GRAFENWOEHR, Germany – It's not every day you find two young women in vastly different life situations embark on an adventure together in a predominantly male organization. Rarer still, is when a mother with a prolific professional background in international security and her daughter, a recent high school graduate, both decide to capitalize on major life changes and pursue careers in the U.S. Army.
Currently, Janet Godwin and her daughter Tatiana Zolman are both sergeants stationed in Grafenwoehr, Germany. They are originally from Colombia and only lived one year in the United States before deciding to join the U.S. military in early 2009. They enlisted only one week apart.
Godwin is serving with the 15th Engineer Battalion's Forward Support Company, and her daughter is assigned to 4th Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment.
Godwin, 41 at the time of her enlistment, was restless after a year of transition and yearned for travel and action. Her current husband had previously served as a captain in the U.S. Army, but her main inspiration for joining was the admiration she developed for the military while working for the U.S. embassy in Bogota, Colombia, she said.
"I saw the professionalism of the Army, the Air Force, the Navy," said Godwin, adding "I wanted to join because they told me stories about going here and there, doing this, traveling around the world … and I thought that is pretty interesting."
Zolman studied at a military school in Colombia before completing her high school degree in the United States. Like many 18-year-olds, Zolman struggled with the prospect of financing college and wanted a more promising career trajectory. She also cited her father's work as a former lieutenant in the Colombian army as a major influence on her decision to enlist.
Neither Zolman nor Godwin has experienced any impediments toward growth and development as females in the Army. Driven by her stepfather's airborne service and determined to be successful, Zolman is an airborne Soldier and considers officer school a possible future pursuit.
"My stepdad was in the American military. He was airborne. And I thought, I can be airborne, too," Zolman said.
On her experiences as an older female Soldier, Godwin explains that she has received nothing but respect. With a PT score of 366 from basic training, Godwin rivals many of her male counterparts.
"I am very professional at work. I've received respect, because I give respect to everyone," Godwin said.
Although they shared duty stations for basic training and the Army's advanced individual training, their military paths have not crossed until now.
Godwin was previously stationed on Fort Carson, Colorado, the launch pad for her one-year deployment to Afghanistan. Her daughter, who arrived here in January after five years on Fort Bragg, North Carolina, coincidentally received orders to Grafenwoehr.
"I was originally going to Italy, but when they cut my orders, they said Graf [Grafenwoehr]," Zolman said. "I knew my mom was here, so it was much better. And now we just live a block away from each other."
"Same neighborhood," Godwin beams. "I get to see my grandson."