Duty Station: West Point Military Academy
Number of Deployments: 2
Number of PCS's: 5
Share your military spouse story:
In 2014 at our first duty station, I became passionate about supporting spouses pursuing their own professional careers. For me, there wasn't a clear pathway to move from OCONUS ahead of my spouse to start a PhD program and to teach for a university that was near his next duty station. That lack of support felt so isolating, and what ignited the advocate within is that I didn't want other spouses to feel alone in their professional journeys. My sense of worth, in part, is tied to how I serve my communities through my roles at colleges. I have been compelled since then to ensure that the pathways for spouse career pursuits are clear, more supportive, and more stabilizing for military families. Then I had kiddos! And more than ever, I needed reliable, accessible, and affordable childcare to support my service member and build my professional career. The paradigm is that military families need reliable childcare, regardless of the work or school status of the spouse. We need access to childcare for mental health reasons, career pursuits, family support, and stabilization. This is an equity-minded quality of life issue for military families. My military spouse story now uses these experiences to advocate for the military families who desperately need this resource to be consistent and holistic at every duty station where they serve.
Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
We must simultaneously work to help individual families, while identifying systemic issues that can and should be addressed at higher levels. As the local Parent Advisory Board President, I meet with families and help them on an individual level. But childcare challenges on installations are NOT isolated issues for individual families to solve on their own. Issues like this must be raised to mid-level and senior leadership. I've advocated in this space on our installation's CR2C to the Commanding General through the Community Resilience Team; And I'm working with the Navy's Fleet & Family Readiness SES and OSD to find sustainable and common-sense solutions for childcare challenges on a national scale.
Describe your involvement in the military community:
2014: Connected with US Senators in New York and Hawaii to understand military spouses who are career-pursuing; 2015: Connected with National Military Family Association; 2015: Became co-leading story to introduce the Military Family Stability Act; 2018: Military Family Stability Act signed into Law; 2019: Panelist for Hiring our Heroes at LinkedIn to discuss military spouse employment; 2020: Began exploring intersectionality of spouse employment and childcare accessibility; 2021: Local advocacy at installation level to mitigate childcare challenges; 2022: Think tank member (team of 4) to address childcare challenges with NAVY / ODS; 2022: Connection with Mollie Raymond and Peterson Space Force Base to understand their model of CDC/University/CC partnerships for staffing issues; 2023: On team that is exploring teacher residency programs for CDC employees/spouses to solve cdc staffing shortage; 2023: MOAA Spouse Advisory Council;
Describe how you support your community:
Childcare is a broader issue that faces far more military families that we suspect. According to Blue Star Families in our local region (NY), only 19% of families with a need for child care are able to find childcare that meets their needs. This includes families who are dual military; single parent families; one active duty spouse and one career pursuing spouse; one active duty and one spouse pursuing education; and families who need hourly care (among many, many others). As we think through solutions for modern military families, we must consider that childcare is an essential resource and service for our military family communities. As the PAB president and as someone who has the privilege to sit at tables with decision-makers, we need to ensure policies are inclusive and sustainable and that they can grow and transform with and within our military communities.
What do you advocate for? Why?
Families. I advocate for families. And I do so with the holistic approach that we cannot talk about issues facing families insolation; we cannot talk about military spouse career support and sustainable employment and stability without talking about accessible and equitable childcare. This is a basic needs issue. It is a stabilizing issue. It is an equity issue. And our modern military leaders need to recognize and resource this quality of life component of our military communities.
How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
I partner with current active duty military leaders to look at data and understand how these issues are showing up in active duty organizational spaces; I was selected to serve on the MOAA Spouses Advisory Council 2023-2025; I am a project lead for the West Point "Community Resilience Team" (CRT) which is part of the installations "Community Resilience and Readiness Council" (CR2C); I am the current Parent Advisory Board President (2021-Present); I joined MAJ Erin Williams to discuss childcare on the Spouse Angle Podcast in June 2022; I meet monthly with the SES of the Navy's Fleet and Family Readiness and the Program Director over all Child and Youth Services with the Office of the Secretary of Defense. I look for people to connect with who are doing good work, and then I seek to connect those people to one another.
What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year®
I would bring childcare to the table with key decision-makers to synthesize efforts to support all military families, across all branches, with respect to childcare and spouse employment. I think there are champions (at Peterson Space Force Base, our SES of Navy F&FR, and our OSD leaders) who are really diving into creative solutions for current problems. I think an untapped partner is our colleges and universities, and as a higher education professional, I'd love to build a pipeline between early childhood education programs and local CDCs to bring breadth and depth to CDC caregiver staffing pools; and I fiercely believe we need to centralize efforts to review policy across branches to provide more equitable resources and services for families who need - or want - childcare.
Mia Reisweber, Ph.D. is a leader, connector, and advocate within the West Point, Army, and military community. Throughout 2022, Mia has focused her efforts of advocating in the military child care space. She has served locally as the West Point Parent Advisory Board president, supporting families within her community. She connected with DoD and IMCOM leader to improve the “front door” access and information available on MilitaryChildCare.com and address child care staffing and capacity shortfalls. In December 2022, Mia’s vision of creating a workforce pipeline was approved by the Secretary of Defense. This initiative has the potential to increase CDC staffing from 70% to 100% nationally by establishing partnerships between early childhood education programs and military child care facilities. It will improve the quality of life for military families by opening thousands of child care opportunities. She continues to work with DoD leaders to provide both sensing and solutions.
- by Erin Williams