Why Military Spouses Should Consider a STEM Profession

STEM = science, technology, engineering and mathematics

I am a chemical engineer and my heart belongs to my husband, who is serving our country as an active duty Airman. Yes, I just included both of those huge, seemingly conflicting, pieces of my life in a single sentence; being a career-minded STEM professional and a military spouse, simultaneously, is possible and can be absolutely amazing and fulfilling!

What Makes STEM So Great?

If you are looking for a career with the perfect Trifecta—in demand, financially sound and portable—a STEM career may fit the bill!

Most people don’t go into STEM solely for the money. Although the money is far from shabby…

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the May 2013 annual average wage for all the STEM occupations was $79,640, roughly 1.7 times the national annual average wage for all occupations ($46,440).

8-10-stem-calculator

The decision to go STEM usually starts when we act on that little fire inside: a burning desire to solve problems; a craving for knowledge; an interest in finding a better way; a yearning to make our world a better place. STEM is a calling. If you have even a little spark inside of you for STEM, I encourage you to consider the following:

Jobs are out there! According to 2014 reports from the United States Chamber of Commerce Foundation and the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2013, STEM jobs accounted for 5-10% of all jobs across our nation. The top three states with the highest distribution of STEM jobs were Maryland 7.7%, Virginia 7.5%, Washington 7.4%.

There will be even more out there soon! STEM jobs are projected to grow by one million between 2012 and 2022. Baby boomers are retiring in droves and a talent gap is growing. Just in Washington state alone, 50,000 jobs will go unfilled by 2017 because there aren’t enough skilled workers.

The STEM field is growing! You can get started on your STEM education right now! Scholarships are available for military spouses. Overall, STEM occupations are projected to grow faster than the average for all occupations yet, of the recent NMFA scholarship applicants, only 5.8% were seeking STEM degrees. Military spouses are missing out on these fulfilling and rewarding careers!

What About the Downsides?

Let’s be real—there are challenges and there are many opportunities to improve the career horizon for military spouses in STEM. Here are a couple to consider:

Portability is questionable. There are many opportunities where remote work arrangements are possible. I know a few spouses who successfully negotiated this arrangement with their employer upon a move. Not every employer is willing, and not every job is capable of being remote. If seeking new employment after a move, many STEM industries vary by region as well so the likelihood of finding a similar job in a new area is hit or miss. The sunny side of this is that big-name STEM employers are starting to recognize military spouses as a high-value talent pool and are starting to develop solutions to attract, retain, and support the development and transition of military spouses in STEM professions.

Education is challenging. If you are worried that the education piece may be too difficult or too demanding, a little bit of love and geeky excitement is enough to give you the endurance and the resiliency needed for the rigors of a STEM education.

Work of love. I must caution you though, STEM can be rather addicting. When you discover the awesomeness of it, you may feel the calling to apply your passion and skills to every opportunity and you may feel a strong sense of loss and frustration if you run into challenges pursuing your career goals.

A Special Consideration for Military Spouses

Upwards of 95% of military spouses are female, and females are significantly underrepresented in STEM. This is important because our world needs better diversity representation in STEM professions because diversity leads to diverse thinking which leads to innovation. Regardless of your gender, your experience as a military spouse, and the breadth of your professional experiences, is extremely valuable in STEM. Beyond technical skills, the top-rated skills are thinking and communication—we are talking about some of the super strengths of military spouses right there!

What’s Next?

You decide! This is your career. Do the pros outweigh the cons? If you decide a STEM career is right for you…

We invite you to join the Society of Military Spouses in STEM (SMSS), where you will connect with an extremely passionate and supportive group of people determined to overcome the challenges of maintaining a career with the military lifestyle and to support fellow active and retired military spouses in STEM fields reach their full potential.

Society of Military Spouses in STEM (SMSS) is a member-driven 501(c)(3) organization. For more information, visit www.smsstem.org

Are you a military spouse in the STEM field? What do you love about it?

Posted by Michelle Aikman, military spouse and NMFA Scholarship Recipient

The Magic of Operation Purple Camp

I’m not what you’d call an “outdoorsy person.” Hailing from the armpit of the country (Florida), I’ll do some water sports, but mostly live and die by good AC. So it’s a wonder I didn’t think spending a week camping in Tennessee might be my undoing until I was on the plane.

Prior to my flight, the idea of spending time with military kids and seeing our Association’s vision in action outweighed any doubts. Cue Camp Widjiwagan, which is just outside of Nashville. The site for this Operation Purple® Camp reminded me of the residential summer camp from The Parent Trap.

8-8-operation-purple-campers

We spent a ton of time in humidity that might rival the Sunshine State’s but camp was everything a child could want (it even had AC). From The Blob in Heavy Weights, to zip lining, and a pretty fabulous water slide situation. Camp itself was phenomenal, but what was most interesting to me was how much these kids are able to completely let go.

About 100 Operation Purple campers came from all walks of military life— kids of veterans and active duty. The kids were instantly connected through those affiliations, but spent their week at camp being just kids. There were awkward teen moments, crushes and even a breakup or two.

I spent most of my time with the Operation Purple group of 11 to 16 year old girls. I think one of their counselors, Ronni, put it best when she told me that even though the girls followed orders better than any of her other campers this summer, she knew what they really wanted from this experience was to feel normal. Away from thoughts of deployments, PCS’s and screens, they thrived, relishing one last taste of everything summer should be.

8-8-operation-purple-camp-girls

I didn’t get to be as unplugged as I wanted, but this city girl might have gone through a transformation of her own. I did check work emails and dragged my camera all through the woods. But I also pet two adorable baby pigs, hung out with donkeys, goats and horses and saw wild turtles and deer while running paths in the woods.

These things are unremarkable for most people, but refreshing for me, and absolute magic for all of the military kids involved. And in the end, that is exactly what the camp experience we’re able to offer these kids…absolute magic.

Would your military child love a week at Operation Purple Camp? Check out the locations around the US!

margaritaPosted by Margarita Cambest, Staff Writer

Survive and Thrive: NAS Corpus Christi, Texas

Crank up the AC, you’re heading to Corpus! Which, so early in this blog post, brings us to rule number one:

The locals call it “Corpus.” Earn 10 points right off the bat by dropping the “Christi.” While we’re at it, we also call North Padre Island, “The Island.” And the area where the bulk of the shopping, dining and new construction is located is known as “The Southside.” It’s also commutable to NAS Kingsville.

CCBay

This installation is a little more near and dear to my heart than any other because it’s my hometown, and I had the opportunity to return as a grown up, so — after 22+3 years — I feel like I can offer you a pretty well-rounded synopsis:

Repel the mosquitos. If you have an itchy welt on your arm, you’ve encountered the unofficial Texas State Bird, the mosquito. The bad news is that they run free from sunset to sunrise anytime it’s not freezing (which I’ll get to in a second). The good news is that they’re humungous, which means they’re easy to swat.

Exercise caution: Winter is a week, not a season. Pack up your coats, you won’t need them here. Instead, double up on sunscreen, swimsuits, and shorts. South Texas has two seasons: summer and winter, but summer is basically 11 months long, and you’ll get roughly four weeks of winter — no guarantee they’ll be consecutive. Shade and hydration are your friends.

Meet humidity. Someone at a grocery store in North Carolina once complained about the humidity there, and I laughed in her face. Nothing compares to Corpus humidity. Frizzy-haired gals, prepare — you’ve trained your whole life for this.

CorpusBeach

Park on the beach. I’ve lived on every coast in the United States, and never have I found another place that lets you drive on the beach. With this privilege comes a little responsibility. Make sure you know how to drive on sand. Follow tire tracks. If you don’t have 4-wheel drive, avoid loose sand. Mind the tides. Don’t be afraid to accept help if you get stuck — it happens to the best of us. And, make sure you purchase your beach parking permit before your first beach day.

TexMex

Try a “taco stand.” Newbies won’t understand that you don’t need to know the name of the closest taqueria. Just find the one closest to you. Learn your favorite breakfast burrito (my decade-long streak with the potato, egg, and cheese with a lemonade has never done me wrong). And, while we’re talking food, branch out into Texas BBQ and Tex-Mex — trust me.

Take or leave the local festivities. I grew up attending the local fireworks display, but I never took my own kids when we were stationed there. I, to date, have never attended Buc Days (it’ll ring a bell after you’ve arrived). These free local events are very popular, which translates to very crowded. If you’re up for a crowd, give it a go. If you’re a homebody, count it out.

SouthTexasTraditions

Prepare for extremes. Depending on when you arrive and whether it’s an El Nino or La Nina weather pattern, you could find yourself in the middle of a drought, a flood, or a hurricane warning. Do yourself a favor and brush up on the local weather. For drought water restrictions, check the city’s website. For flood and hurricane warnings and otherwise inclement weather, check the local forecast — in can change in the blink of an eye. Make sure you’re up to speed on where boards are for your windows before hurricane season starts (June 1-Nov. 30), and be clear on your insurance policies. As a side note, it’s always, always windy.

Take a trip. When you’re in Corpus, you’ll think that you can day-trip all over the state (unless you’re from the great state, of course). But, after your first trip to San Antonio, you’ll realize that you are hours away from a bigger city, and there’s a whole lot of nothing in between. So, as long as you’re up for a longer road trip, you can be in San Antonio in two hours, Houston in three and a half, Austin in four, and Dallas in a whopping eight hours. You east-coasters will wonder why you haven’t crossed at least three state lines in that time! That being said, you have a lot to see within the Texas borders — see the sites while you can. And if you can’t get out of town, see the local attractions: the beach, USS Lexington, Texas State Aquarium, and the iconic orange and white burger joint.

TXStateAquarium

You will be uncomfortably hot. You will develop a sudden fondness for Texas Country (it is a thing, look it up if you haven’t already). And, if you live it right, it could be one of your favorite duty stations. Enjoy your stay, and I hope my hometown treats you right!

Have you been stationed in Corpus Christi? What are your tips?

Posted by Kristi Stolzenberg, military spouse and NMFA Volunteer

Operation Purple Camp: A Memorable Experience for More Than Just the Kids

Recently, I had the privilege of attending the National Military Family Association’s Operation Purple Camp® (OPC) for the first time. Working for NMFA for more than a year and being familiar with the camp, I thought that I knew what to expect when I visited but after only a few minutes I realized I was wrong.

After spending the entire day at the camp, I asked myself one simple question: who had the biggest impact on who?

There was no doubt the camp was having a big impact on the military kids who were attending the camp but were they the only ones getting something out of this?

For the military kids, the camp was giving them a week to just be kids; no worrying about what was happening at home, or their parent that was currently deployed. I spoke with two girls who had been to the camp for the last couple of years—it’s a camp they look forward to. They only see each other once a year at these camps, but they declared they were best friends. This is what OPC is all about: a chance to be among friends who understand what you go through every day. And for most military kids, keeping friends through the years, and through the PCS moves, is rare. OPC gives them the opportunity to connect (and reconnect) with friends that will last a lifetime.

8-2-opc-campers-at-lake

But what about the other people involved with OPC?

On the day I visited, it was military day at the camp. In the afternoon, I watched as the kids lined up for their chance to climb into the Stryker that was brought in for the day. As one little girl climbed in, the soldier who was helping her asked if she remembered him from the year before. Both had been at OPC, but for different reasons. The soldier looked through the line and started to pick out the other kids he recognized. He grinned from ear to ear. It was clear that OPC was reaching more than just military kids.

Out of everyone I spoke with that day, it was the conversation I had with the counselors that stuck out most to me. For almost all of these counselors, it was their first time working with an Operation Purple Camp. And after only three days, you could see the way these military kids impacted their lives. They spoke on how mature the kids in their groups were, noting that when they were that age, they were talking about what they were going to do that weekend…not what they were going to do when they grew up.

Some kids talked about what they were going to study in college to get to the career they wanted. One counselor said, “I go to college in the fall and I still don’t know what I am going to study!”

Others talked about how they were impressed with how the kids encouraged each other, helped each other to get through activities, and looked out for one another. Each time I talked to a counselors, I noticed they all spoke about their campers like proud older siblings.

I wasn’t immune to the impact of this camp, I was there for only one day and I came away seeing not only how OPC affects military kids, but how those military kids impact the world around them, too.

Has your child ever been to an Operation Purple Camp? Tell us about their experience!

Patricia-CPosted by Patricia Contic, Government Relations Legislative Coordinator

How to Not be Inconvenienced When Your Household Goods are Late

We finally arrived at our new duty station and received the dreaded phone call, “Ma’am, your household goods have not left Colorado, and they will not arrive for another week and a half.”

Wait…what? Where are we going to sleep? What are we going to cook with? What are we going to wear since we only brought enough clothes for the three-day drive?

Enter the inconvenience claim. It covers actual out-of-pocket expenses incurred by service members and their families as a result of not being able to use household goods due to a late shipment. Now, this doesn’t mean a new set of Cuisinart cookware, designer clothes, dinners out at fancy steakhouses, etc. The expenses claimed must be reasonable and related directly to relieving a hardship suffered by you and your family.

What Things Are Covered?

  • Lodging
  • Meals
  • Laundry service
  • Furniture (within reason)
  • Appliance rental
  • Towels
  • Pots and pans
  • Paper plates and plastic ware
  • Clothes

How Do You File?
Inconvenience claims must be filed directly with the claim department of the moving company. It is essential to keep the traffic management office (TMO) at your destination, and the carrier’s delivery agent, aware of what is transpiring. Carriers are not required to settle or honor every inconvenience claim, but you are entitled to submit a claim and have assistance from the TMO. If the claim is denied, TMO can appeal the denied inconvenience claim to the carrier’s home office. If the appeal is unsuccessful, the case can be forwarded to the Surface Deployment and Distribution Command for review and final ruling. Two things that will disqualify you from submitting a claim are failing to have a delivery address for your shipment, or refusing delivery when you finally have a delivery address.

Key advice?
In our case, we were able to go out for dinner a few times, buy a saucepan and a frying pan, groceries, towels and toiletries, and one full outfit for each of us. While we could have stayed at a hotel, we had already signed for housing so we elected to buy two air mattresses. We had expense caps for each of the things that we purchased, and we had to save all of the receipts.

We learned how important it was to have everything in writing. My husband made sure to have all of our conversations with the moving company, TMO, and the carrier’s agent in emails. We used the post library to scan all of our receipts and to make copies to send to the appropriate channels. While we could have probably requested more, we decided to only take what we actually needed. In the end, we were fed, clothed, and taken care of.

Yes, it was an inconvenience for our family, but we made the experience an adventure. We learned we could never go off the grid and live minimally, so that item was crossed off of our bucket list! The check arrived quickly so we were able to go out and explore our new town and all that it offered. When our household goods were finally delivered, they were only minimally damaged. Score! And, since we had developed a good rapport with the carrier agent and TMO, the claim process for those damages went smoothly.

The bottom line is moving is tough on anyone, whether you have moved two or 22 times. Knowing you can file an inconvenience claim may provide a form of comfort during a stressful time.

Have you ever filed an inconvenience claim? What was the process like for you?

robyn_headshotPosted by Robyn Alama Mroszczyk, AFC, National Military Family Association Volunteer, Redstone Arsenal, AL

Turning Pages When Turning Corners: Using Books to Start Conversations With Kids

I can’t stand the smell of cardboard boxes. Or saying goodbye to friends. Or living out of a suitcase. However, moving is an inevitable part of military life, and preparing my kids for our move later on this year is coming up on my mom-radar. When facing several pivotal childhood moments, like potty training, making friends, and starting elementary school, my husband and I enlist the help of children’s books to help us begin conversations. As we prepare to turn another corner and encounter our next relocation, these are the children’s books that we’re reading at my house:

Little girl reading

Boomer’s Big Day by Constance W. McGeorge

My son loves this book about Boomer and his big move to a new house, as told through a the eyes of a dog. One day Boomer suddenly realizes all of his favorite toys are packed up in boxes. He’s not quite sure what to think of the boxes and movers. When he arrives to the new home, he learns that lots of new friends are waiting to meet him!

The Berenstain Bears’ Moving Day by Stan and Jan Berenstain

Who doesn’t love the classic Berenstain Bear family? Brother and Sister are moving to a new house, and don’t know quite what to expect. The Berenstain family says goodbye to old friends, watches the movers load their household goods, and then finds new, exciting experiences waiting for them at their new home.

The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn

Chester’s nervous about starting school, and his mama, Mrs. Raccoon, shares the perfect remedy to assuage his fears. Together, they find a routine that helps both raccoons cope as Chester starts attending a new school. Hands-down, this is my favorite new school book! I think The Kissing Hand is perfect for talking about first day jitters.

My Very Exciting, Sorta Scary Move by Lori Attanasio Woodring

The title was the first thing that drew me to order this book. Written by a licensed psychologist, the ideas in this collection of activities are carefully developed with knowledge of how to help small minds through transitions. This book provides several parent-child conversation starters and the pages are filled with activities to help children and parents understand change and emotions.

Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney

Though Guess How Much I Love You does not necessarily relate to moving, it’s a sweet book that I find myself reading to my kiddos regularly, especially during times of transition. Its reassuring message offers parents an opportunity to start meaningful, reassuring conversations with their children.

Though PCSing is difficult, but moving to a new community brings new beginnings, new friends, and new opportunities. Best wishes for your next PCS!

Do you use books to help your child through milestones or transitions? Which ones would you recommend?

teresa-bannerPosted by Teresa Banner, National Military Family Association Volunteer

Mascara, Money, and the Military

It was August 2014, and I was working to find balance as a mother and military spouse during my husband’s second deployment. He had been gone 7 months. Any military spouse knows this is a challenging role that requires flexibility and patience while leaving little room for your own career path. My days consisted of the ‘usual’ military spouse duties; raising our daughter during the terrible twos, keeping up with the housework, and wondering when my husband would call next.

One evening as I was scrolling through Facebook, I saw a fellow Army wife post about a new mascara. I wasn’t a big makeup wearer (and still am not), but I’ve always loved a good mascara and was intrigued.

I was happy to support my friend and purchased the mascara.  As soon as I tried it, I knew I had to tell all of my girlfriends about it. My husband made me promise I’d never “do one of those direct sales companies again,” as I had tried several in the past with little to no success. But I just had a feeling this was going to be different. The cost to sign up was minimal and there were no monthly fees or quotas, so I figured it was worth a shot.

7-27-makeup-brushes

The days and months that immediately followed my decision to join Younique filled my life with much more than money and makeup. Don’t get me wrong…I am proud to be a mother and military spouse; these will always be my favorite “jobs,” but this little makeup business gave me a PURPOSE outside of “mom” and “wife.” This was something for ME, and I soon realized that I could help change the lives of other women.

Twenty-two months have gone by and it’s hard to imagine my life without this business. The success I’ve had, the relationships I’ve built, and the customer base I’ve created, has been more fulfilling than I can express. I am now a Top Leader in Younique with a team of 1,708 amazing women. I am proud to live and share our mission every day, “To uplift, empower, validate, and ultimately build self-esteem in women around the world through high-quality products that encourage both inner and outer beauty and spiritual enlightenment while also providing opportunities for personal growth and financial reward.”

We have PCS’d twice since December 2014, and I am so grateful I haven’t had to worry about finding a job, or child care, with each move. In fact, the military lifestyle has allowed me to expand my network with each new station. I work my business 99% through Facebook on my iPhone, and I can work whenever and wherever I want. I am able to coach, mentor and build my team around the world, all while providing stability and balance to my family. It’s a dream come true!

As a military spouse and stay-at-home-mom, it is empowering to be able to financially contribute to our family. I love to support fellow military spouses in Network Marketing and truly believe it is the perfect opportunity for us. I am so grateful for the freedom and confidence that Younique and Network Marketing have provided to me and so many women. We have a saying in our company, “so much more than mascara”… There really couldn’t be truer words spoken for myself and my family.

Posted by Tracey Greene, military spouse, and Exclusive Black Status Leader with Younique