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Real Spouse Employment: Station Manager for American Red Cross

Navy wife Jennifer Cole (left) poses with her American Red Cross team at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait. Photo courtesy American Red Cross
Navy wife Jennifer Cole (left) poses with her American Red Cross team at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait. Photo courtesy American Red Cross

"The door that nobody else will go in at, seems always to swing open widely for me," wrote Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross. Those same doors swing open widely for the special people who serve as station managers for the American Red Cross all over the world.

Navy wife Jennifer Cole is one of those people.

Jennifer didn't plan to become a station manager. She was living in Japan with her husband while he was stationed on the USS George Washington. She had been volunteering at the local Red Cross for just a month when a new job as a station manager came available at Camp Arifjan -- 5,000 miles away in Kuwait. She jumped at the chance.

We caught up with her recently to find out about her Real Spouse Employment:

What is a typical workday for you?

A typical workday for me is getting emergency messages out to the commands/units for our service members in all of the Middle East. 

I also support the troops with helping them reach their goals, whether it is helping them accomplish their goal in receiving their volunteer medal or just advising them, pointing them in the right direction.

I work with service members while they are away from their loved ones and they tend to come to the Red Cross to pass time by utilizing our lounge to watch movies, volunteer, or to visit. 
If you went to college, what was your major? Are you using it?

I majored in Aviation, Management Studies, and went to nursing school. I am utilizing the skills I had acquired from nursing school and also by my management certification. 

If you could send a text message to your younger self that would improve your life, what would it be?

Honestly, I would have told my younger self to go to college to become a clinical psychologist. 

How has being married to a service member impacted your own career? How did you get around that?

The big thing about being married to a service member for 21 years (the entire time he has been in the service we have been married) was that it prepared me to understand what service members go through while deployed and also when they are transitioning back into their lives at home with their families. 

Not only am I a wife of a service member, but I was also a military child for 20 years, so I also understand what the children are going through at home. 

By understanding what the entire family is going through helps me help service members and their families whenever they walk into my office for assistance.
How does your service member support your career?

Just by him being proud of what I do to help service members and their families is how I feel that he supports me. He thanks me every day for that. 

 What is the biggest career mistake you made?

The biggest career mistake that I tend to make is that sometimes I settle for a job that I do not enjoy. Being a military spouse, we travel to various duty stations every 2-3 years. We are a two income family, so sometimes I just have to take what I can get. I do, however, make decent money in the medical field, but my heart is helping service members and their families.

What is the one strength you use on the job every day?

I am able to use my compassion for the military every single day at work, that's what makes me feel good at the end of every day.

What was the best compliment you ever received?

The compliments that I get are the many "thank yous" I get from service members and their families, especially being deployed over here in Kuwait, the troops are thanking me everyday for being here for them.
What was the hardest lesson you needed to learn about work?

Don't get too involved in casework.

What keeps you working?

Knowing that the people who sacrifice themselves and their family are being taken care of by the American Red Cross.

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Jacey Eckhart is the former Director of Spouse and Family Programs at and a military sociologist.  Since 1996, Eckhart’s take on military families has been featured in her syndicated column, her book The Homefront Club, and her award winning CDs These Boots and I Married a Spartan??

Most recently she has been featured as a military family subject matter expert on NBC Dateline, CBS morning news, CNN, NPR and the New York Times.  Eckhart is an Air Force brat, a Navy wife and an Army mom.  

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