I’m a proud and passionate veteran of the United States Air Force, and I’m proud to continue my service to the country as an employee at Ingalls Shipbuilding, a division of Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII). Working at Ingalls allows me to demonstrate every day the core values I learned and lived in the Air Force for eight years: “Integrity first,” “Service before self” and, most of all, “Excellence in all we do.” I’m sharing my story on Veterans Day with the hope that more young Americans will consider serving in the military and that more Gulf Coast companies will follow HII’s lead and hire veterans.
I grew up in Dallas and started college at Prairie View A&M University, but that was not the path that was destined for me. My older brother had joined the Army right out of high school; I enlisted in Air Force on Dec. 9, 1999. I trained as an emergency medical technician (EMT) and spent my entire military career at Keesler Air Force Base. I met my husband there, and we had two kids while we were still on active duty.
Ingalls hired my husband as a safety engineer in March 2010; he loves his job. In December 2011, he told me there was an open position in the hospital that I might be interested in. It sounded like something I would want to do, so I applied, went in for an interview and got the job. My medical experience was important, and I had used the GI bill to finish my degree, but I have no doubt that my military duty was the deciding factor in my getting hired.
This is the only medical center we have at Ingalls for 10,000 employees. When they come into the hospital, I’m the first person they see. The skills that I learned in the military—staying calm, making sure everything is done right and in order—they allow me to perform my job well here.
When I drove through the gate on my first day of work, I knew that I was a shipbuilder, and I knew that everything I do would somehow affect the way that our ships are being built. I’m not out there welding or pipefitting, but I’m part of the shipbuilding team, and I’m taking care of those men and women that are doing that. I want to make sure I give them the best service that I can so they can give us the best service that they can. I’m a little small piece of a very large puzzle, but I know that what I do, if I didn’t do it, then the puzzle would not be complete.
My advice now when I run into seniors in high school who are unsure what they want to do when they graduate: I tell them to go into the military. If it had not been for the military, I would probably still be on a journey of, “Who am I? What am I doing? What am I supposed to be doing?” To me, the military gives you a clear picture, a clear vision of what you should do.
Today, I salute my fellow veterans, including more than 6,000 who continue to serve our nation by working for HII. I also encourage other Gulf Coast companies to follow HII’s lead and hire more veterans. We have been trained by the best military in the world, and the skills and experience we bring to the job are unmatched. Our mindset is that there is nothing that we cannot accomplish; we can learn to do anything and excel at it.