Branch: Air Force
Duty Station: Moody Air Force Base
Number of Deployments: 3
Number of PCS's: 7
Share your military spouse story:
My middle name is Nicole, which means “victorious people” and is associated with the lotus flower, which grows beautifully and untainted from the depths of murky waters. That’s who I am and what I do. I am resilient with every fiber of my being, using all of my life experience to help build up others. At 16 years and 360 days of age, I married my childhood sweetheart. Five days later on my 17th birthday, he entered BMT and so began my journey as an Air Force spouse. My first year as a spouse was spent geographically separated from my husband as I started my senior year, birthed our first son and graduated high school, in that order. Over the course of two decades, I’ve relocated 7 times, lived in 3 countries, experienced 3 deployments, and a few TDYs. In the midst of this life, I’ve birthed three additional sons, totaling four boys to rear and mold into phenomenal human beings. In my spare time, I earned a Bachelors degree and a Masters degree, became a provisionally licensed/registered intern marriage & family therapist in two states, had two private practice offices, volunteered in my children’s schools on their PTO boards and ensured my home was always cared for, amongst other things. Furthermore, I’ve been blessed to add Air Force Mom to my repertoire, as my oldest son is also active duty military. Now I serve our military community employed at the Moody AFB A&FRC as a Community Readiness Specialist. I am privileged to sit with survivors of fallen airmen in the Air Force Families Forever Program, while simultaneously tending to the needs of our installation families as the Key Spouse Program manager, Heart Link/Spouse Orientation Coordinator, Air Force Aid Society Officer and providing financial assistance as a Certified Personal Finance Counselor.
Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
I am a heart led leader who perseveres even as everyone around me is screaming, “You’re doing too much!”, because…what is too much for the community you love wholeheartedly? When I see a need, I do my best to meet the need utilizing every resource available in the process. By doing so, I have offered trainings that have usually only been mandated for our military members but which would greatly benefit our families in growing more resilient and connected. A prime example being when the difficult conversations surrounding racial tensions and extremism were mandated for our service members, I offered them to our Key Spouses as well. This experience has led to deeper conversations, opening eyes and minds to fully grasp the experiences of others through an empathetic lens. I have also hosted a Leadership Forum & Social, inviting base leaders to sit with installation Key Spouses and develop ideas to improve connectivity with spouses, even before they arrive at a new duty station.
Describe your involvement in the military community:
Being involved within the community has meant more than attending socials or sitting on boards. In order to effect change and impact a population often times forgotten, I spearheaded the Welcome Home Pantry, a project focused on providing gratitude to unaccompanied airmen returning from deployment. Where the pantry was started to impact one part of the population, it has served two purposes: to embrace our unaccompanied airmen, while also highlighting the value of our Key Spouse volunteers. Utilizing the Key Spouse program as the bridge to the community, two populations are now introduced to one another and connecting on a heart level, which strengthens our connection. I also represent spouses and families with the base’s Total Force Development Team, which focuses on getting to the heart of matters to cultivate a more connected community. Off base, I am a member of Civil Air Patrol, serving as the Character Development Instructor for a cadet group of over 35 preteens and teens.
Describe how you support your community:
I remember being an 18-year-old spouse, living 2,000 miles away from my entire family and having to acclimate to an all new community. I was scared and overwhelmed. However, there was always at least one veteran spouse somewhere close by to take me under her wing, allowing me to breathe and slowly acclimate. Because of their love and care, I desired to be that veteran spouse for another. Moreover, I’ve stretched my reach to include single parent households as well. I strive to bridge the gap between Air Force and family for those within my sphere of influence. Whether that includes being the person on a Family Care Plan for our single or dual military families, or advocating for the needs of spouses who feel their voices are diminished. I have more siblings, nieces and nephews across the armed forces than I can count, because no one should ever feel like an island in our community. Providing a safe and welcoming environment has been the best way for me to support this community.
What do you advocate for? Why?
I advocate for connection through diversity and inclusion amongst our community, in manners which reach beyond ethnicity, gender and socioeconomic backgrounds to reach the emotional core of issues. As a 21-year spouse, I have had the privilege of being the person on several Family Care Plans. Understanding the difficulties which accompany rearing children with a spouse who serves this country gives me an empathetic perspective for our single parent families. I fully believe it takes a village, but the village is nothing but structures if we do not find ways to connect. If the pandemic has taught us nothing else, we should have learned that we are nothing without one another. We have to bond together in order to survive.
How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
I am the A&FRC representative for a Total Force Development Team at Moody AFB. These meetings consist of individuals from all private organizations and helping agencies across the installation, coming together to tackle trending issues from the inside out. Instead of programming the fix or checking boxes, we actually walk the resolution. Through this venue, I have coordinated with other helping agencies and private organizations to bring together groups that otherwise would not have communicated more than a mandate required.
What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year®
Through the title of AFI Military Spouse of the Year, I hope to accomplish shedding a light on how we can strengthen our military community and thrive in cohesiveness. One such way would be exploring internship and employment opportunities on base for military spouses who hold professional licenses and/or certifications. A known need amongst our population is an increase in mental health professionals. Yet, we have failed to tap into a prime resource as we have a plethora of mental health professionals in the spouse population, who are unable to bring their gifts to the community which they truly love: our armed forces members. Providing opportunities on base for military spouses to complete their license requirements would remedy the need for more mental health professionals while simultaneously providing spouses with true portability in their careers.
Husband is active duty at Moody AFB.
Tierra is the Community Readiness Specialist at the 23rd Wing AFRC duties include being Key Spouse coordinator/trainer and Heart Link Coordinator. Husband spent a large portion of 2021 deployed and recently left for a 1 year remote tour to Turkey. She has raised four sons, aged 14 - 21 of which one is now serving in the USAF. The children are exceptionally polite, she his heavily involved in their education.
She is the example of how a Military spouse can be an independent person, career minded and family orientated.
Personally I don't know how she manages to accomplish all she does and still have so much energy.
- by Daniel Mahoney