Emergency preparedness planner uses Navy experience to keep her community safe

Diversity Jobs is pleased to present this career interview with a female Navy veteran who is now a civilian emergency preparedness planner. In her interview, she shares the struggles she faced transitioning from military protocol to working in a civilian workplace, however despite the tough transition she takes pride in her work which keeps her community safe, and strives to educate herself more at every opportunity.

What is your job title and what industry do you work in? How many years of experience do you have in this field? How would you describe yourself using only three adjectives?
My job title is Emergency Preparedness Planner, and I have been doing this for 3 years. I would describe myself as Motivated, dedicated, and flexible.

How would you describe what you do? What does your work entail? Are there any common misunderstandings you want to correct about what you do?
I write various plans for emergency preparedness for a county level health department to respond to a disaster, may it be man-made or naturally occurring.

What’s your ethnicity and gender? How has it hurt or helped you? If you ever experienced discrimination, how have you responded and what worked best? Do you speak another language, and has it been helpful in your career?
I am non-hispanic, female. Being female has helped me strive to be the best at anything I do, from being a mother, to my job at work; at the same time maintaining my compassion for my fellow man, even if he/she disagrees with my own ideals of a particular situation.

On a scale of 1 to 10 how would you rate your job satisfaction? What might need to change about your job to unleash your full enthusiasm?
My job satisfaction would be a 6; the job would need to change in the area of superior management style. My superiors need to hold themselves and their peers and subordinates accountable for their respective actions, good or bad.

If this job moves your heart – how so? Ever feel like you found your calling or sweet spot in life? If not, what might do it for you?
This job moves my heart in that it requires me to do my best since the plans I will write are the guidelines that people use to respond to during a disaster to save lives.

Is there anything unique about your situation that readers should know when considering your experiences or accomplishments?
I am a U.S. Naval Officer, surface warfare, veteran; I have served for a county Health Department Epidemiology, specializing in biological terrorism surveillance for 10 years. I am a wife, mother, and owner of 2 dogs and a cat, and above all I am a Christian, who believes and loves God.

How did you get started in this line of work? If you could go back and do it differently, what would you change?
I got started in this job because I had a friend working in this line of work. I would not change anything if I was given a chance to go back, like Forrest Gump’s famous quote, life is like a box of chocolates, and you don’t know what you will get unless you bite into one, and I happen to like the flavor I bit into.

What did you learn the hard way in this job and what happened specifically that led up to this lesson?
The lesson I learned was in the civilian world one cannot be as frank to people as one can be in the military world. I learned this lesson the hard way through an uncomfortable encounter with my first boss.

What is the single most important thing you have learned outside of school about the working world?
I have learned that nothing is ever fair, but one can always be fair to others.

Why do you get up and go to work each day? Can you give an example of something that really made you feel good or proud?
I get up to go to work to do my share in this world, and to bring a pay check home. I am proud that I earned my masters while working here.

What kind of challenges do you face and what makes you just want to quit?

The biggest challenge here is that there is no career ladder to pursue, and what makes me want to quit is the nonchalant attitude by the chain-of-command.

How stressful is your job? Are you able to maintain a comfortable or healthy work-life balance? How?
My job is moderately stressful; I am able to maintain a comfortable work-life balance by talking about my day to relieve the stress, yet not dwell in its bad times, and bask in the good times.

What’s a rough salary range for the position you hold? Are you paid enough and/or happy living within your means?
$50K; I am spoiled so I must say no it isn’t enough, but if I reflect on it, I would say yes.

How much vacation do you take? Is it enough?

I get 2 weeks of vacation a year; The time is enough for state side vacation, but I would like a month for overseas travel vacation.

What education and skills do you need to get hired and succeed in this field?
You must have at least a Bachelors degree.

What would you tell a friend considering your line of work?
I would tell my friend to take advantage of the free master’s one can receive while working here.

If you could write your own ticket, what would you like to be doing in five years?

I would like to be the Director of this Health Department.

  • Danitza Siqueiros

    I really enjoyed reading your story it is impressive to see how far you have came along and what you strive for. I can say that I do admire you, I am currently a freshman in college I have considered possibly joining the navy many ask me why or they will just look at me and laugh, given that my favorite color ism pink and I shop nothing but Victorias Secret but to me that is my motivation I want to prove everyone wrong and show them that I am very much possible in serving our country. Your story has inspired me and has showed me once again that anything is possible.

  • JohnDiscusses

    As a recent veteran transitioning into the civilian life, I am recognizing some difficulties, both small and big. The small difficulties lie with telling someone the time in 12-hr language along with just calling a person by their first name as opposed to their last name. The larger problems stem from not being able to get things done with a simple command. There’s always a necessity to small-talk and be personable.

    However, these difficulties are probably what make civilian life appealing as well. Civilians do smile more even if it’s a facade at times. They might not understand the military fully, but civilians find ways of being charitable and providing services to healthy non-profit organizations. They see the joys in fashion and art where military folks might shoo them away. And even if civilians dislike their jobs and might talk about their bosses, they have the option of leaving at any time. This option is a benefit military personnel do not have as we are “stationed” in various locations based on the needs of the “(insert branch of service)”.

    I strongly agree with the Veteran’s words about how supervisors must be held accountable for their own actions. There have been a number of times in which I saw enlisted members being punished more severely for the same offense than their supervising officer. I do see how supervisors need to follow a code of ethics and represent that code even more so than trying to lead from the front in solely a physical capacity. Overall, if the military provided some level of ethics training more than their incredibly long resiliency training, I believe there would be a better understanding of how officers and enlisted should treat each other; not just with respect but as people.

    It was an honor to have served my country in uniform. I hope to continue serving in a different capacity just as the veteran in this article, albeit in a nice suit.

  • Qi Wu

    Im on the almost the same boat as you!Im still active duty, but a few more months, i will be a female veteran. i can only image the transition will be difficult, but it is worthy the effort to move into a new chapter of life for better.

  • Jaquetta McLeod

    I really enjoyed hearing her story, and how her experience in the Navy translates into the work she does now. I served 6 years in the military working on a weapons system, which is nowhere near what I want to do in the civilian world. I will say that one of my favorite parts about being in the Navy was definitely my time as the safety petty officer and training petty officer. Both collateral duties allowed me to give more direct and specific interaction and information to the other sailors I worked with. The similarities between her story and my own drew me to read more, and I can relate to the aspect of transition and having to adjust the manner in which I interact with others now.

  • Jubail Akut

    The term “service-member” is often misunderstood. They are all too often generically lionized as as America’s altruistic warriors; captioned as being content to living a life of hardship and servitude to a nation’s people whom we are predominately unfamiliar with. In some respects this is true, however I don’t believe that the generalization does the lone Service-Member justice. What label is he or she given after their service has ended? Are they doomed to look up to the pedestal that they stepped off from for the rest of their lives, regardless of the post-military “service to the people” that they undertake? I’d like to think not. And with respect to the above narrative, I’d like to elaborate on why.

    As an Army Infantry Officer preparing for separation from the service, like many of brethren, I’m contemplating ways in which to continue my service after I disrobe my uniform. For me service wasn’t an obligation, it was a calling, and just like her, I feel that calling needs to echo down every path I take after my separation from the Army. In Afghanistan, we were tasked to rebuild and protect the Pir Mohammed School in a town called Senjaray. The school had been shut down by the Taliban a few years earlier, and it was the only educational institution within the town limits. The scene at the school’s opening is one that will be forever ingrained in my heart and my mind; the mellifluous sounds of the children more powerful than any bullet or bomb. I truly felt we served the community that day, and its a feeling I(we) want to emulate throughout my life, and I feel that that can only be done through my continuation of service.

    Candidly I can say that I envy people like her. Even after leaving the Navy she is still committed to serving and has sought, and earned, a position in her community that allows her to. To me, her narrative is a true testament to the service-member, and a personified example of our most laudable characteristics.

  • Chad Micheal Clymer

    I have been wanting to become a police officer since I went to Iraq in 2006. I was artillery and always on patrol but still felt we were trying to make the local community a better place. I loved what i did over there and felt I would love it even more if it were my own community back home. Now im back home about to get out of the army and just starting college for Criminal Justice with a minor in psychology.

  • Kelly C.

    She sounds like a noble woman.

    As a recently accepted Public Health student I can totally
    relate to how she is attracted to such a career and motivated to protect communities. Bioterrorism
    response can be a highly rewarding and exciting career. But being the
    intellectual property of the government must make job stress even more
    difficult to deal with because she cannot even discuss many of her daily
    stressors her friends and family.

    I find her passion for this career inspiring.

  • Brittney G

    Wow, this story is great. Being a female in the workforce is hard. Even at my job, there is a lot of sexism and things are unfair so I cannot imagine in her line of work what she has to deal with. She shoes women can get into different careers and show how smart and driven women are to prove ourselves.

  • AmyTeets

    Fantastic goals and a free Masters! Sounds like you’re on track to success!

  • #cjwilkinson10

    This is a very inspiring story and above all it brings hope to women and humanity. Thank you for sharing.

  • Amy Maynard

    I’m not in an emergency job or career path – but I am a single mom. Being a mom, and doing it by yourself, means trying to be prepared for anything and everything. Not on the scale that the Navy or other emergency workers have to be, but enough that it is constantly on my mind.

    Every day I have to think about not only everything I need, but what another person needs to survive. My child depends solely on me for everything in his life, and being prepared for any accidents that may occur along the way are important. You never realize how important some of the smallest things are in life, until you are faced with the chance of losing it.

  • Jonathan Weidemann

    I am a Veteran of the U.S. Air Force. My job while in the service was Fire Protection Specialist, which is just fancy words for Firefighter. I also worked for the Department of Defense as a Firefighter, Travis County Emergency Services District #4 in Austin, Texas as a Captain of Operations, and Fire Chief for the City of Brady, Texas. I am now employed by the Texas Commission on Fire Protection as a Testing/Training Auditor.

    My experience in the service was amazing, and it took a while to adjust to civilian life afterward. It also took a while to find a job that would pay the bills. Today I have found that you have to have a degree to move up. Experience with a degree will help, but experience alone will not cut it anymore. I have been going to school full-time, taking care of a family of six, while working full-time has been a challenge, and continues to be so, but I feel that completing my degree is the best way to accomplish my goal of providing a better life for my family.

    I love helping people, and a degree in Emergency & Disaster Management will help me advance in my career. The education that I have received so far has already assisted me in my current job, but the knowledge that I am gaining along with the experience that I already have in Fire & Emergency Services, I feel will make me a better person, manager, and leader in my career field.

  • Vanessa Jablonski

    It is always beneficial to see the determination to not only be doing a job for the pay but as well as trying the best at keeping others safe and out of danger. Although the pay is not as rewarding as many would want it to be, by taking advantage of the free masters degree can lead a person to great accomplishments in their life as well as taking use of what they have offered to them. It is difficult in today’s society to be able to receive a decent paid job as well as trying to pursue further in our education with the cost of it all. It is nice to see that people use there abilities and talents to help other as she has done with her experience of being in the Navy while doing something that she doesn’t regret she started. As we all would like to go back in time and change the mistakes we have made in deciding on a job or passing out on an opportunity, everything happens for a reason sooner or later.

    From my own experience, I struggled to stay a full time student as well as keeping up with two job, which at the time being allowed me to have enough money for all my cost. But overall, I had too much going on at one given time and needed to settle for one job and focus on my education which can lead me to have a future permanent career. Although I would not be making a sufficient amount of money, I did not regret giving up one of my job because it was a learning experience that I had to face in my life where lessons were learned and it time to move forward.

  • Chip Flores

    I am a US Army veteran, and US Army Reserve Air Traffic Controller. I am currently attending Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. I can relate to this story because of my own experiences transitioning from military back to civilian life. Because I have returned to school I have additional complications relating to my peers, because I am now quite a bit older than most traditional students. It is definitely an adjustment. It is also a challenge to return to a college environment many years after my previous educational experience.

  • Steven Weinberg

    I am a Marine Corps veteran going to college in Riverside right now. I can identity with the veteran in this article. There is a very large adjustment going from military life to civilian life. I found that the soft skills of leadership, superior work ethic, determination, accountability, interpersonal communication, and working under pressure have translated very well to everything I do in the civilian world. This includes work and college.

  • yovanna plummer

    Her work seems to keep her humble, however I do not think that the job she had would make it easy to submerge oneself in the community at large. The pay seems generous but the vacation is lacking. The fact that she can survive and has survived is a testament to her willingness and her faith.

  • Sheetal

    I have done extensive research with how veterans adjust to the world after serving in the military. I have seen how most veterans struggle with adjusting but this person seems to be more positive and has used her experiences as lessons.

  • Marye Dalton

    I think it is awesome on your outlook on life and everything that you strive to do. Not only are you compassionate about your job but you have a family, pets and career while serving your country. Is this ambitions that everyone should strive for. To be the best person they can be. This is inspiring because if everyone took life more like you I think our country would be in a lot better shape. Being a daughter of a veteran I have always been supportive and proud of our troops, but to hear that they are putting all their hard work and bringing it back to their community is a true blessing. I hope that other people share this and really inspire to be the best person they can be. Thank you for your service, and for your commitment.

  • shrabelh

    I am a military spouse, who can relate to this, because my husband struggled with civilian life after the end of his enlistment. His struggle has made me focus on completing a degree to share the financial burden. Being a mom has made me realize the need for trained, prepared emergency management professionals, and I appreciate all that she does to serve her community. This post has given me confidence that I, too, can work in a rewarding job and continue my education through an employer, while helping those in need.

  • Sans

    I too am a female Navy veteran. I am proud of the time spent serving my country. I wish I could be like this woman. She is organized and focused. She she knows what she is doing, who she is doing it for and loves doing it. I came out of the Navy gung-ho and wanting to get one of the great jobs everyone said I would get.
    Instead I had a hard time getting hired and have since come to the conclusion that I must finish my education
    and create my own space in the world.

  • Aaron

    I can relate to this article when it comes to the truth that a change in scenery often requires a change in mindset. When I transferred into a more difficult high school, I had to adjust to an entirely new environment of a college prep school. How things are run has made going through the years there far from a paradise Nothing is even remotely easy and smooth. It comes down to knowing what tasks and/or people are frustrating and how to focus on what you can accomplish rather than how things should be. I know that I have had to play the hand that I have been dealt and it is certainly not an easy one to win with. There are no aces. I have had to proceed toward my goals knowing that change is inevitable and that to move on, I have to be flexible as well as ambitious. What I do is really all that I have true control over.

  • swilliams

    I can relate to this article, being a female Navy veteran, you have to learn to adjust to life in the service vs. the life in the non-service world.

  • Jevon

    I can relate to high career goals because the sky is the limit and you can do and be whatever you want to be if you set your mind to it.

  • nlora

    This was a fairly informative interview. I really appreciate the candid responses to the questions. Especially about salary, work and life balance, and level of stress involved in the job. I have been a paramedic for several years and now work for a government contractor. I understand the stress that is involved when working with emergency situations. Likewise, having worked in those types of life or death situations I have developed a frankness when speaking with co-workers and supervisors that I have had to curb once I began working in an office setting.
    I also have seen the same need for improvement in the higher ups in these types of organizations. I believe that the increased educational and experience expectations that are becoming more common will help. That is why I am currently working on my MBA with the hopes to help make improvements in the emergency response side of healthcare.

  • JCPH

    I am actually a student in the Public Health field earning my bachelors degree, and was thinking about focusing more on emergency preparedness kind of like the person in this story. I am a person who prepares in advance for anything that life may throw at me, so being in this kind of profession would work out for me the most.

  • Karaerae

    Working a job that intends to save peoples lives sounds like a wonderful experience. I also have learned although “nothing is ever fair, you can be fair to others” in your actions. My career objective is to become a veterinarian or a marine biologist. I am working on my undergraduate degree on ecology and evolutionary biology. My goal is to help save the lives of animals who can’t help themselves as well as educate people on how share the environment with animals. I am also a catholic hoping to have God’s blessing in caring for animals.

  • jmwild

    I related to this article because, my future career goal is to become an infectious disease epidemiologist. I have been very close to emergency preparedness because of Epidemiology. Right now i am studying Microbiology and I plant on getting my masters in Public Health and then working on a doctorate in Epidemiology. I am also Christian and I have to balance my spiritual life with my research life.

  • Taylor

    This article really struck me. As a person who thinks that your experiences really can shape how you see the world, this woman using her naval background to better her community by producing safety plans sits very well with me. I went to an engineering high school and study Mechanical Engineering in College. Taking these classes has enabled me to take on large projects very well. Engineering gives you the ability to problem solve, break things into smaller chunks and focus everyone to do the best job for their capabilities. I also love to volunteer. I love to give my time back to the community because its important to appreciate the people who helped you up along the way.

    In the article, this quote”I have learned that nothing is ever fair, but one can always be fair to others.” really strikes a chord with me as well. it is important to always be kind to others even though they can be not kind to you. I will take the piece of advice through life with me.

  • Tosin Ola-Weissmann

    Your story is quite similar to mine. With your healthcare experience and service to the community, I find that you are a great mentor. It’s gratifying to see someone else that loves their job as much as I do. Keep on striving hard, and never give up. You are very inspirational.

  • Uwa Oduwa

    I come from a small town so I have high regards for anyone in the emergency planning field. Small communities, especially rely on dependable, loyal and honest individuals like you and I truly appreciate all of your work. One of my close friends recently signed up as a volunteer firefighter and It is great to see his time well spent to help those in need.

  • TJH

    Circa 9/11 I applied and was accepted to the Emergency Medical Technician program at our local community college. This decision stems from passion–passion to work in a field I felt connected to and the passion to help others in need.

    Although I am not working as an EMT at the moment, I am working in a field that offers housing assistance to those who need it. Your path in life is too valuable to walk on it. You gotta follow your passions and go after them. Your values are in the right place. Best of luck to you!

  • gingergrndhog

    I love how you decided to help make your small part of the world a better place!! I am a car seat technician and have been for 7 years, I always thought it would be easy to just make everyone aware of what they needed to do to protect themselves and there children. It certainly is a trying task but I love to do it!! I am always remembering that you can’t change the world, but you can change your small corner of it. I feel like this is exactly what you are doing. Thanks so much!!!

  • Corey Sierra USNR, FF/EMT-I

    From a fellow sailor, a fellow emergency responder, a fellow student, a fellow family man, and a fellow christian. Thank you for all you do! People like you make the world a better place.

  • Shannon Barbour

    Thank you for your service to our country, both in your former Naval career and now. I have also worked in the Emergency Response system; for several years as an EMT and now as a Red Cross Disaster Volunteer. I have reviewed countless Emergency Preparedness plans and greatly value the time, forethought and energy that is put into creating a safe and effective plan. In our line of work we have to always be looking at “worse case scenarios” instead of hoping for the best – this can be emotionally and mentally taxing. Having a good balance between the stresses of the job and the joys of a family and personal interests is vitally important, but I think the most important factor is having that connection to what you do – a connection that makes you excited to go to work every day knowing that you are making a difference. I am pursuing my degree so I can eventually be involved in infectious disease research in the hopes of working with an organization like the CDC or the UN, so I may eventually be involved in biological terrorism response as well.

  • Yesenia Rodriguez

    This article grabbed my attention to a great extent because of
    the fact that I am considering taking on my career on Health Service
    Administration which in fact does relate in some aspects to Emergency Preparedness
    Planning. As I read this article, it reminded me when volunteering at a Rehab

    There will always be instances where a single plan can fail when
    least expected because of minor issues such as organization, sanitation,
    customer disagreements, or security. These are all pointers that I came across
    which I had to be ready to act upon.

    Many people don’t realize
    the responsibilities that come along with a career in which customer
    satisfaction is of upmost importance. If a mistake arises, failure is the last
    thought that should come across someones mind because it only lowers your
    strength to plan effectively. Positiveness and confidence make an extraordinary
    change in the career you wish to pursuit.

  • Angela Salisbury

    I do believe that being in part of a medical dept. is a great career. I am also in the caring dept., I feel enjoy that comes into my life when I help someone in need. Just wish I could find a better job that could help me help the soliders who fight for our freedom. I give you a pat on your back, keep uo the good work. And follow your dreams in your career choices.

  • Kimberly Keene

    I believe that if your heart ids moved by wat ou do as a career then you will gain as much as others do from our position. I love helping others and i believe the impact i bring to them during a traumaic situation is worthso much more than the paycheck I recieve.I woud like to believe that in 5 years I will be an intricate part of keeping our commuity safe for not only my family but for the other citizens living in my area. I would like to lower crime and aide in implementing neighborhood awareness programs t assist them in keeping safe.

  • HP

    First of all, thank you for your service to our country. Secondly, I admire that you do emergency preparedness work. Working in that line of work post 9/11 can be a lot to handle. My husband is finishing his bachelors in Criminal Justice and plans to do his masters in homeland security. My father, brother, and husband have all been volunteer firefighters so public service is dear to my heart. I think that your job would be interesting and challenging all at the same time.

  • CJ

    I can relate to this story because being in law enforcement means at any time i may have to face an emergency situation and follow certain emergency plans that are put in place by personnel like the lady interviewed in this article.

  • Elizabeth

    I can relate to this story in that I am a working mother that has encountered superiors that need to change their management style. Superiors should hold themselves and their peers and subordinates accountable for their actions.

  • Former Navy.

    As a female veteran the most difficult thing about the civilian world is the lack of information sharing and territoral attitudes (mostly from other women). I respect and understand the difficulties in a non-frank world! Good luck!

  • Maria M

    I can definitely say that I look up to you. I am planing on joining the military so hopefully it will give me good skills as you.

  • stella

    Way to go. It can never be easy being in the lower realm of the job. I understand!

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