The Story of One Mom’s Military Service


veterans day

Growing up, my father was an active duty Air Force pilot. My family moved every 2 to 3 years and it was a grand adventure. I loved to visit my dad at work and learn about the places we visited. 

When I was young we lived outside of Washington DC and toured all the museums, monuments and nearby battlefields. We were stationed in Germany during Desert Storm and the fall of the Berlin Wall and it gave me an appreciation for the military’s role in history. Two assignments in Florida near Kennedy Space Center opened my eyes and imagination to space exploration. An assignment in between to Nellis AFB, NV meant several opportunities to see the USAF Thunderbirds demonstration team.

My grandfather served in the Coast Guard in WWII and my grandmother had a wall of what seemed like dozens of our ancestors in their uniforms through various conflicts. I was proud of this heritage but wasn’t entirely sure about how I as a woman would fit into the military.

Joining the Military

I had always heard my father’s stories about his alma mater, the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. But when he had attended in the 1970s, there weren’t any female cadets. We visited the campus when I was in 8th grade and I fell in love with the mountains and the school. The “all-in” nature appealed to me: a full course load, military training, athletics. The price tag – free – didn’t hurt, either.

The Academy has multiple programs designed to help cadets decide on their ideal career field. Through becoming a glider instructor pilot and visiting multiple bases I found that I had a love of aviation and was determined to become a pilot. Not just any pilot—a fighter pilot.

The thought of defending our country and neutralizing our enemies in a fast jet was almost beyond my wildest dreams. To me, this was the place I could challenge myself and make the biggest impact for our nation.

The journey to becoming an F-16 pilot was extremely challenging. After years of hard work, I was finally qualified. The days and weeks were long, but I loved it.

A fighter squadron is a family that knows how to work hard and have a lot of fun together too. I absolutely loved training to get better at our missions and supporting the ground troops downrange on our deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. Traveling the world was a huge perk too.

For years I thought that when I had kids my pilot husband and I would hire a nanny and we would continue climbing the ranks. But as the months went by in my pregnancy with my daughter, I started to feel like God had other plans for me. Assignments together weren’t guaranteed and our work hours were long. Plus unpredictable trips and months-long deployments were inevitable. 

Becoming a Mom

With a bit of a conflicted heart, I separated from Active Duty when my maternity leave ended, just over ten years after I graduated pilot training. A few months later we moved to a base near Fairbanks, Alaska.

From day one with my daughter I learned that in all the hard things I had lived through, and all the demanding jobs I’ve had, NOTHING came close to the task of being responsible for this little life.

Motherhood has stretched me mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually! It is such a joy to raise a child, but my type-A self really had to adjust to stay-at-home life. I preferred to have set tasks and missions to prepare for, fly, and debrief. I didn’t appreciate my negative feedback coming in the form of newborn cries, and it took a few months before my work was finally rewarded with a genuine smile. 

In the years we spent in Alaska I gained a true appreciation for the life of a military wife. Our neighbors and fellow spouses became like family. We had birthday parties for our toddlers in the long winter months while our husbands were deployed to sunnier locales. We picked groceries up in town for each other, cooked potluck dinners, organized a babysitting co-op, and had regular play dates, a base MOPS chapter, wine club, and coffee. When I managed to break my foot one -50 degree morning, one neighbor watched my toddler while another drive me to the hospital and held my baby when I couldn’t. I’m so thankful I got to be a part of that close-knit community.

Robin familyJoining the Reserves

I will readily admit that while I wanted to devote myself to full-time motherhood, I knew a professional outlet would be excellent for my mental health. I learned about the Admissions Liaison Program shortly after arriving in Alaska from my neighbor who also had a new baby. This would give me the opportunity to share the USAF opportunity with young people, mentor and evaluate them as they apply for an appointment to the Academy, and continue to earn retirement points, all while staying home with my daughter. It took several years, but finally, I was able to join the program first as a civilian volunteer and then through the participating Reserves.

We moved to Iowa in 2017 when my husband left Active Duty, now with a second daughter in tow. It was wonderful to seamlessly stay involved on the road and at our new home. Here in Des Moines, I attend STEM events as well as information nights at high schools and with local Senators and Representatives to hopefully inspire the next generation of military officers and pilots. Meeting talented young people with the desire to serve is such an encouragement to me.

About a year ago I also joined the Iowa Air National Guard. It has been amazing to use some of my pilot skills one weekend a month and allow my girls to see their mom serving on a regular basis. I remember feeling a bit sad my kids would never be able to tell their classmates about their “pilot mom” but now they can! Even though I only fly planes virtually these days, I think female representation in aviation makes such a difference for young people considering that career field.

Sharing My Service

My girls are directly benefiting from my service through my GI Bill that will pay for their college education someday, but I hope the intangible benefits of showing them what it is to serve will stick with them the longest. Sometimes we have issues securing childcare, or I’ve missed an event, and it is strange sometimes to have conversations with my young kids about wars and being a combat pilot. I hope we are able to instill in them a sense of national pride and an understanding of the sacrifices that soldiers and their families make for our freedom. Selfishly, I’m glad that they are able to see me as more than just their mom, but I hope they know that being their mom is my most important and treasured job.

Robin is a (mostly) SAHM to 2 very fancy elementary-aged girls. She works part-time in the Iowa Air National Guard as a Fighter Pilot SME training battle managers. She also consults as a speaker for Afterburner teaching organizations to accelerate their performance using military techniques. Robin spends her free time as a fitness and nutrition coach helping families improve their health in a God-honoring way. She is an amateur gardener and food preserver and tries to relive her world-traveling days through food.veteran's day


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