"When I joined the Marine Corps at 18, I wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted to do with my life. It’s next to impossible at 18 to even imagine being 35 or 40, let alone know what it is you want to do be doing at 35 or 40. That’s where the Corps came in.
Toward the end of boot camp, when we received our job specialties, I was assigned to public affairs. As anyone who has ever seen the movie Full Metal Jacket can tell you, my response to said assignment was less than enthusiastic. I didn’t really know what public affairs entailed, but I sure as heck knew that it wasn’t exactly the down and dirty, rough and tumble role I’d had in mind for myself when I signed four years over to Uncle Sam. But, if the Marine Corps had wanted me to have an opinion, it would have issued me one, so I graduated from boot camp and shipped off to basic public affairs school.
Eight months later, I had two job specialties—print journalist and broadcast journalist. When I graduated from basic broadcast school, Adrian Cronauer (the very popular but totally crazy DJ played by Robin Williams in the movie Good Morning Vietnam) attended and took the time to speak with us. I didn’t say much during the conversation, and I remember him asking me as I was leaving what I thought about heading off to work as a broadcaster. I admitted that I didn’t think I was going to get to “do what Marines do”. He just looked at me and laughed. Loudly. For a long time. I could only stand there, growing ever more beet-faced. I still wasn’t really sure who Adrian Cronauer was or why he was held in such reverence, but given the glowering of my Master Gunnery Sergeant (a supremely intimidating individual), it was fairly obvious that I had made an enormous social gaffe. At which point, Mr. Cronauer assured me that I would get to “do what Marines do” because “Marines always find a way to get into trouble.” At the time, I didn’t really know what he meant, but it seemed prudent to smartly say, “Yes, sir!” and leave it at that—before Master Gun’s head spontaneously combusted and I became unfortunate collateral damage. Eventually, though, I understood.
Much to the dismay of his command, Adrian Cronauer was known for being irreverent. Extremely, unrepentantly irreverent. However, he was also wildly popular with the troops in Vietnam who depended on Cronaur’s off-kilter brand of humor just to get through the day. Adrian Cronauer believed that being funny and irreverent was simply doing what DJs do. He found a way to do it, and I would find a way to do what Marines do.
When I left for my first duty station in Okinawa, I still had no clue whatsoever the doors that being in public affairs would open for me. Over the next four years, I was able to travel all over the Far East and do an awful lot of very cool things (read: getting dirty and blowing things up)—all under the aegis of writing stories for various base newspapers and military publications. After four years, I decided that I still really wanted to do something different, so I changed jobs and moved into communications, but not the communications I had been doing. I spent the next four years working as a radio operator, spending a lot of time in the field and getting very dirty in the process (oh, and occasionally blowing things up). You know, just generally doing what Marines do.
After eight years in the Corps, it was time to finish my education. I got out and, using the GI Bill, went and got myself a truly useful bachelor’s degree in archaeology. Yes, you read that right. Archaeology. While I love it and always will, it definitely didn't take me very long to discover that you can love your job all you want, but that doesn't pay the bills. Not wanting to spend my life eating ramen, I left the shovelbum lifestyle and went back into public relations.
I spent some time in north Florida at a large fire department, worked on my masters in natural resources communications at the University of Florida (Go Gators!), and finally landed a public affairs job with the BLM in Utah. I had been actively searching for a public affairs position with the BLM for several years at that point, and it was a relief to discover that an agency like the BLM really could use a former Marine with an ever-so-useful degree in historical archaeology.
Aside from the fact that handling public affairs for the for the Utah State Office oil and gas program in Salt Lake was a great professional experience, coming to work for the BLM also afforded me opportunities to spend several winters on ski patrol in the Park City area and to really get out and enjoy some of the most spectacular land our country has to offer. I’m a southern girl at heart and being in north Florida was going home, but spending time in Utah, Colorado, and Wyoming was like nothing I had ever seen or done before. Without the BLM, I would not have had those opportunities. Period.
Recently, I moved from Salt Lake to Virginia for a position in the Washington Office public affairs shop. Although the faces are new, I can honestly say that I love what I do and the people I work with every bit as much as I did in Utah. I know it’s a horribly cliché statement, but I really do have much to be thankful for and the fact that the BLM took a chance on a vet with an eclectic background is at the top of the list.
Needless to say, looking back on my writing and public relations experiences in the Marine Corps, I just have to laugh. At 18, I was absolutely, positively certain that public affairs was not the career path for me. Apparently, Uncle Sam and the United States Marine Corps felt differently. Funny thing that. Turns out they were absolutely right, and here I am many years later truly enjoying my work in public affairs. If not for the Corps I wouldn’t be where I am today. Once a Marine, always a Marine. Semper Fi!"