“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” – the opening line of ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ – has special significance to Navy veteran Teri Jo Kannus-Hamilton.
“’The best of times’ because I learned so much, was pushed to my limits and was capable and able to do so much more than I would have thought I was capable of, and discovered I am a pretty tough cookie and could hang with the best of them,” said Kannus-Hamilton, U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command
accountable property officer for wholesale stock. “‘The worst of times’ because I desperately missed the time away from my husband and children – all the missed holidays, birthdays, etcetera, and you can’t get that time back.”
“I wanted to join the military after watching the movies ‘An Officer and a Gentleman’ and ‘Stripes’ – no kidding,” she said. “I wanted to go into the Army because it ‘looked like fun,’ but chose the Navy because their uniforms were nicer. My father was in the Air Force for a couple years, but that was before I was born and had no bearing on my decision to join.”
Kannus-Hamilton, may have had questionable reasons for deciding to enlist, but it led to a life of service that continues to this day.
“I made my decision in ninth grade to join the military after watching those two movies,” Kannus-Hamilton said. “After I graduated, I walked into a Navy recruiting station and enlisted. I thought it would be exciting and a great way to see the world.”
Though she was ready to go immediately, the Michigan native had to wait a year in the Delayed Entry Program before she could ship out.
Initially enlisting for four years as a yeoman to do administrative work, Kannus-Hamilton said she never really thought about how long she would stay. “I was young, single, and ready to see the world.”
Her first assignment took her to the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where she was “blessed for sure” to stay from grades E-1 to E-5. She was then assigned to the USS McKee in San Diego.
At the end of her first four years, Kannus-Hamilton was an E-5. She reenlisted and applied for a four-year ROTC scholarship.
After being commissioned as a Supply Corps officer, she was assigned to the USS Rainier out of Bremerton, Washington; Naval Station Roosevelt Roads in Puerto Rico; U.S. Navy Recruiting Command in Millington, Tennessee; and U.S. Navy Recruiting District Omaha, Nebraska. She completed a six-month deployment to the Persian Gulf while assigned to the USS Rainier.
“Being the only active-duty Navy female stationed at [the academy with only] three other males, E-7 and above, and a Navy captain [was the] best duty ever for a young sailor!” she said. “I was also the only female Supply Corps officer on USS Rainier and … [was] sought out by our commanding officer for input and perspective regarding personnel issues.”
Kannus-Hamilton was stationed in Puerto Rico during Hurricane Georges; the island was without power for 45 days. “[We] worked with [Defense Finance Accounting Service] to approve emergency legal claim payments for active-duty members and their families [and] paid out over $404,000 in cash in 33 days by candlelight.”
Kannus-Hamilton said she thought it was rewarding to move every three years or so to different areas and jobs.
“This really has the tendency to increase a person’s knowledge, skills and abilities quickly, making them a very well rounded employee who is resourceful, capable, fearless and always ready,” she said.
As much as Kannus-Hamilton enjoyed her time in uniform, it became difficult to maintain.
“I did not want to go back to sea anymore,” she said. “My husband was retired [Air Force] and it was very difficult for us both for him to be home taking care of our son and me being deployed.”
So she exited the Navy after more than 14 years.
Now a government civilian, what she misses most is the solidarity with those on active duty.
“I could go anywhere, to any military installation and instantly have something in common with those in uniform and the ability to talk, relate and assist one another is unmatched,” she said.
“After taking a year off, I got my foot in the [Department of Defense] proverbial door working at Fox Army Health Center doing the medical billing and I thoroughly enjoyed it,” she said. “I did not retire from the military, so I thought I could work for five years and retire.”
She was mistaken.
When she learned she needed 15 years instead of five to retire as a DoD civilian, she had to make adjustments.
“I realized I needed to go back to my logistics/supply roots and applied for a para trainee job at AMCOM Logistics Center, Material Management Directorate, Supply Operations Division. I was fortunate to be part of the first intern class full of veterans. When I found out I had to do 30 years, I applied for the para trainee job and was blessed to be selected.”
Now, with 10 years at AMCOM under her belt, Kannus-Hamilton is looking forward to actually being able to retire – for real this time.