Branch: Air Force
Duty Station: Patrick Space Force Base
Number of Deployments: 3
Number of PCS's: 3
Share your military spouse story:
Not only am I a Military Spouse of nine years, I am also a Cybersecurity Risk and Compliance Senior at Lockheed Martin, an Air Force veteran, mom to a rambunctious four-year-old and two loving Labrador Retrievers, friend, and daughter. My husband and I met while we were both serving in the United States Air Force in Colorado Springs, CO. Shortly thereafter, we married and started our lives together. It would be hard to imagine life without this inspired, loyal, and humble man by my side. After a few years and a few moves, we had our son, Asher. Asher was four months old and we were settling into everyday life again when my husband received 72-hour notice of his deployment to Iraq. At that point I decided to voluntarily separate from the Air Force and become a full-time working mother. Leaving the Air Force after nine years was one of the hardest, yet rewarding decisions of my life. Subsequently, I participated in the Chamber of Commerce Hiring our Heroes Fellowship Program and accepted a position with Lockheed Martin where I have been working in Information Technology Cyber Security for the past three years. As most mothers, I have many roles. Being a wife, mother, and friend is truly a passion of mine. However, I am also called upon to volunteer and give back to others. As I completed my fellowship through Hiring our Heroes, I felt a need to help other veterans and military spouses discover career opportunities just as I did. Once we moved from New Jersey to Florida, I volunteered with the Chamber of Commerce Hiring our Heroes Military Spouse Professional Network in the Melbourne area. I have had the opportunity to coordinate and lead multiple events providing military spouses with training and networking experience to help prepare them for the workforce. Over the years, my family has enjoyed the Air Force lifestyle and journey. Three deployments and three moves cross-country has taught us to be agile, resilient, and grateful for the opportunities provided.
Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
My experience within the military community has been quite unique as I am also an Air Force veteran. Throughout the years, I allied with the Air Force Key Spouse program, served on the base 5/6 Club as an office member, and supported the spouses club for my unit or squadron. Recently, I stepped forward to co-lead the Hiring our Heroes Military Spouse Professional Network after our move to Patrick Space Force Base on the Space Coast. The Professional Network provides military spouses with career development opportunities and connects them with established networks that delivers access to local businesses. Additionally, the Professional Network organizes monthly events for military spouses to foster networking, resume building techniques, elevator pitch preparation, and successful interviewing tips. Curating content based on the local needs of military spouses is reflected through each event.
Describe your involvement in the military community:
A military community could be described in many ways. A military community could be within installation my spouse is stationed at, the community outside of the installation, or military community as a whole. I believe the military community is all of the above. I enjoy participating in my husband’s unit or squadron events, holiday and team building events. I also enjoy attending and supporting installation sponsored events. Patrick Space Force Base has a passion for showing appreciation to their military members and their families. As a Military Spouse Professional Network co-lead, I strive to create inclusive events for military spouses and their families. For example, we coordinate in person and virtual opportunities to meet and greet, give back to the local community, work on elevator pitches, learn about mentoring opportunities, or speak to local businesses and employers. In addition, I volunteer with my local church as a Kids Dream Team member.
Describe how you support your community:
I am extremely passionate about helping others. My community is very diverse and I truly believe in supporting my local community to include neighbors, friends, church families, or military families. Since the pandemic, everyone has had to work around obstacles. As we go about our “day to day”, it is so important to support each other and the community we live in. Whether it is cleaning up beaches with the church, connecting with a co-worker over coffee, offering a helping hand to a spouse whose military member is away on deployment, or making a warm meal for a brand-new family within the neighborhood, we can all give back and support each other. I also provide support by raising awareness in the local community among employers to help them recognize and understand military spouse talent.
What do you advocate for? Why?
I am a true advocate not only for military spouse development, professional and personal, but for women in STEM. Military spouses are some of the most resilient members in today's culture. The support we provide to our military members and community is paramount. In return, support that is available to military spouses can be perceived as trivial and unknown. Information and communication are key and it becomes crucial to pursue and share development opportunities to enable military spouses to grow as individuals, students, or professionals. Recently, I supported another military spouse through their journey in cyber security through a remote Military Spouses Hiring our Heroes Fellowship opportunity. I recognize remote employment is an important path for military spouses to improve employment continuity. The cyber security field is rapidly growing and I am an advocate for military spouses wanting to break into the cyber and IT industry.
How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
Pursuing development opportunities as a military spouse could be viewed as daunting. In addition to the multiple “roles” we have, it can be challenging to put yourself first. Through the Military Spouse Professional Network, I have been afforded the opportunity to emphasize the importance of development with my fellow military spouses. Within my current role at Lockheed Martin, I am also an advocate and aligned with the Military Veterans, Military Spouse, and Women’s Impact Network Business Resource Group. I have been striving to share details about the Hiring our Heroes program for both military veterans and spouses throughout my organization within Lockheed Martin to help inform managers about hiring opportunities within the military community.
What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year®
If honored and selected as the AFI Military Spouses of the Year, I would continue to advocate for military spouse development and women in STEM within my local, extended, and military community. I would also like to broaden the work I have accomplished at a local level to support more military spouses across the globe. I am also hopeful to meet more military spouses eager to learn more about personal and professional development opportunities available to them.
Shelby is an amazing individual. She believes so much in empowering milspouses to get into STEM careers, particularly in technology. She loves to help spouses (and veterans) find their motivation and courage to jump into a cyber security or IT career at every level. She has such a deep knowledge and can help people pivot into this growing field successfully.
Her volunteering with MSPN has been amazing. She’s stepped up as a leader for the Space Coast chapter and is a huge asset to this growing community. She’s kind, patient, knowledgeable, encouraging and just an amazing person to know.
- by Kathleen Garcia