It was Suzanna’s wanderlust that led her to the Navy and she is still traveling all over the world with the Navy. She attended the Naval Academy and graduated in 1998 and worked as Surface Warfare Officer and was in the process of switching career fields when September 11th. Her career in Public Affairs started in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba when the first Afghan prisoners were sent there. She eventually transitioned to be a Reservist and was able to travel and do amazing things. But she wanted to go back on active duty and wasn’t able to after taking a leap to serve on an unaccompanied tour. Today she is back on active duty and serving in South America.
She grew up in Ohio and her parents told her they could only afford in state college. So she found a way to get her college paid for and get out of Ohio by attending the Naval Academy. Initially she wasn’t selected and had to complete a year long program before being able to attend the Academy. But that year of hard work helped give her the motivation to get through the challenge the Naval Academy brought. She wasn’t going to quit. It was challenging be one of very few women. Their class started with only 14% women. Meaning she stood out and sometimes was the only woman in a classroom.
She graduated in 1998 and became a Surface Warfare Officer with the goal of cross training to Public Affairs. She was one of the first women to be integrated on a Naval vessel and was one of four women out of a crew of 350. It was really challenging to be under a microscope. But eventually more women were brought aboard (around 30) and it made it easier.
Becoming a Public Affairs Officer
She was at training to be a PAO when September 11th happened. We discussed how the military changed from a peace keeping military to one of war. And how the military wasn’t quite ready for the shift and took years changing everything they had been doing. She worked at Guantanamo Bay as a PAO.
Around the 12 year point she decided she wanted to do something different and became a Reservist. She had always wanted to live overseas. So she moved to Spain to be a student. While also working in Europe and Africa to meet her Reserve duty requirement. She was also given the opportunity to live in Naples, Italy while working in Africa to support the Navy through her Reserve duty. Eventually, she came back to the states to a job at Norfolk still through the Navy Reserve. Eventually she had to transition to a new role as a civilian and became a PAO for the Navy as a civilian. It was a hard transition and she worked to get back into the Navy on active duty.
A perspective shift
After not making Captain (O-6) at the third look she decided to shift her focus and work on making an impact. It led her to deploy for a year unaccompanied leaving behind her husband and two young boys for a year. It was really hard. But that assignment opened doors when she told her boss, who was a Vice Admiral, what her dreams for the future were. He was able to help her get back on active duty. She was also selected for Captain on her fifth look.
Today she continues to serve in the Navy and is stationed in South America as Foreign Affairs Officer.