Can you continue to serve as a single mom in the military? Hear Danielle’s story, on the Women of the Military Podcast, of becoming a single mom and continuing to serve in the Army. It isn’t easy, but it can be done.
Danielle has been serving on active duty in the Army since 2004. She enlisted as a paralegal after graduating from college. While she deployed to Iraq and submitted her Officer Candidate School (OCS) packet. She was selected and attended OCS 3.5 years after joining. She was branched Signal and was stationed in Korea and Germany. After a successful command (and becoming a single mom), she transferred into Public Affairs. Currently, she is a Major (O-4) stationed at Fort Meade, MD.
Danielle was burnt out from school and decided to do something no one would expect, not even herself. She decided to join the military. She had her degree but was given the advice to enlist and then become an officer because it was easier. And looking back, she wouldn’t trade the time she spent as an enlisted troop and did learn a lot. She ended up not qualifying for O-1E pay because you have to serve for four years to get that entitlement. But there wasn’t a lot she could do to make that happen even if she had known about that requirement based on timelines and class dates moving around and her not really being in control.
She deployed to Iraq in 2005 in a paralegal office.
She didn’t quite know what to expect going to war and thought she would have a more pivotal role to play on the battleground. But found herself primarily working in her office doing paralegal work and being relatively safe inside the base. She struggled with the feeling of not doing enough because she knew others were going outside of the base and dealing directly with the enemy.
With the encouragement of senior leaders and non-commissioned officers who saw something in her, she decided to put in her package to become an officer. She found out before she had left Iraq that she was selected for Officer Candidate School and would be attending the program after returning home from her deployment. OCS was different from Basic Training because she felt like there was more to lose. They would hold your commission over your head and if you failed you would go back to the Army under the needs of the Army which meant you could end up anywhere. She was happy to complete the course without getting hurt and having to be recycled.
A new opportunity
A few years after becoming an officer she found herself as a new company commander. She was excited about the opportunity and felt humbled to be selected. About 6 weeks into her command she found out she was unexpectedly pregnant. She told the father and he quickly told her she was on her own. She felt alone and conflicted. Then she had to tell her commander. So, after completing a field exercise she scheduled a meeting to tell him the news. He said he still had confidence in her and that babies were blessings. And she was able to continue to serve in command.
Motherhood changed her as a person and caused her to change the focus of her career. She is still committed to the military but also has another person she has to think about when making choices and picking the opportunities that came up. And although being a single mom in the Army isn’t easy it has worked for her.
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