Weight Loss After Serving

credit: Photo by Lindsey Saenz on Unsplash

By Nicole Terwey, 
Life Coach, Sport Nutrition Specialist, & Fitness Coach

In the eight years I spent on active duty in the Navy, about half of my time was spent on keeping extra weight off. This was true for me and for many of the other military women I worked with, lived with, traveled with, and read about.


Being overweight as an armed forces member was not ideal. It was not how I imagined my role would be as a military woman. When I joined the Navy, I imagined myself resembling the quintessential modern military woman – fit, in control of her actions, confident, and proud. Those things had nothing to do with how my clothes fit, but when my uniform got tighter and larger over the years, I felt like I was getting left out of my own vision.

I noticed I started pulling myself away from activities, trainings, courses, TDYs, and other opportunities that I may have enjoyed because I was becoming heavier and more insecure of myself as a Naval Officer. I did not look the part I imagined I would when I joined back in 2004. So, to feel better and more in control, I followed what my military sisters were doing, which was to exercise ad nauseam and eat minimally over the week, then feast on the weekends because we “worked hard” and deserved to “play hard.” Its how the boys do it, anyway.

I did this for years.

When I made the decision to get out of the Navy, I vowed to find a way to make weight loss permanent, enjoyable, sustainable, and worthwhile. Not just to fit into a uniform or a look because I was no longer going to be wearing those clothes, but because I could. I did not want to repeat the misery of being overweight in the military in my new life as a civilian. My body, weight loss, and feeling fit have always been something dear and important to me.


Since getting out of the Navy, I have seen something in military women that I did not expect: deep deprivation.

As a civilian now, I attend as many military networking events as I can, because I love connecting with the people I meet. It’s like being back in the military but the guys have long hair and the girls are wearing long, beautifully manicured nails. The sea stories are the same, and the memories and laughter are just as good, if not better. But there aren’t that many women that attend. Where are they? Where are my sisters?

The reason, I’ve been told, is because we don’t connect with the word “veteran.” For the majority of people in the U.S., the image that comes to mind when we think “veteran” is a Desert Storm, Vietnam, Korea, or WWII male who is in his 90s wearing the ball cap of the operation or ship they were on. And people across the country love our veterans, but military women can’t connect with that representation because we served, dare I say it, differently.

This is what is actually happening: We don’t stop and take a step back long enough to see how much has changed in the past 50-70 years. We’re not fighting the way the brave men of the 1950s fought… and thats OK. Maybe we didn’t “fight” at all – but we still served. We still followed rules, orders, traditions, and served at the best of our capacity. And that is more than enough. “Veteran” means “having served,” and that’s what we did.

However, because we believe, in our minds, that we are not “enough” or not “similar to the real vets,” we feel inadequate or left out. When we feel that way, we hide, or don’t go to events that we wish we had attended, or we say goodbye to everything about the military including the things and people we loved.  We end up leaving ourselves out of what could be real and amazing for us. And then, we feel bad about feeling inadequate and left out, and sadly, many of us will eat and/or drink to feel better. The added weight can make us feel even more inadequate and unwanted, and we prove to ourselves that no one wants to be around us… we don’t even want to be around ourselves.

This is a hard truth to see. We are causing our own misery by believing we are not deserving enough. We don’t stop and step back far enough to see that, truly, nothing and no one is making us feel inadequate or left out. It’s our own thinking that is causing us to not show up how we want to or how we could. Though it feels justified and true because many military women seem to have the same sentiment, it’s still not a fact; otherwise, every military woman would be struggling the exact same way, but we’re not. What happens is we hide from our own lives and feel so terrible about what is unwillingly being created that we seek food, alcohol, or solitude to feel better. In reality, those “solutions” only make us feel worse. And that’s where I have the good news…

credit: Briana Vandenengel, owner of Vandenbri Photography


I want to help women and men lose weight and keep it off forever because it’s possible. However, that won’t happen when we’re feeling inadequate, left out, or unworthy.

When we step back and look at the facts, this is what we’ll find:

  • )  We served X-number of years in the Armed Forces (if you raised your hand and swore an oath, you served)
  • )  We wore a military uniform
  • )  We went through basic training of one form or another
  • )  We were trained in one job, or many jobs, and did them the best that we knew how

And that’s it. These are facts that all military women and men can share no matter what decade, era, operation, or war we served in.

No one member is better than another. Even those souls who gave their lives, they still did the job they were trained in and did the best that they knew how. I promise you this: if you compare your actions to theirs, you will always feel unworthy. It’s not fair to you, not fair to those around you, and not fair to those who died, because I don’t believe they died so that you would live your life feeling unworthy. That’s not how they would have wanted you to live.

Back to the point at hand. By looking at the list above  of things that ALL service members share, we can see that how we choose to think about those facts is what determines how we feel about ourselves. That means that feeling inadequate and unworthy are optional. You have the option – and have always had the option – to feel however you want about these circumstances. Ask yourself these questions:

How would you rather feel about these facts? What do you want them to truly mean to you?

The women I see most often at veteran events have beautiful answers when I tell them this. They say they feel proud and content about having served. They feel delighted, pleased, and successful. How is it that other women feel inadequate or unworthy when they did the exact same thing? It’s because of the thoughts they are choosing to believe. There is a difference in how you feel when you think, “I did my time and it was enough” (probably feel pleased) from “I didn’t do enough in my time” (probably feel unworthy, or like an impostor).

Notice how what you feel determines how you act and behave? When you believe that you did your time and it was enough, which creates the feeling of pleasantness or contentment in you, you don’t judge yourself or your actions when you served. You may notice you don’t even compare yourself to others and what they did; it’s not a factor. You may even notice you stay in touch with your military friends and keep up with them over the years. You hold on to precious military emblems and gifts that you gained over the years. You may also notice that you have more power and confidence to make changes in your new civilian life thanks to what you learned and gained in the military. This creates a more fulfilling life that you’re proud of – not hiding from.
The opposite will also manifest in your life. If you believe that you didn’t do enough in the time that you served, you may feel a sense of unworthiness. When you’re feeling unworthy, you may hold back from things you want to do – staying connected with friends or meeting new people. You may stay at home or pursue jobs that don’t really interest you. You may notice that you don’t take care of yourself and give in to urges more frequently for food and alcohol so that you can feel better. Maybe you develop habits that produce instant gratification because they offer you reprieve from the feeling of unworthiness in your body. This creates a life that is not enough for even your own expectations where  you are not doing enough of what you want in your own life.

These scenarios don’t apply to every military woman who gets out, but from all the women I’ve spoken with and read about – and from the multitude of support groups, speakers, and events designed to help military women when they separate – this is the trend I see.

Weight gain is a symptom of what we’re doing and not doing. Our lack of action is coming from how we’re feeling about ourselves. And how we feel about ourselves only comes from ONE place: our own mind. Our own thoughts about ourselves. When you change your thoughts about yourself, you change your results.

No matter where you are at the moment with your weight or with your life after the military, you have the power to change it. You do that by asking yourself better questions than you are now. For example ask yourself, “How do I want to define what veteran means to me?” or, “How would I rather choose to think about myself as a veteran, or former member?” Your answer might feel better, and when you’re feeling better, you’ll show up differently and in ways that serve you instead of hurt you. By doing this, you can change your life in ways you didn’t know were possible.

credit: Briana Vandenengel, owner of Vandenbri Photography

About the Author: Nicole Terwey is a certified life coach, a sport nutrition specialist and certified fitness coach. After serving in the U.S. Navy for eleven years as an Intelligence Officer and earning a Master’s Degree in Organizational Leadership, Nicole embarked on helping women and men with the mental-emotional component to weight loss. Her personal struggles with years of weight loss and weight gain at the Naval Academy and her time on active duty led her to find her solution for permanent weight loss – the cognitive element, the mental strategy. Combined with her knowledge, experience, training, and coaching skills, she now works with women and men who want to lose weight once and for all by tackling the hardest part of weight loss: undoing urges around food. Nicole offers a free Undoing Urges Mini-Course at her website

Sign up for a Sport you Suck At

(It Might be the Best Thing you Do)
Janell (Peske) Hanf, ’10

Three of us sheepishly teetered about, skating slowly around the outer edge of the ice. We figured we should get used to skating with gear on before we tried to add any other equipment to the mix.

Girls! What are you doing? Grab your sticks and get in the middle of the ice!

There was only one response…  A motivated, “Yes, Coach!”

What the heck was I thinking, that I could actually do this? It was the first day of practice. Somewhere around 6 AM. That’s when the ice was open. Ice hockey was a sport I always wanted to try. It was the very first season for a Women’s Ice Hockey team at the Naval Academy and they were taking anyone interested. I figured, if they needed players, and weren’t even holding tryouts, I had nothing to lose, so I signed up.

As a southern California kid, I grew up mostly swimming and running. I played one season of water polo and did a couple summers of junior lifeguards. I was used to water in liquid form. Minimal gear. Individual sports. In the temperate year-round climate of California.

This was winter. This was cold. This was a team sport. This was the inaugural season of Navy Women’s Ice Hockey. And I could barely even skate!

So, why did I sign up for this?

I wanted to stretch myself and have fun. Throwing myself into a brand new sport as a senior in college, especially one as complex as ice hockey was a serious challenge. I loved it. That season was awesome.

What did I love about it?

The Chill. The feeling of the cold when you step on the ice and feel the chill wash over your face. The contrast of the sweat worked up between shifts with the icy air when you watch the next lines skate. How your water bottle stays cold. The refreshing feeling when you take your sweaty gear off when the game is over.

The Team. I loved being on a fierce team sport. I loved singing our alma mater, “Blue & Gold” sweating from our own match – not just as a spectator after Navy Football games.  At our senior night, we even sang the national anthem – that must’ve been an interesting sight for the spectators that night: a trio of hockey players, all geared up, who also happened to be singers are in the Women’s Glee Club .

The Experience. If you were to look at my statistics.… yeah don’t even look for them. I had no stats. I didn’t even score once. I don’t think I even had a single assist. But I was out there every game. I would aggressively throw myself from one corner of the ice to the other to hold my position and stay with my opponent as best I could. That season, regardless of the score, I learned and grew as an athlete and as a teammate. Taking myself so far out of my comfort zone not only made me a better midshipman, but a better warrior, more prepared for the rigors of Marine Corps Officer training in Quantico. Thanks to hockey, I wasn’t intimidated by aggressive or physically demanding pugil stick bouts or ground fighting. Even if I sucked in a match and royally lost, even if I was matched against someone who was significantly out of my weight class, it was just like hockey: You’re up! Get out there and go for it.

When I moved to my first duty station, the local rink’s community recreation league had a coed novice team, “D league.” I enjoyed those seasons and feeling the chill and the team camaraderie again. Since my son was born, I have only played hockey once, at a Naval Academy Women’s Ice Hockey alumni game three months after my son was born. It was “the mids” vs “the ma’ams” (the mids won). I love hockey, and I’m grateful for learning to pursue and commit to something that I had no background or talent in.

What did hockey teach me about handling failure or setbacks?  Find the fun. It’s just like falling on the ice. It is ok to fall during a game, especially if you’re playing hard. If you’re scared of falling, you won’t be giving your all. Trust the gear to protect you if and when you fall. it’s okay if you don’t skate great, just get out there and go for it. When, not if, you fall, get up as quickly as possible and keep going.

Don’t settle for nervous, scared, and intimidated and wait for the perfect time to try something or put off competing until you’re great.

Be aggressive, find a supportive team and coach who will give you a chance and give you the instruction and encouragement to learn as you go.

Leap off the bench. Skate your heart out, and get after it.

Our Chance to Know Her is Gone, but we can Remember Her – CTICS (IW/EXW) Shannon Mary Kent

By Captain Reiner W. “Mike” Lambert

Who was Shannon Mary (Smith) Kent and why should you care?  Two good questions rolled into one.  There are billions of incredible people in this world.  There truly are.  They are waiting patiently to have their stories told.  You may even be one of them.  In this big, big world, we can’t know them all but it would be good to know a few.

In that incredibly crowded space, I’d like for you to know about Shannon Mary Kent.  If you don’t know her already, it’s too late.  She’s gone.  But, it’s not too late to know about her.  So, I’d like to help tell part of the story of this amazingly brave, sweet girl.  She NEVER cowered – ever.

I’d like for you to know enough about this brave, sweet girl to care about her. Care about the family she left behind – a husband, Joe, and two sons, Josh and Colt; sister, Mariah; Mom, Mary, and Dad, Stephen – and perhaps care enough about her legacy and memory to write a personal letter to the Acting Secretary of the Navy asking him to name a Navy destroyer after her – USS SHANNON MARY KENT.  She never once worried about recognition, but she is certainly worthy of it.

16 January 2019 marked the end of her young, vibrant, meaningful, and significant 35 years of life.  She spent nearly half of her life in the Navy.  She spent her professional career in the top-secret world of the Navy Information Warfare Corps.  She was practically unknown to the rest of the world.  Unknown, that is, until she was murdered by a terrorist who detonated an improvised explosive device in Manbij, Syria.  16 January 2019 marks the day that her existence and murder were made known to the entire world.

As a 19 year old, she joined the Navy in 2003 and attended foreign language school at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California.  In seven short years she was able to distinguish herself as the top linguist in the Department of Defense while serving with the Naval Special Warfare Support Activity TWO in Virginia Beach, Virginia. She spoke Afghan-Dari, Arabic-Algerian, Arabic-Egyptian, Arabic-Gulf (Iraqi), Arabic-Levantine, Arabic-Standard, French, Portuguese-European, and Spanish.

Prior to her assignment in Syria, Shannon had deployed four times for combat operations on Navy Special Forces actions in Iraq and Afghanistan. She deployed twice with SEAL Team 10 and twice with SEAL Team 4. Syria was her fifth combat deployment in 15 years – and her ninth deployment overall.

Where do we find such brave women?  They come from all over America. SMK spent much of her career in harm’s way.  According to the Center for Military Readiness – “Since the attack on America on September 11, 2001, a total of 149 women deployed to Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait, and Syria have lost their lives in service to America.  Most Americans, and even members of the media, are not aware that 149 brave servicewomen have died in the War on Terrorism. With few exceptions, news stories about their tragic deaths usually appeared only in the military press, or in small hometown newspaper stories and television accounts that rarely capture national attention.” Six of those 149 women were serving in the Navy.  Only one of those women took the fight to ISIS in Syria as part of Operation Inherent Resolve – Shannon Mary Kent.

She is the only enlisted woman ever to be honored with a memorial service in the USNA chapel.  During that service she was awarded the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal, and a Combat Action Ribbon.  About a month later, on 28 February 2019, General Nakasone, Director of the National Security Agency presided over a ceremony to add Senior Chief Petty Officer Shannon Kent’s name to the NSA/CSS Cryptologic Memorial Wall in a solemn ceremony.

Her Cryptologic Warfare Activity SIXTY SIX Shipmates say that CTICS (IW/EXW) Shannon Mary Kent exemplified the Navy’s core values of HONOR, COURAGE and COMMITMENT every moment of every day of her life. Her murder stunned her teammates. Many still have not recovered from the agony of her passing.  She meant so much to so many.

There is NO QUESTION that CTICS (IS/EXW) Shannon Mary Kent is worthy of having a Navy destroyer named for her.  A better question might be – “Is the Navy worthy of having USS SHANNON MARY KENT in its service?”  I hope and pray that it is.  I’ve have always told my Sailors – “The Navy will never love you as much as you love the Navy.”  The Navy proved this to be true when they found her physically unfit to be commissioned as a naval officer but fit enough for her fifth combat deployment.  Now, the Navy can show its love for Shannon by naming a ship after her. She certainly loved the Navy, and her Sailors (senior and junior) loved her dearly.

Don’t allow the memory of Shannon Mary Kent’s extraordinarily significant life to disappear.  She deserves to be remembered.

Shannon’s death is a reminder that, as Katherine Center says, “We are writing the story of our only life every single minute of every day.”  Shannon Mary Kent’s story ended much too early. She wasn’t ready to stop writing her story.  We owe it to her to keep writing it for her.

So I ask you to please sit down and write a letter.  She fought for you, won’t you join the fight for her?  Won’t you help keep the story of Shannon Mary Kent alive?

Please send your letter to:

Office of the Acting Secretary of the Navy
1000 Navy Pentagon, Room 4D652
Washington, DC 20350

Short bio:
Captain Reiner W. “Mike” Lambert is a retired naval officer.  He started his career as a Cryptologic Technician Interpretive Seaman (CTISN – Russian linguist) and attended the Defense Language School in 1975-1976.  He was commissioned in 1982, commanded U.S. Naval Security Group Activity Yokosuka, Japan, and served as Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld’s Staff Director for the Detainee Task Force examining detainee abuse in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo Bay Cuba.  He retired in 2006 following that assignment.  Today he runs The FARM at DEER HOLLOW with his wife Lynn.  He is also a Principal with Top Corner Consulting.


Feb 7, 2020: Five for Friday in honor of Black History Month

Welcome to Friday, Sisterhood!! It’s Five for Friday, and in honor of Black History Month, we bring you five kickass examples of African American women in the service! Check out these amazing women leaders, and then share your stories with us. You can reach us via DM or by emailing sisterhoodofmotherb.editor@gmail.com.

Janie L. Mines (UNSA ’80) was the first African-American female graduate of the United States Naval Academy. After serving in the Navy Supply Corps, she earned an MBA from MIT in 1998. With numerous corporate leadership positions under her belt, Mines founded her own consulting firm, Common Sense Business Services and the Boyz to Men Club, a nonprofit that supports economically disadvantaged youth in Fort Mill, SC. She is a member of the Defemse Advisory Committee on Women in the Service, and the author of No Coincidence, Reflections of the First Black Female Graduate of the United States Naval Academy (Lightening Press, 2018).

ADM Michele Howard (USN, ret.) (USNA ’82) was the first African-American woman to command a U.S. Navy ship (USS Rushmore), the first admiral selected from the class of 1982, the first female USNA grad to achieve flag rank, the first female to serve as a four-star Admiral, the first woman and first African American to serve as Vice Chief of Naval Operations, AND the first female four-star to command operational forces as Commander Naval Forces Europe and Naval Forces Africa (Note to self: NEVER compare myself to Admiral Howard). At her retirement in December 2017, Howard was appointed a J.B. and Maurice C. Shapiro Visiting Professor of International Affairs at George Washington University, where she teaches cyber security and international policy.

2nd Lt. Emily Jazmin Tatum Perez (USMA ’05) Was Command Sergeant Major at West Point, making her the highest ranking African American cadet in history at the time. A tireless advocate for those in need, Lt. Perez had already established an HIV/AIDS ministry at her home church, and trained as an HIV/AIDS counselor with the American Red Cross. She commissioned into the Army Medical Service Corps in 2005. In 2006, Lt. Perez was killed in the line of duty when an improvised explosive device detonated by her Humvee. She was the first female graduate of USMA to die in combat, and the first ever female African American officer to die in combat. Rest in peace and power, Lieutenant.

Natasha Sistruk Robinson (USNA ’02), Captain Tasya Lacy (USNA ’97), Dr. Tracey Nicole Hayes, (USNA ’92) and QuaWanna Reddick Bannarbie (USNA ’99) are founding Board Members of Leadership LINKS, founded in 2015 to educate and equip servant leaders who are committed to using their skills and resources for the greater good of humanity. Leadership LINKS’ flagship program is the Walk in Purpose Summer program for girls, which prepares rising 6th through 10th grade girls for innovation, executive leadership, and entrepreneurship. The organization also sponsors LINKS to college, Global Leadership Experiences Tours, and the LINKS mentoring program for 6th through 10th graders. Thank you ladies, for an amazing example of lifelong service!

The Women of the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion
This all African-American, all volunteer battalion in the Women’s Army Corps adhered to the motto “No Mail, low Moral.” Despite hostile treatment from male soldiers, the women of the Six Triple Eight created an effective tracking system, located thousands of individual service members, and processed and average of 65,000 pieces of mail per shift. A six month backlog of mail, stacked in a freezing warehouse in Birmingham, England, was cleared in three months. The 6888th then embarked for Rouen, France shortly after VE Day. Denied official military status, the Six Triple Eight was nonetheless the only all African American unit of women deployed overseas during World War II. A monument commemorating their service was dedicated in 2018. A bust of Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel Charity Adams, graces the monument in the Buffalo Soldiers Monuments Park in Ft. Leavenworth, KS.

Dear Sisters of 2020,

This week may mark the end of Service Selection as the Surface Warriors choose their ships, but it is the beginning of so much more for the Class of 2020. The Sisterhood of Mother B has been thinking about all of you as you prepare for graduation. Our letter from last year, “Dear SWO Sisters of 2019,” is bursting with advice for SWOs from the Sisters who have gone before you. This year, we wanted to add advice that applies to all warfare communities. Here are some words of wisdom from the Sisterhood 

Kim Do ‘17

First tour division officer! It is a title that strikes both excitement and fear. No other job in the Navy does that to someone. As they always say, first impressions are everything. When you get to the ship, whether it’s in the yards, on deployment or going through inspection, hit the deck plates running! Don’t be that

Ensign who wants to just get off all the time. You will have time for that later. Work on your qualifications. Develop a professional relationship with your chief. That is key. If your chief doesn’t trust you, work on that. Show him/her that you deserve their respect and trust. Show them through your work ethic, humility and the intellectual curiosity. Get to know your sailors. They have a perception about officers, especially junior ones just joining the fleet. Be approachable but don’t be too friendly and amicable to the point sailors think they’re your friend.

Kate McCreery Glynn ‘98

You’re heading to flight school! Some unsolicited advice from a former flight student/pilot/flight instructor (Editor’s note: some of these things apply to all newly commissioned officers):

  1. Don’t fixate on what you think you want to fly.  Work hard, pass your check-rides, see what happens.  Your grades matter, but the need of the service matters more, so setting your heart on one aircraft may = heartbreak.  No matter what you select, you will end up loving it, and snarling at anyone who disrespects your personal hunk of rust.
  2. Speaking of heartbreak:  If you’re single when you start flight school, stay single.  If you coupled, stay coupled.  You do NOT need drama and angst to complicate your life, and “I was up late crying over my breakup” is not an excuse for a sub-par brief. (Editor’s note: Kate met her husband at the dunker five weeks after starting flight school.)
  3. Your reputation follows you into the fleet.  Crappy, but true.  Aviation is a relatively small and reputation-obsessed community. If you screw over your wingman, show up late to everything, or ring-knock, it WILL bite you later. 
  4. DON’T FIGHT YOUR CALLSIGN.  The harder you fight it, the more it will stick, and I promise, at some point it will be a story to laugh about.  Side note:  any new check-in who claims there callsign is “viper” or “assassin” is full of it, and probably hiding a stinker of a nickname.
  5. Be a decent human.  Treat enlisted folks and contractors with respect.   They are the folks who work long, thankless, way-less-exciting-than-your-job hours to make your flying machine go.
  6. Don’t fall into the trap of dissing other women.   Aviation is pretty testosterone heavy.  Most of your squadron-mates will be dudes, and bravado and dirty jokes and macho swagger are a thing.  The collision warning system on an F/A-18 was called Bitching Betty.  One squadron on my first float was famous for printing nudes on the back of their briefing cards.  It is going to be easy to let it slide (heck, even join in) when guys trash a female instructor/student/maintainer, or comment on their looks.  Don’t.  Find your sisters, support each other, don’t take crap.  Yes, that one gal may be a hot mess, but trust me, there are dudes who are hotter messes that aren’t getting the same scrutiny. 

It sounds trite, but I really would do it all again.  You are embarking on the adventure of a lifetime!

Sarah Rice, ‘02

My ship selection story is probably unique; I earned a spot in an IGEP program and didn’t have to pick with the rest of my class. I did however purposefully service select conventional SWO (instead of nuclear, even as an engineering major) so that I could have more options for lateral transfer later in my career. 

I ended up in a hot-fill billet for my first SWO tour after just asking the detailer to get me from my grad school location to San Diego, and then followed up in another hot fill to stay in San Diego (there’s a pattern here), after which I then executed my Engineering Duty Officer option and did my ED qualification tour, and then a follow-on, both in San Diego (told you!).

The moral of my story: sometimes it’s also ok NOT to decide! I’ve had location as a priority for almost every decision I’ve made, and let the rest fall into place. There’s opportunity for growth in lots of places, so make sure to look for them and take advantage as much as you can. I’ve purposefully made decisions that would allow me to keep career doors open (so, again delaying any decision I couldn’t walk back from… can you tell I’m a Pisces?) because I really didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up (maybe still don’t), but I do know I’m happy where I am and what’s within the realm of the possible for what comes next. Your first ship won’t determine your last!


Silent Sister

USNA gave you four incredible years of camaraderie and good friends amongst your classmates, the classes in your company, sports, same majors, same sponsors. Now it’s time to build new relationships, friendships, and your “business” network. You’ll be meeting other classmates you never got to know at USNA. Make that camaraderie stronger! And, the folks you meet at your specialty schools will become your mentors/peers in your field.

 *Connect and stay connected. You’ll meet good friends from other commissioning programs, appreciate the diversity in education and leadership. Invite them to join your “service academy” circle.

*Listen to and learn from your Chief.
*Don’t let your qualifications
fall behind.
*Everyone you work with are PEOPLE. Human beings. They have stories behind them. Get to know them.

 Julie Vida ‘94

Fortunately Mids these days have women in the fleet to reach out to with questions so they can make an informed choice. We didn’t have that luxury in ’94 since many career fields opened up mere weeks before service selection. My advice is simple: reach out to women on ships, in squadrons, or whatever community they’re interested in to ask what the environment and jobs are like. LinkedIn is my favorite way to connect, but I would imagine anyone in [from the Sisterhood of Mother B and the USNA Women’s SIG] would be happy to connect through this FB group or others. So many young people don’t tap into the knowledge and experience of those who are there or have been there. They need to take ownership of their future and reach out.

 Katie Gerhard

Things I wish I had known: your Naval Academy graduation order determines your lineal number and how you promote to O-4 and beyond, so it does matter. Start a Thrift Savings Plan immediately, and when you deploy, sign up for the Saving Deposit Program. I always choose my orders based upon location – figure out what’s important to you (location, billet/job, family, etc.) and stick to your guns when talking to the detailer. If you don’t like the job you were dealt at USNA, the Navy is full of lateral transfer jobs- the Navy is your Oyster!

Jennifer Marino ‘98

If you got your first choice of community/specialty/MOS — congratulations! Go knock it out of the park and be the leader you’ve trained to be! If you did not get your top choice (or one of your top choices) in any way, whether that be duty station, type of ship, aviation billet or not, that’s okay! You can and will still have a great career and wonderful opportunities to learn and grow if you choose to embrace them. If that’s you, awesome! Go knock out of the park and be the leader you’ve trained to be! Focus on learning all you can, being a team player and a servant leader and you can’t go wrong.

Alison Hernandez ‘86

In the end, be able to look in the mirror and be able to say you did your best – at whatever job you are assigned. Also, remember at some point, everyone takes off the uniform. Your spouse and children are important.


As for me, I will offer the best advice I was ever given:

  1. Give your best effort, always. Then, remember that someday, the Navy or Marine Corps won’t select you for that job you wanted or the next promotion – except, maybe, for those of you who become the CNO, Commandant of the Marine Corps, or the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs (I know you are out there). When that happens, what will bring you comfort? For some of you, comfort comes from the knowledge that you did everything in your power to get that job – took all the right assignments, sacrificed where you could. For others, it will be the experiences you lived – the interesting duty stations, the challenging orders, the opportunity to be stationed close to family, the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. At various points along this journey, take the time to evaluate who you are and how your view has changed (or remained the same). If you do this, you might not get everything you want, but you will enjoy the journey.
  2. Bring others along on your road to success – study together; share information and opportunities; lead and mentor others. The most successful squadrons I worked in and the most successful officers I worked with and for competed by doing their best to lift the unit, their sailors, and their peers higher instead of undercutting others to highlight themselves.
  3. Use the knowledge and information from those who have gone before you. Seek mentors. They can help you find a path within your community, transfer to another community, navigate special programs or fellowships, and transition out of the military. Someone knows someone who can help with whatever you want to pursue.

As you head out to your first adventures as a Junior Officer, know the Sisterhood of Mother B is here to support you.  Those who have gone before you are just an email or DM away.

Standing by.
Go Navy,
Shannon McClain ‘98
and the Sisterhood of Mother B

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