Female student veteran gives perspective
It’s not often that you hear from the women in the military.
But for veteran Jena Pass, being in the military was an experience that allowed her to travel, earn money for college, meet her husband and most importantly, learn about herself.
Pass, 30, is a management major originally from Milleville, Pa. She joined the U.S. Navy on Oct. 4, 1995, when she was 18 years old, and eventually reached the rank of second class petty officer.
“I joined because I didn’t really know what I wanted to do,” Pass said. “I knew I didn’t want to stay in a small town. I mean, I graduated with 52 people. I wanted out.”
Pass said her family was supportive, especially her father. Her dad was a water and sewer maintenance supervisor, and her job in the Navy was working as a plumber utilitiesman. She worked with plumbing, heating, air conditioning and water treatments.
Because of her job, Pass was sent to a construction battalion during boot camp. She was not considered part of the “regular” navy.
When Pass was stationed the Sheppard Air Force base in Wichita Falls, Texas, she learned the basic plumbing skills for her job. Afterwards, she was stationed in Port Hueneme in California. She would be stationed at “home port,” and then go on deployment for seven months.
Pass’s two main deployment sites were in Spain and Guam, but she also traveled to different sites, such as Taiwan.
“We were basically contractors – we took bids for buildings and worked on them, things like that,” Pass said. “But we also helped out a lot of different places when they needed it. When we were in Guam, there was a huge typhoon. We stopped our projects and helped clean up the island, rebuild power generators, wash facilities and other things.”
Pass said there were times when she was deployed in the middle of tense situations. During the conflict in Bosnia, Pass built war-permanent housing for the army.
“We built them because the army was basically living in tents,” she said. “(The housing) has a basic life of five years, and they’re insulated. It feels warm, like a regular living space instead of a cold tent.”
Pass said she liked the traveling aspect of the Navy, even during the stressful times.
“It was nice because you were very close to the people you worked with,” she said. “Bosnia was stressful, because of that whole situation, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as the situation is in Iraq now . I don’t know if I was ever scared, as much as I was concerned. But I was never put in a situation where I felt I had to shoot somebody, or they were going to shoot me.”
But Pass said she was lucky because she was discharged from the Navy before President Bush came into office.
During her time in the Navy, Pass met the man who would become her husband. She said they met in July of her first year in the military, while he worked as a builder for the Navy. The first time they met, she said they were playing poker for the first time.
“I took him for ten bucks, and I won!” she said.
They dated for three years, and even celebrated her 19th birthday on a beach in Spain. They were married in July of 1999, and have been married for nine years.
In January of 2000, Pass was honorably discharged from the Navy. She said she left because she was tired of her job. Afterwards, she spent some time off before giving horseback riding lessons at the Aravada Pine Equestrian Center.
In 2004, she started taking classes at Morgan Community College in Burlington, Colo., before transferring to CU. She is now a senior and will graduate next May.
Though she spoke highly of her experience in the Navy, she said there were aspects of it that did not suit her.
“It was nice, but the way the military is set up, I just don’t respond well,” she said. “I’m a very independent person. If I don’t like working for someone, I don’t. That was one thing I disliked about the military. You had to work with people sometimes that you didn’t like or respect, or didn’t enjoy working with.”
Pass still credits her time in the Navy as a huge influence on her life.
“It taught me a lot about myself,” she said. “I got to travel. I met my husband. It helped me get money for college because I couldn’t afford to go to school. I still have lots of good friends from the Navy too, and some of them are still in it.”
In regards to being a woman in the Navy, Pass said she personally did not feel discriminated against.
“I personally had a good experience,” she said. “If you were a girly-girl, I could see how it would be an issue. I hate that word, ‘girly.’ But I grew up on a farm. I was used to the hard work, which is what you need to do. Some girls aren’t prepared for that. If you’re a dingbat and flirt with guys, that’s an issue. But those are home issues that they create for themselves, rather than a cultural military thing.”
Pass said she knew many women who achieved high ranks in the Navy.
“They did really well, and the men respected them because they knew their jobs,” she said. “If you come in and do your job, you’ll get respect. If you don’t, then that’s how they’re going to treat you.”
Contact Campus Press Staff Writer Marcy Franklin at firstname.lastname@example.org.