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Air Force spouse opens up about advocating for own career

Teacher Anna Grimm with her stepdaughter, Emma, and husband, Air Force Master Sgt. Jeremiah Madden. Photo credit: Terri Beloit Photography

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Although Anna Grimm grew up in Washington state, falling in love with her husband Jeremiah Madden, a master sergeant in the Air Force, has taken her around the world and back during the past seven years.

"When we met, I was working in Seattle, and he was stationed in Hawaii.  I moved there to be with him, and then we got orders to Ramstein, Germany," Grimm recalled.

Although she had been a substitute teacher and taught a school pilot program after earning her degree at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, gaining further experience in school settings as the couple moved proved to be tricky.

Grimm was originally frustrated with the only open position she was able to find at Ramstein. "My first year there, I worked in lodging in customer service. I didn't love it, but after about a year, I was able to get a job with the school-aged program," she said. "When we moved from Germany to Ohio, I thought I would just be able to transfer to working at the base childcare there.  I didn't do a lot of research beforehand, and I assumed it would all work out."

That move taught her the importance of researching your next duty station well before the move to prepare for the challenges ahead.

"I would encourage spouses to do their own research beforehand and find out everything they can about the area.  Networking with other spouses through Facebook groups at your new base can be incredibly helpful," Grimm added.  "You can ask the group opinions about communities, where you want to live (and) schools. I've found that to be extremely helpful."

When the couple received orders for Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Grimm got to work looking for a new position and was hired as a third grade teacher at Pope Elementary in Puyallup. She begins this September.  

"Throughout all of our moves, I was always sure to keep my certificate for teaching in Washington valid because I knew that one day I was coming back here," she said. "I didn't know when, but it was a deal my husband and I made.  Even if I had to wait ten more years until he retired, this was where I wanted to go."

Grimm credits her husband for his support of her goals and recommends that spouses make it a priority to speak up and be honest about what they want for their own careers. Although this can be challenging in a military marriage, where the active-duty spouse may have little choice and say about where the family gets stationed, having an end goal in mind is beneficial for everyone involved.

"It's an ever-evolving conversation," Grimm admitted.

Each PCS changes the situation, and she has had to adapt. But her husband continues to be her biggest supporter.

"When I have those days when I just don't think I can do it anymore, he's right there telling me ‘yes you can, just keep going,'" she said. "Everybody has that one person that they can lean on.  It might be your friend or sister, but whoever it is, be sure to check in with them when you need that extra motivation, that extra push."

Grimm believes that surrounding yourself with supportive people and having your own career goals in mind can help military spouses succeed.

"I've found that I have to advocate for myself, not to the point of being selfish, but when it comes to my career, it's important," she said. "I wanted to make my own money.  When I come home at night, I want to have something to talk about, tell my husband how my day went."

Grimm recommends keeping those open conversations going rather than keeping career aspirations or challenges to yourself.  

"Don't keep it in to the point where you've thought about it and thought about it, never saying anything, and then it turns into an issue," she said. "It's not his fault if you haven't brought it up. Just keep communicating."

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