NDILC Member Erica Courtney Appointed to Commission on the Status of Women & Girls

NAWRB is proud to announce that NDILC Member Erica Courtney, President of 2020vet and Zulu Time, U.S. Army Aviation Major, NATO Gender Advisor, has been appointed to the Commission on the Status of Women & Girls by California Governor Gavin Newsom. Learn more about Erica and her accomplishments at the link!

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Life of a Female Veteran: U.S. Army Combat Pilot Veteran Erica Courtney (part 5 of 6)

It had been some years now since I got out of active duty. I had ‘transitioned.’ However, it was obvious to me that my veteran community was suffering and struggling to adapt to this new world on the outside. As I travelled the country on business, I would frequently end up sitting next to veterans on a plane. Once the veteran connection was established, when they could get past my gender and realize I was in the fight alongside them, they would offload their personal stories. Many had never shared these things with their own families. I would listen and advise if possible. 

After years of this, it became apparent that something wasn’t working. Why was I constantly being bombarded with this heavy stuff? I tried ignoring it but then started dissecting the events. Veterans want to talk to veterans— not white coats, not federally-funded programs stemming around entrepreneurship where they handle hundreds of people led by a non-business owner, and not corporate America attempting to give them a job. They wanted connections with people who understood them. Perhaps being a female was also non-threatening and these guys could be vulnerable? 
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Life of a Female Veteran: U.S. Army Combat Veteran Erica Courtney (Part 4 of 6)

With my EMBA close to completion, I was offered a senior level job at a logistics company in Miami. They needed me to lead and grow the government market. Even though I kicked and screamed about being pigeon-holed in logistics and contracting, it sure was a marketable skill. I used to buy everything, from BBQs and sunglasses to furniture and aircraft armor. I worked with the contracting officers and comptrollers who handle the big budgets routinely when I had to equip my units in the U.S. or abroad. Now companies wanted to know how to get to the person I used to be.

It was obvious people had no clue how to deal with federal buyers. I could build a section and plan out their approach. Sure, sign me up. I will take the job. For the first time, I had to think about what I was going to wear. It had been uniforms day in and day out forever. Not a big shopper, I found outfits on mannequins that looked good and showed up early, because if you are not early in the Army you are late. 

No one was there when I got there. The boss pulled up, happy to see me and said I was looking sharp. I thought nothing of it. I had to be very guarded; you never give off signals in the Army. My boundaries were disciplined. In Miami, flirtatiousness abounded. I wanted to be taken seriously and flirting would have destroyed that. I worked hard and the boss loved me, but I was in my own bubble. No one knew what I was doing or had any idea about government. I was not connecting with the workers. It was not a good fit. 

I left after a year. Corporate America was not my thing. However, during this time, Oprah and The White House Project named me, along with 50 other women around the country, a woman with the background and drive to change the world. We were all sponsored and flown to New York to collaborate with community, government and private leaders who inspired me to continue to serve. 

Degree in hand, I decided to go it alone. My family was now moving to Jacksonville, Florida. The need for government business development was there. I researched the market and found many unqualified people charging a fortune to break into this space. People just don’t know what they don’t know. You can’t just jump in. You have to understand the buyer’s language. I knew within 30 seconds if I would work with a vendor or not while serving. Why not prepare people correctly, especially if they were willing to pay for my expertise?
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Women Veterans: The Challenges They Face & a Way Forward

Although not officially recognized as members of the armed forces until 1901, the involvement of women in the military dates back to the Revolutionary War.

Each year, the population of women veterans grows steadily due, in part, to the increasing number and proportion of women entering and leaving military service. Most women veterans possess those traits that are valued in military service and beyond: steady nerves, sound judgment, courage, tenacity, patriotism, and sacrifice. The question is, how much should we as a nation allow them to sacrifice once they leave the military? Do we adhere to what President Lincoln said so many years ago? With the words, “To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan,” President Lincoln affirmed the government’s obligation to care for those who serve. Clearly he wasn’t expecting to add women to his speech but here we are, serving right beside our male brethren as a force multiplier adding value in ways never expected.

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Life of a Female Veteran: U.S. Army Combat Veteran Erica Courtney

I am proudly part of the 1.4 percent of American women who served in the military. The day I signed the paperwork to join as a teenager the Gulf War kicked off and I watched tanks fire through the night on TV thinking, “What in the world did I do?” Having grown up in surf city USA (Huntington Beach, CA), I was never exposed to the military. To emphasize this point, the first time I walked into an Army recruiting office I had sand in my hair and sun-kissed skin; I was with a friend of mine and said, “Hi, I am thinking about joining the Marines,” not even understanding the difference in services. The recruiter took a few looks at us, confused, and had to be thinking, “Sucker!” Having always been athletic and adventurous, I thought why not. I would rather try something and hate it than wonder what it would have been like. College was a bore and I was ready for the unknown.

“Get off the bus, you maggots!” Welcome to Military Police Basic Training. What was wrong with these people? Why so much yelling? Okay, bag in hand off the bus I went into the barracks. This is actually where Hollywood gets it right. There’s lots of yelling, climbing, learning, bonding and trying to stay under the radar. Except, I learned early on that was pretty hard for me. I was a runner breaking six-minute miles, and one particular drill sergeant could not stand that there was a female in his fast group and did whatever he could to break me. He was an infantry man where they did not work with women. There were many days of unnecessary hazing to the point he was counseled by the officers. He tried to make me cry, but failed. Many more attempts would follow. I learned early, never let them see you sweat and there is no crying in uniform.

Congratulations. First assignment, Germany. Away from everything I knew. I showed up and was nicknamed Private Benjamin. I was tasked with 12 to 15-hour patrol days and nights responsible for enforcing the Post Commander’s rules and regulations. I was 19 carrying a side arm and had authority most 19-year-olds couldn’t fathom. For any accident that involved an American within 200 miles I would drive out in my VW van with no heater and a blanket draped over me. I’d get out, wipe snow off signs, and arrive to some horrific scenes thanks to the autobahn and no speed limits. The Polezi refused to show up so I had to handle the situations; my first taste of being a first responder and having to show calm and exude control of situations. Our wartime mission dealt with POWs, security and convoy assistance. As the lowest ranking, I got assigned an M60 machine gun then a SAW and had to sleep with this metal thing in my sleeping bag. I was so cold at times I could barely get my fingers to work to shoot, but it’s amazing how warm it gets once in use. After winning over my superiors they assigned me to work with the Criminal Investigation Division infiltrating drug rings and other rackets. This was not my thing. I had a hard time lying about my identity and it did not help that I never touched drugs so I was very uncomfortable. They needed females but I could be put to use better somewhere else.

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