Professional Network while also participating in the Enlisted Spouses Club, acting as a Key Spouse and professional mentor. Manca does not let anything stand in her way. She is determined to reach all of her goals while continuing to uplift those around her. Nothing will stop her.
- by Candace Brown