Susan is someone who knows how to work hard, but balances it all with simplicity, having fun and playing hard. She was the only girl of six children, growing up in a military family and always working the family orange grove in Florida. Fascinated by the early television show, Quincy, and the use of chemicals on the farm, Susan’s goal was to be a forensic scientist.
She intended to pursue her interest in forensic science, but since money was limited, she went on active duty in April 1986 as a means to reach her professional goals while giving back to the country. Her first assignment was as a Chemical Corps Officer at Fort Eustis, Virginia. The experience was meaningful, introducing her to a career path that excited her. In the early 90s, she was deployed to Desert Storm and her fascination changed from chemical protection to transportation and logistics. With this new discovery, Susan chose to make the military her career.
With her new-found focus, Susan’s education included the Chemical Officer Basic Course, Transportation Officer Advanced Course, Combined Arms and Services Staff School, the Air Command and Staff College, Support Operations Course, Phase II, and the Navy War College, in addition to additional degrees, honors and decorations.
While in pursuit of our goals, life steps in and stirs up our plans. Susan knows this well and encourages others who face similar challenges to not back down, but to take charge and keep working toward what matters. In the midst of acquiring her education, Susan married and was immediately deployed for a year. When she returned, her husband was deployed for three years. The situation was tough for the young family, now with two children. Susan and her husband decided it would be best to amicably divorce, immediately making her a single parent. Her career focus further intensified in order to provide for her family.
But like all worthwhile pursuits, her plans didn’t come easy. Motivated by her mother’s words of wisdom, “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right,” Susan made it her philosophy to put the time and energy into whatever it takes to reach her goals and support her family.
“It takes a lot of multitasking!” Susan admits. “Being a parent is the greatest challenge. It requires focus, a positive attitude and attention to detail.”
It’s easy to get overwhelmed but Susan coped by approaching life with a positive attitude, but by also stepping away from herself when she starts to feel overwhelmed. “We all have the choice to dwell on the bad or emphasize the good in everything. Positive action comes from positive thoughts.”
One such experience occurred in 2007, as Susan prepared for deployment for another year. She had six options for childcare but they all fell through days before her departure. While the situation appeared dire, she went out for a walk. She also met with a friend to express her concerns. “I just needed to talk to clear my mind,” Susan recalls. Soon after, she received a call from the mother of another friend, a retired nurse who was looking for a new opportunity. “Living in Hawaii helped solidify her choice,” laughs Susan, “but help comes from amazing places when you open yourself up to it.”
Her other modes of coping, self-reflecting and relaxing include sewing, cooking, waterskiing and other forms of outdoor activities. “Seek out the activities that relax you and allow your brain to catch up. Those are the moments when you can refocus and solutions present themselves.”
Susan finds great motivation from her children, her new husband, family, and the Army, but she also recognizes that obstacles can get in the way. Susan’s advice for women dealing with their own obstacles is to understand that anything they want to do is possible and to not let anyone put you in a corner with ‘you can’t do that’.
“My generation has experienced the changing attitudes and influence of women in the workplace. The challenge for women is identifying what we want to do then making a goal to accomplish it.” She adds, “You can’t reach a goal if you don’t set one.”
Susan’s early days in college and the military helped her keep her life in order. In addition to her mother’s wisdom and her own experiences, Susan adopted the philosophy of keeping life simple, help others and let others help her, focus on what you want to do, have fun, and do it right. She approaches each new day with enthusiasm and plans to go as far as the Army, life and her desires allow her. Carrying the rank of Major General, Susan’s most recent accomplishment was accepting command of Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command in June of 2014 at Scott Air Force Base.
Susan has not lacked for the support she needed to become who she is. Susan is grateful to friends, family and the Army for all their support. For those who struggle to find support, Susan suggests, “Tell your story. Let everyone know your goals, your plan and your process.” Susan admits it’s difficult to ask for help but, “If you let others know you need help, ask them to embrace and support your actions, and they will be there to help you.”
Susan never expected the military to become her career, but it fell into place for her. She had attended the New Mexico Military Institute as a stepping stone toward a career in Forensic Science. For readers uncertain where their future lies or are looking for direction in life, Susan recommends the military for self-reflection, growth and giving back to the nation. “Boot camp is intimidating on purpose, but the training helps to teach you who you are and what you want. It helps you find your niche in life and is forever supportive. It’s a great place to get your head on straight.”
Susan speaks highly of the Army and is honored to be a Soldier for life. Though her heart beats for the Army, she states that any branch of military will get more out of you than you thought possible. It’s the journey to be ready for anything you want to be.
She hopes her story motivates readers to pursue their unknown potential and to become the best they can be. “We don’t always have a vote in what happens for us, but we have the power to take action.”