FORT KNOX, Ky. - She left her first love – New York City – for her Soldier in the rolling hills of Kentucky, and took a career leap by joining the 1st Theater Sustainment Command. That move has brought her a true sense of purpose in her work.
Andrea Peña, a financial management analyst in the unit’s G-8 directorate, 1st TSC, offers a different perspective to the First Team, having come from the New York international tax world. Known to her friends as Andie, she’s worked for some of the nation’s largest and most prestigious accounting firms.
Peña worked as an accountant at Deloitte LLP, KPMG LLP, and spent 10 years with the American International Group. She worked mostly in mergers and acquisitions, shareholder taxation, and international tax with AIG.
Her education prepared her for the tax world; and international tax is generally in a large city, so that’s how she landed in New York. Peña has a bachelor’s degree in accounting from the University of North Carolina at Pembroke, and was awarded a full-ride Scholarship to the University of Denver, where she earned a master’s degree in taxation.
While living in New York, Peña loved seeing the New York City Ballet and was a member of the Museum of Modern Art. She also regularly delighted in live music and embraced all that makes it the “city that never sleeps.”
Peña was also overworked, putting in 70 to 80-hour work weeks, and living apart from her husband. So, after 16 years of living in the Big Apple, she packed up her things and headed to Fort Knox – where she noticed a huge change in her health once she arrived.
“I am the happiest and healthiest I’ve been in twenty years,” she proclaimed. Having embraced so much of what the Fort Knox region offers, Peña contributes her rejuvenated life to spending more time outdoors, experiencing true work/life balance, and finally living with her husband of nine years.
Since arriving, Peña picked up running and has enjoyed seeing the wildlife on post. She mostly runs early in the morning and sees deer, fox, rabbits, and many bird species. She has even been spotted running with the unit, and has completed the Army Ten Miler for the last two years. Peña also likes exercising and worked as a personal trainer for seven years.
The Colorado native likes hiking in her free time, and now she has a lot more of that.
In addition to the work/life balance, Peña enjoys many other advantages of being a Department of Defense (DoD) employee. However, her true satisfaction is seeing the impact of her work.
“I feel really appreciated here and that makes me want to work hard and give the best that I can to people,” she proclaimed.
Peña wasn’t sure how her education and experience would translate into a DoD civilian job, and writing that initial resume was challenging. “I found it difficult to translate all of my experience into a comprehensive 7-10 page resume,” she said.
“It’s so different than international tax,” she shared. “There, everything is shareholder driven and you feel like you’re working yourself to death for something that doesn’t even benefit you or anyone you know. It’s for the CEO, board of directors, and the company’s earnings per share.”
Peña said that she gets a lot more personal satisfaction working here. “With tax accounting, I was helping companies navigate or get around tax laws. It wasn’t always black and white.” She likes how the Army adheres to Standard Operating Procedures and Financial Management Regulations.
As a budget analyst at 1st TSC, Peña works mainly with the General Fund Enterprise Business System, conducting analytics for financial management reporting, obligating funds, and reviewing contracts and Government Purchase Card use. “If it involves money with the 1st TSC, then it comes through our office,” she said.
Andie also contributes much of her work satisfaction to her great team. “I am very fortunate in G-8,” she said. “Boredom is the kiss of death to me, and I cannot be bored in G-8.”
“Getting into a new career field is very invigorating to me, and made me want to learn more,” Peña said. “I learn something new every day at 1st TSC.”
Peña shared that while she isn’t always the smartest person in the room, this makes her strive to always push herself to expand her knowledge base. “I had to learn the acronyms and vernacular in addition to the budget cycle and appropriations,” she said. She stressed that her leadership and team has been important in teaching and answering questions.
“After my first year here, I decided that I wanted to finish my career with DoD,” Pena emphasized. With her husband serving in the Army, Peña likes that she is supporting Soldiers.
Now living on post with her husband, Sgt. 1st Class Michael Hammon, who works at Army Human Resources Command, Pena said, “It was really good to move in together and establish a routine.”
The couple met through a mutual friend, courted long distance, married and lived apart, until they finally joined forces when she moved here to be with him. She left New York just before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the city.
Their mutual friend thought they’d like each other, because they have common interests. “I’m a comic book geek,” Peña proclaimed.
She attended New York’s Comic Convention annually, and invited Hammon to attend with her. “He even wore a costume,” she said. “I thought, okay, you might just be my perfect match.”
That match became her husband. However, combining households just took them longer. “Now my friends say that I glow and look healthier,” she said. “I feel like my shoulders finally came down, and I am able to take a step back and relax.”
In addition to her husband, Mike, Andie shares her house with a unique companion. Mr. Pinkerton is her beloved cockatoo who made the trek with her from New York to Fort Knox.
“I love birds,” she said. “I put up a few bird feeders for me and for Mr. Pinkerton. It’s become meta, she laughed.”
He would travel on the New York subway with Peña. Now he watches birds and other wildlife outside. She described him as a magnet for people.
“I used to take him out in his mesh carrier and people loved talking to him,” she said. “He used to dance and flap his wings with the performers in the subway.”
“As soon as I walk through the door he says, ‘Come here’,” she said.
He also says, “Hey, Pinkerton,” and “I love you.” Since Peña tells him that he’s a good boy, he also says, “I’m a good boy.”
“He’s more entertaining than television,” Peña said.
Bird in tote, Peña made that move here which has changed her life.
“Now I am doing something that I really enjoy and love, and I don’t care as much about the money, she said.
Although she often misses the big city, Peña emphasized that, “This is where I am supposed to be at this point in my life!”