Branch: Air Force
Duty Station: Kadena Air Base
Number of Deployments: 12
Number of PCS's: 9
Share your military spouse story:
Hello, my name is Athens Pellegrino. I am a military spouse of 13 years, volunteer Military Family Representative, Department of Defense (DoD) employee, and international author. I met my husband Christopher while attending Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. We married in 2009, and immediately transitioned into military life. I have completed nine Permanent Change of Stations (PCS) and personally experienced how deeply relocation can affect an individual. Two relocation experiences majorly impacted my life. The first, was a PCS with our two-year-old son Atticus and newborn daughter Callista during the height of the COVID pandemic. Seven days after I gave birth, we ominously relocated from Montgomery, Alabama to Tampa, Florida. It felt as though the world froze and stood still during lockdowns and quarantine procedures. I tried to find methods to help my family prosper during the PCS; however I noticed that there were limited resources geared towards children. As a result, I created and published a book series, The Military Child Chronicles. The second experience occurred three months after the birth of my daughter, Ella. We relocated from Tampa, Florida to Okinawa, Japan. Japan was under very strict regulations to contain COVID outbreaks. Again, it was a very uncertain season of life and I leaned heavily on the virtual community that I created. I shared my experiences, obstacles, and lessons learned on my social media platforms and podcasts. Relocation is a prominent aspect of military life and everyone is affected differently. The ambiguity associated with relocations can distress individuals psychological, physically, and socially. As a mother of three to: Atticus (4), Callista (2), and Ella (9 months), I realize the importance of resiliency and vow to help military families navigate through obstacles derived from relocation.
Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
I am a twelve-year employee of the Department of Defense (DoD). I was accepted into the Defense Civilian Emerging Leaders Program (DCELP). The honor to serve as a representative from the United States Air Force Financial Management field was thrilling but I had to learn how to balance the curriculum with my full time position, pregnancy, two toddlers, and an upcoming PCS to Japan. I accepted the challenge and made it my mission to bring awareness to these military spouse career obstacles. Also, I volunteered as a Wellness Leader for my cohort and provided briefings on stress reduction techniques, health tips, and physical fitness programs to promote resiliency. Ultimately, my efforts resulted in my nomination and recognition as the Dr. Fiona Burdick Memorial Award recipient for service to others.
Describe your involvement in the military community:
We have the privilege of belonging to an extraordinary military community and need to support and uplift one another to thrive. I have served as a President, Liaison, Social Chair, and volunteer for spouses groups and on base organizations such as Military Family Readiness, Community College of the Air Force, and have arranged donation drives for our food pantries. Also, I am an employee of the Department of the Defense for over twelve years. I know firsthand how difficult it can be for a military spouse to maintain a career while relocating on average every 1-4 years. I have an open door to individuals needing assistance with federal job searching that I highlight on my social media platforms and provide techniques on how to navigate the federal job market, resume structure and feedback, as well as mock interviews.
Describe how you support your community:
I support my community by serving in leadership roles, creating awareness to issues, and community involvement. I have learned invaluable leadership skills from Defense Civilian Emerging Leaders Program (DCELP). The most important has been to recognize strengths in individuals and how to encourage them to foster and develop those skills and to ultimately teach others. I do this not only in my daily work environment but also in spouse networks and social groups. I always make it a priority to immerse myself with official Spouses Group organizations like the Kadena Spouses Group and networking organizations such as Okinawa Leadership Seminar. The exposure to individuals with diverse backgrounds, skillsets, and experiences is absolutely invaluable.
What do you advocate for? Why?
I thoroughly believe that we need to normalize asking for help when needed. I advocate for individuals who may feel uncomfortable speaking up or asking for assistance. Years ago, as a new spouse I unfortunately have been in that position. I was a member of a spouses group with toxic leadership and a destructive culture. I witnessed fellow military families being ridiculed and isolated, and it personally made me withdraw from participating. As I cultivated new relationships, I learned that others felt the same way and it motivated me to step up. This is where I stepped up and began to volunteer for leadership positions to create a positive culture and develop future leaders.
How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
As an international author, I have had the opportunities to appear on international, national, and local news outlets as well as podcasts and blogs. I bring awareness to public regarding military relocations and direct the audience to my social media platforms. On my platforms I provide contact information to various organizations that aide with relocation, tips and advice, and a forum for military families to ask questions and network.
What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year®
With the AFI Military Spouse of the Year title, I hope to create vast awareness for the implications that military families are facing due to constant relocations. I believe it is my calling and duty to support the military community. I pledge to be an advocate, role model, and leader to get the proper assistance needed during relocations. I will continue to serve my military community with the upmost respect and dedication. Thank you for your consideration.
Athens had a full year in 2022 giving birth to our third child, earning three best seller titles in her recently published books created to help military families, completed the Defense Civilian Employee Leadership Program (DCELP) to further develop her professional education as a government employee, guest spoke on multiple news outlets discussing how to support fellow spouses, and lead our family in a PCS around the world. She earned the Burdick award for selfless devotion to the mental, physical, and emotional health of her classmates during DCELP and participated in guest speaking roles across multiple platforms to include everything from social media to international news outlets. Her specialty is discussing the issues military families face with relocation but she is aims to remain involved in every aspect of strengthening family resiliency wherever needed.
- by Chris Pellegrino