By Mrs. Erinn Burgess (IMCOM)January 10, 2018
LANDSTUHL, Germany -- Though she often refers to herself as the black sheep of her family because she didn't serve in the military like her parents and siblings, that doesn't mean Jessica Terrell hasn't made her own impact in the U.S. Army realm.
She currently holds the position of facility director at Landstuhl Child Development Center 1 at U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz and has recently been selected as the first to fill a newly created garrison position as Child and Youth Services administrator to oversee all four Army CDCs in the Kaiserslautern area (five when Kleber CDC reopens) along with two School Age Centers.
A look at her career path shows that while she has held several different positions along the way, the forefront of her focus was always providing care for military children.
Terrell started working with the military in 2005 as a summer intern for Camp Adventure through the University of Northern Iowa. The program sends American college students to U.S. military bases throughout the world where they work in child care facilities, run summer camps, and in some locations, provide swim lessons and act as lifeguards.
When Terrell first started with Camp Adventure, she wasn't looking at it as the first step towards a military-affiliated career. She wasn't sure what she wanted to do anymore, she explained. At the time, she was aspiring to be a teacher upon completing her degree in education. Job opportunities were looking scarce, and Terrell wondered if she should try for something else. That first summer as a Camp Adventure intern in Vicenza, Italy, changed her life.
The intern met a young boy who was coping with his father's deployment, and he would often hide under the table rather than playing with the group. Terrell's father was also deployed during this time which led her to form a bond with the child.
"I would say to him, 'do you want to write your dad a card? You miss your dad, I miss my dad -- let's write them cards,'" Terrell explained, and together, they would.
"That was when I realized -- this is where I need to be working. This is for me."
Terrell's desire to work with military kids stems from her own childhood growing up with active duty Navy parents.
"I went to child care from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. growing up. My FCC provider, Ms. Karla, came to my wedding, she has met my daughter -- she is a huge part of my life," Terrell explained. "When my parents would go on temporary duty assignments or when my dad was deployed, Ms. Karla was there. I stayed at her house for six weeks at a time. She's one of my biggest role models and probably why I chose to get into child care."
Terrell spent several summers with Camp Adventure, traveling to places such as Italy, Japan and Hawaii. During her final summer with Camp Adventure in 2010, an opportunity for an internship with Army CYS came up. Terrell's Camp Adventure mentor told her she would be a great candidate and helped her put her résumé together, but she ended up missing the deadline for the application because she was flying back from Naples that same day.
The disappointment didn't last long. Her résumé found its way through CYS channels and shortly after returning from Italy, Terrell received an email from CYS at USAG Benelux SHAPE/Chievres informing her of a School Age Center director position coming available. She applied, and to her surprise she was selected.
"Though I had worked for all four branches of service while doing Camp Adventure, I had never worked officially for the Army. As a hiring manager now, I know they took a chance hiring me," Terrell recounted.
She stayed in the position for four years before moving to Kaiserslautern to assume her role at LCDC1, which she has held the last two and a half years.
Terrell recommends a CYS career path to others as well.
"CYS has so many opportunities for growth. Child care positions, trainer positions, outreach services, program operations -- there are so many pathways," Terrell said. "CYS does a really great job growing people; we provide schooling to get you qualified for higher positions and robust training opportunities."
She also explained that USAG RP is unique in that it has a lead training specialist, which a lot of garrisons do not have. When people leave here, they will take really good qualities, work ethic and skills with them to their next duty location, Terrell said.
It is rewarding for her to see Camp Adventure interns come to USAG RP, because it reminds her of where her journey began, she said. It is also rewarding for her to watch her three-year-old daughter, Anella, grow and flourish at one of the CDCs that Terrell will soon oversee.
She plans to stay with CYS long term, including a bit longer overseas with her family. Her husband, Joel, works for the U.S. Postal Service, and Anella will soon be a big sister to another baby girl along the way. Terrell envisions working at region level one day, helping to guide and mentor people along their paths in CYS and act as a subject matter expert.
"We have tough days in CYS, it gets hard, but everyone is always so willing to help, and we all know what the mission is -- to reduce the conflict between parent responsibilities and mission-related duties," Terrell said. "When parents leave their children here, they know they're being taken care of in the best way possible. I take pride in that. I love working with kids, I love working with families and I admire the people I work with so much."