Why I Serve - Picatinny spouse, former Miss USA pageant competitor, recognized for role in Month of the Military Child celebration

By Eric KowalJune 5, 2024

Olivia Forsgren and her husband Maj. Eric Forsgren, Assistant Product Manager, Program Executive Office Soldier, and their two boys.
Olivia Forsgren and her husband Maj. Eric Forsgren, Assistant Product Manager, Program Executive Office Soldier, and their two boys. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL


“Why I Serve” is a series of feature articles highlighting the reasons why civilian and military personnel serve in various roles to support to the Picatinny Arsenal community.

PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. - Military spouses serve alongside their service member — enduring long training days, deployments, frequent moves, and the uncertainties of military life. The Department of Defense (DoD) reports there are approximately one million military spouses across all active and reserve components.

One Picatinny Arsenal spouse has made it her duty to ensure that both spouses and children living on the northern New Jersey military installation stay informed and engaged in the community.

Olivia Forsgren, wife of Maj. Eric Forsgren, Assistant Product Manager, Program Executive Office Soldier, is a former Miss North Carolina USA pageant winner who also competed to wear the crown of Miss USA.

In 2013, competing under her maiden name Olivia Olvera, she won the title of Miss North Carolina USA in her hometown of Fayetteville, N.C, home of Fort Liberty, previously known as Fort Bragg. Her father, now retired after 24 years of service, was with the 82nd Airborne Division.

Forsgren then was able to compete at the 63rd Miss U.S.A. pageant in 2014, as one of 51 women representing their state or territories.

Each contestant comes from diverse backgrounds and has varied interests, but they all share the same goal of empowering and inspiring women across the world.

The opportunity of a lifetime came by chance as the University of South Carolina graduate, who was 22 at the time, was walking through the mall when someone approached her and asked if she had ever considered entering a pageant.

After getting her foot in the door, the sky was the limit.

(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

“I won Miss North Carolina USA when I was 25 years old, and they had recently just extended the age limit for the first time ever. The cut off prior to that year was 24 years old. When I won, I was 25 and the next weekend I turned 26. I just reached that cutoff by one weekend.”

She met her husband two years after winning Miss North Carolina USA. They now have two boys, ages five and six. Pageantry life is a thing of the past, but it is not completely forgotten.

Once a contestant enters a local competition, they become connected to the Miss USA “sisterhood,” Forsgren stated. This sisterhood spans previous generations and connects future generations with like-minded women who are passionate, motivated, talented, and want to make an impact in their communities.

Maj. Eric Forsgren, Assistant Product Manager, Program Executive Office Soldier, and his two boys during Month of the Military Child
Maj. Eric Forsgren, Assistant Product Manager, Program Executive Office Soldier, and his two boys during Month of the Military Child (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

As a representative of her state, Forsgren sought to put a spotlight on the military.

“It really is whatever you want to make of it,” Forsgren said of her experience in pageantry, particularly serving as Miss North Carolina USA. “You get to pick the charities and organizations that you want to work with. I worked closely with ‘Helping a Hero,’ a non-profit out of Texas that builds homes for servicemembers that come home from deployments and may need disability assisted style homes. I served as a spokesperson, and we were able to build several homes that year and it was special to be able to help give back in that way.”

Now several years removed from competing, and living on Picatinny, Forsgren is giving back in a different way.

Along with other spouses on the installation, Forsgren runs a “Spouses’ social club,” with the purpose of coming together for fellowship.

“It’s just a way for us to have our little village to rely on,” she said. “It is small but our husbands are gone a lot so it is important to have others that you can talk to or get advice and information from when you need it.

“We provide emotional support. Just being able to talk to someone who is going through the same thing. Being able to hear that you are not alone. Knowing that I am the default parent, that the kids don’t have a choice, because I’m the one that is always there. Feeling that guilt and being able to relate to someone else who may be going through the same thing.”

Forsgren’s commitment to the Picatinny military community did not end with game nights or “paint and sips” for the wives. She felt a calling to do more.

Recently, Forsgren was recognized for her contributions in support of the installation’s Month of the Military Child observance in April.

Maj. Gen. John T. Reim, Picatinny Arsenal Commanding General and Joint Program Executive Officer Armaments and Ammunition, presents a star-note congratulatory letter to Olivia Forsgren for her role in planning and executing the installation’s Month of the Military Child observance.
Maj. Gen. John T. Reim, Picatinny Arsenal Commanding General and Joint Program Executive Officer Armaments and Ammunition, presents a star-note congratulatory letter to Olivia Forsgren for her role in planning and executing the installation’s Month of the Military Child observance. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Jesse Glass) VIEW ORIGINAL

Forsgren put together a weeklong string of events for military children who attend a neighboring elementary school, along with their peers.

Military personnel assigned to Picatinny Arsenal visited students where they were able to interact, ask questions, and enjoy lunch together.

Additionally, Mayor Joe Jackson of the neighboring Rockaway Township signed a proclamation to recognize the Month of the Military Child. There are more than 1.6 million military children who face many challenges and unique experiences because of their parents' service.

While military members serve around the world, the challenges faced by their children are often forgotten. Military families move on average every two to three years, which affects military children who must change schools and support networks.

Each year, the DoD joins national, state, and local government, schools, military serving organizations, companies, and private citizens in celebrating military children and the sacrifices they make.

Members of Picatinny Arsenal’s military and their children are recognized during Month of the Military Child.
Members of Picatinny Arsenal’s military and their children are recognized during Month of the Military Child. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

“My oldest son started kindergarten this year,” Forsgren said. “I went to a Parent-Teacher Association meeting and noticed that there really wasn’t anything budgeted for Month of the Military Child. This lit a fire under me to try and generate something so that these kids could be recognized. I volunteered to come up with an event. I just wanted to do something for the kids and make them feel special.”

Picatinny Arsenal personnel, including include military, civilian, and first responders, brought vehicles and various science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) displays with assistance from the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Armaments Center.

“The kids loved it, and their favorite part of the week was the day dedicated to vehicles. Sgt. (Michael) Turner of the Picatinny Arsenal Police Department was the biggest hit of the day. They loved him,” Forsgren recalled of the event.

On the final day of the school week, the kids were greeted by Miss New Jersey Teen USA, Julia Carrano, whose older brother is a Blackhawk helicopter Crew Chief in the Army.

“I have a lot of connections (in pageantry) still and I try to utilize that as best I can, because that is their whole purpose, to give back to the community,” Forsgren said. “Having Miss New Jersey Teen come and read to the kids was pretty special because it was almost like a signature block from me, closed off, like a little gift from myself personally to the school.”

Other articles in the 'Why I Serve' series:

Why I Serve – “For God and Country” – Retiring Picatinny Chaplain reflects on finding purpose

https://www.army.mil/article/276563

Why I Serve - Army couple recognizes resiliency of military children, Families

https://www.army.mil/article/275233

Why I Serve – Family, coupled with sense of pride, motivates Picatinny Marine

https://www.army.mil/article/274727

Why I Serve – Picatinny’s Sgt. Adlam – 'Life started for me when I enlisted in the Army'

https://www.army.mil/article/274070

Why I Serve – 3rd generation EOD technician

https://www.army.mil/article/273804