GRAFENWOEHR, Germany -- Military spouses stationed at U.S. Army Garrison Bavaria can open more doors to career opportunities, broaden their skillsets and increase resiliency through the many volunteer opportunities.
Florence Paniagua relocated to the garrison last year, after 13 years of experience in event planning, marketing, sales and operations in the hotel industry. She soon realized she could not continue with her career tract.
"Taxes, laws are different with employment," said Paniagua about continuing her career on the German economy. "Being able to employ with the hotel industry, you have to learn the language."
Rather than seeing this as a career set-back, or settling for the first opportunity, Paniagua decided her tour of Europe could be one of growth and personal discovery.
"I just discovered that maybe I am the type of person that I don't settle for default, or the first job available," said Paniagua. "That is my self-discovery. I always look for other ways versus this is just the default."
Paniagua took the time to learn everything she could about the community. She began taking classes through the garrison's Army Community Service office, and learned more about volunteering. From their she began volunteering at every opportunity.
"I've never met a more passionate and multi-faceted volunteer -- ever," said Christine Agee, a relocation specialist with ACS. "She's very positive and trying to make sure this community becomes a better place."
In the spring, she was introduced to the United Service Organizations, which has centers on Tower Barracks and Camp Aachen here. Impressed by the professionalism and care of the staff, she applied to become a volunteer.
For volunteer opportunities, the USO is careful when selecting its volunteers. Candidates must be caring and motivated to support the mission. After completing the interview process, Paniagua was brought in as a volunteer, accumulating almost 200 hours of volunteer service.
Impressed with her work ethic and talent, the leadership of the USO asked her to apply for career positions. However, Paniagua was fulfilled with her schedule and the flow of her family life.
"On the weekend, we travel, and on the weekdays, I volunteer," she explained about her first year here.
Recently, she was asked to apply for the position as the center operations manager for the Grafenwoehr location. She decided that she wanted to embrace the opportunity to help the community more, and applied.
"I screamed," said Carolyn Harris, the area director of USO Bavaria, upon receiving notification from her headquarters human resources department that Paniagua had applied. "My husband came flying into the room to make sure that I was okay, and I said, 'this is a gift from God.'"
Paniagua began the new position in October 2019. After traveling around Europe and volunteering with multiple organization, she is ready to learn all that is offered.
"It's very eye opening for me to work for a non-profit," said Paniagua.
Spouses are encouraged to embrace the many opportunities afforded across the Garrison this week during the Career and Volunteer Fair on Nov. 7 from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Tower View Conference Center.
The Career and Volunteer Fair features over 40 local organizations that are hiring, offering volunteer opportunities that enhance job skills, providing training and education opportunities, or offering support services to spouses looking for jobs.
USAG Bavaria's Army Community Service provides family advocacy, volunteer, relocation, deployment, employment and financial support services to Soldiers, Department of the Army civilians and families through their offices in Rose Barracks, Tower Barracks, Hohenfels and Garmisch. Learn more at grafenwoehr.armymwr.com.
Editor's note: This is the final in a six-part series about tools and resources available to promote empowerment and resiliency among spouses in USAG Bavaria. The other articles are available at www.bavariannews.com.