Other Featured Profiles in the Job Family
Air Crew Member - Edward Barkley
Air Traffic Controller - David Martinez
Aircraft Launch and Recovery Specialist - James DiMarco
Helicopter Pilot - Mark Vanous
Airplane Pilots - Gabriel Briscoe

Featured Profile for Pilot

Jessica Wright

Joining the military wasn’t really a part of my plan or a long range goal. I graduated from college with a bachelor’s degree in social work in 1974 and the economy and the job market were very bad. I needed something to do. I needed a job.

At the urging and direction of my Dad, I decided to give the military a try. I started out as a private in the Women’s Army Corps (WAC.) I didn’t have any intention of staying in the service beyond my initial enlistment. At that time, there were few military occupational specialties open to women. The jobs were what society traditionally classified as women’s work; e.g., nursing or administration. I chose the administrative route.

Congress disestablished the WAC as a separate Corps of the Army in 1978. Women began competing with men for promotion and assignment. I was a Pennsylvania Army National Guard member. Guard soldiers are obligated to serve one weekend a month, and 2 weeks a year job, but there is a small group within each state that keeps things running day- in and day-out. I applied for and was accepted as a full-time Guardsman for most of my military career.

When I first joined the National Guard, Aviation wasn’t a career option for reservists or women. Once this career field was opened to the reserve component, I volunteered -- mainly because I wanted to do something different. I attended flight school at Fort Rucker, Alabama and became the first female aviator in the Army National Guard. My aviator wings gave me hard-earned credibility and I continued to advance in my military career.

Civilian education is also important so in addition to my military training, I went on to get my Master’s in management. My last military assignment before retiring as a Major General in 2010 was the Adjutant General of Pennsylvania and commander of the Pennsylvania National Guard.

I’ve always believed that the key to success is doing the best you can do in your current job. People remember that and take notice of your leadership and work ethic. It might not be right away, but they will remember the work you did and call you later to join their team. I’ve seen this time and again throughout my career and it happened to me after I retired from uniformed service. I began my civilian career in the Office of the Secretary of Defense as a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, before moving up to serve as the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs and now in my current position as Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness.

I would absolutely recommend serving in today’s military. Granted it is not for everyone. Everything you do in the military prepares you for what comes next in life. You are trained to be responsible for your work and for the people you work with and everything that comes with them. You learn to be organized and how to juggle competing demands. You learn how to be a leader and that there are consequences for everything you do and don’t do. From the very beginning, you learn to handle stress by being working through tough, challenging situations.

I never thought I’d have a career in the military. I always told myself that I would get out when it stopped being fun and challenging. The opportunities keep presenting themselves and it is still fun and challenging, and here I am.

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