The biggest takeaway from this episode is how critical asking questions to find your next step forward is. Tahina Montoya is currently serving in the Air Force Reserves and shares her experience in the military. Her path to the military started by joining Jr Reserve Officer Training Corps program in high school mainly because people told her she couldn’t do it. Then she learned about ROTC where she could get her college paid for and commission into the Air Force.
Asking Questions to Find Your Next Step
Tahina went to college at Norwich University. She felt very out of place as a Latino but overcame the challenge of facing limited diversity and commission into the Air Force. Her career began, she was an Intel officer and was stationed at Tyndall AFB for her first assignment. She was able to deploy twice and on her second deployment to Kyrgyzstan, she was asked to show the new J2 around the base she was at. At lunch, the J2 asked her what her future dreams for her career were. Having always wanted to work in counternarcotics she told her and a few days later had a by-name request for an assignment doing that.
She was assigned to Key West. And although she was doing what she had always wanted she also was struggling with all the changes happening. She asked for help and was told by leadership she was fine. It would just take time to adjust. But she wasn’t okay. She asked for help again and was also overlooked. Eventually, a civilian co-worker saw her in her car crying hysterically. The leadership took the extreme approach and she had to advocate for herself and tell them she didn’t need medications, she wasn’t suicidal. She just needed to talk to someone. She was able to get the help she needed and find tools to help her in the future.
At Key West, she also met her husband. They met at work and started their life together. She talked about being pregnant and getting to work as an interpreter while pregnant until she couldn’t travel anymore. She also talked about the challenge of finding time to pump and figuring out the logistics of moving pumped breast milk to their next assignment in DC.
Transitioning to the Reserves
They both were working in DC and everything seemed to be going well. But her husband had a career dream of being an attache in Panama. She told him to apply and they would make it work. He got selected and she tried to find a job in Panama but the Air Force was unwilling to help her find a spot and suggested they co-locate so she could continue to serve. That wasn’t an option for her and her family so she left the military and transitioned to the Reserves. She talked about how it was an unexpected and quick transition and why it is so important to always be prepared for a possible transition out of the military.