B United: Ellie Pugel, U.S. Army

MEET ELLIE! She and her husband (a sailor in the Navy) have spent more than half of their relationship long distance, as they serve our country on deployments. Thank you for your service and for sharing your story with us!

Name: Ellie Pugel

Age: 23

Hometown: Bellevue, WA

Family: I’m married to a sailor in the Navy with two dogs!

Branch: Army

Job Title: Engineer Officer

Enlist Date: commissioned June 2019

What motivated you to join the military? I missed team sports and wanted a community that was similar to a team.

Are or were any of your family members in the military? Yes both of my Grandpas served

Why did you choose this branch? I chose army engineering for the applicability towards my BS in Environmental Science. They both involve developing project management skills.

What are some things you miss most about home when you are deployed? Cooking, my own food, being with my family, having a space that’s my own.

What are some of the biggest challenges of being a woman in the military? Respect has to be earned and it is not assumed that you are equipped for your job level.

How do you stay in shape? I lift weights and run.

B United: Cara Leaf, US Air Force

When I asked Melissa Dixon, last month’s B United featured soldier, if she knew any bada** women I could send a healthy care package to, without hesitation, she exclaimed, “CARA LEAF!” :) I am honored to share part of these women’s stories with you. Thank you for everything you do for our country and for blazing the trail for future generations of courageous women.

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1.   Name: Cara Leaf

2.   Age: 26

3.   Hometown: Aurora, Colorado

4.   Family (significant other, children and their ages, fur babies, etc): Husband (Alex) and my cat Winston

5.   Branch: Air Force

6.   Job Title: Sexual Assault Response Coordinator

7.   Job Description: I work with/advocate for victims of sexual assault. This includes the prevention piece- teaching about what leads to sexual assault and how to support survivors. This is a huge push in the military right now. I will be in the job during my deployment and then I will transition back to my normal job (food, fitness, lodgining- the funs stuff!). 

8.   Enlist Date: I commissioned on 2 June 2016

9.   What motivated you to join the military? An interest in doing something bigger than myself. I remember what 9/11 felt like when I was younger. I was only in third grade and very confused. Deployments are necessary because they help keep the war away from home instead of in the U.S.

10.Are or were any of your family members in the military? If so, who and what branch?My dad and grandfather were in the military and my sister, brother-in-law, and husband are in as well. All Air Force.

11.Tell me a little about your time in bootcamp.Long story but I have been through it three times! It always starts out feeling impossible and then it becomes easier and easier. Just a mental game.

12.Where have you traveled to while in the service?All over! Poland, South Korea, the Middle East.

13.What are some things you miss most about home when you are deployed?Hanging out with my husband at home! Cooking dinner with him, watching tv, going to costco. All the simple things!

14.Which medals or citations are you most proud to have earned and why? I have only been in 3 years but I have been proud of what I have earned so far. I earned a Commendation medal for PCSing.

15.What rank are you most proud to have earned and why?I am a First Lieutenant and have automatic promotions until Major. I am proud of commissioning and graduating from the Air Force Academy. Becoming a second lieutenant was hands down the best day of my life.

16.What are some of the biggest challenges of being a woman in the military? Balancing who I think I should be with who I want to be. There is a fine line in leadership where a female is either “the mom” or the “mean girl”. It’s hard to accept that and what people say about you. 

17.Tell me about some of the special people you have met. I have met a lot of amazing people with truly inspiring stories! I think my favorite one has been Holocaust survivors. There stories were hard to hear! It was so sad to hear them share the losses of their children, spouses, and friends. Knowing they could get through something like that pushed me to look at my own life.

18.Do you plan to retire in the military? Or what are your post-military plans? I would love to stay in the military 20 years and retire. I know you can’t plan life so I am going with the flow right now.

19.How has your service and experiences affected your life? The service has really shaped me. It has helped me branch out to do things I never thought I would. It pushes me to go farther. I have traveled to different countries, took water survival (even though I hate swimming), jumped out of an airplane 5 times on my own, and pushed my physical and mental abilities.

20.What do you like to do for fun? I am from Colorado so I love to hike! Running has also become a passion of mine (partly because I love to cook and bake too much!).

21.How do you stay in shape? I run!I have really been focusing on fitness on my deployment.

22.What makes you feel strong? Pushing my mental and physical abilities. Sometimes I go to the gym thinking “I will just do a quick 20 minute workout because I am tired” and then I get there and do way more than I thought I could! That makes me feel strong.

23.Favorite part of your job: Seeing how caring people are. My job can be tough emotionally but people do care and want to help.

24.Any additional comments or things you would like to share with readers? Smile- life is good!

B United: Melissa Dixon, US Air Force

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YOU GUYS. THIS WOMAN. I don’t have enough words to describe how incredible she is. She’s currently deployed overseas with the United States Air Force. She’s a MOM to an ADORABLE three-year-old little boy named Elijah. Her amazing husband, Dex, is ALSO in the Air Force! And she’s probably one of the most polite (she says, “yes, m'am!”) grateful human beings I have ever seen. Everyone, MEET MELISSA DIXON!

1.   Name:  Melissa Dixon

2.   Age:  29

3.   Hometown:  Compton, CA

4.   Family (significant other, children and their ages, fur babies, etc):  

My husband, Dex & son Elijah, (3 years old)

5.   Branch:  United States Air Force

6.   Job Title:  Equal Opportunity Director

7.   Job Description:  Prevention of unlawful discrimination and harassment.

8.   Enlist Date:  March 2010

9.   What motivated you to join the military?

The opportunity to travel, go to college, and serve our country. 

10.Are or were any of your family members in the military? If so, who and what branch?   

No immediate family in the military. I am the first person in the USAF and have family now looking to join when they graduate high school.

11.Why did you choose this branch?  

The way of life that is lived within the USAF and the mission. 

12.Tell me a little about your time in boot camp.  

Bootcamp was a memorable experience to say the least. The days were long, but the time flew by. It taught me patience, showed me how strong I really was physically/mentally, and to pay attention to detail- no matter how big or small. 

13.Where have you traveled to while in the service?

I have traveled to CA, FL, AR, LA, TX, Afghanistan, and a few of other places in the Middle East. 

14.What are some things you miss most about home when you are deployed?

My husband and son- they are my number one priority. I miss taking real showers (without having to cut the water on and off as you wash and rinse, lol), the food, and sleeping in my bed. There is so much people take for granted and when you’re deployed you learn to grow appreciation for all the small things in life.

15.Which medals or citations are you most proud to have earned and why? 

My first Commendation medal. This meant the most because as a Senior Airman, it is not common for an Airman to receive anything outside of an Achievement medal. This was the year I worked as supply in a maintenance unit and ended up winning the Airman of the year award for the entire group, which helped me achieve that Commendation medal that not many Airman get to receive. It showed me that hard work does pay off and I am just so proud!

16.What rank are you most proud to have earned and why?

I am most proud to have earned the rank of Technical Sergeant because they say it’s the hardest to make, so this was a huge milestone for me. 

17.What are some of the biggest challenges of being a woman in the military?

Some people still feel that women should not serve or that women are not capable of doing the same jobs as men, BUT we are here to show them otherwise. 

18.Tell me about some of the special people you have met.

I have met so many people, but the most special people I have met are now my extended “fr-amily.” There are so many of us that get stationed so far from family, that when you build those bonds with other military families, those friends become family forever and always “understand” what you go through being in the military. I truly LOVE and appreciate all of them. 

19.Do you plan to retire in the military? Or what are your post-military plans? 

I would love to retire one day, but it all depends on how often my husband and I have to go away. Being mil to mil can have its moments where you have to choose between your career and your family. Post-military, I want to work in the clinical psychology field to help others. 

20.How has your service and experiences affected your life? 

I have a greater appreciation for the small things in life and quality time with family. I am grateful for that of the places I have been able to visit, personal/professional goals I have been able to meet, my paid education, and the unlimited opportunities, and the extended family that has continued to grow over the years. I would go back and do it all over again!

21.What do you like to do for fun? 

I love spending time with family, working out, and shopping. 

22.How do you stay in shape?

I stay in shape by watching my portion sizes, keeping an active lifestyle that fits my schedule, and swapping out candy for protein bars. 

23.What makes you feel strong?

My husband and family. They are the best support system and help me stay on track to being the best me possible. Working out and taking time to breathe help me keep a strong mental focus and also help me pass my PT test, lol!

24.Favorite part of your job:  

Helping people! I love helping people overcome things.                                   

B United - Jori Wiskow, US Army

I am SO EXCITED to share this beautiful, intelligent, and STRONG woman’s story. She has more wisdom, life experience and class at age 22 than some gain in a lifetime. I had the pleasure of meeting her mother over social media - and after we met for coffee and I learned that her daughter, Jori, was deployed overseas, I put one of my healthy care packages in the mail to her and asked if I could feature her in my B United project!

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1.    Name: Jori Wiskow

2.    Age: 22    

3. Hometown: Prior Lake, MN

4.    Family: Oh goodness, are you ready for this? Dad (Mike), Step mom (Nicole), Mom (Kari), Step dad (Matt), my sisters Kaci (who is the mom of the CUTEST soon-to-be 1 year old girl), Cami, and Lexi. Step siblings Bri, Jordan (step bro with the same name, how lovely), Ali, and Brando. My boyfriend and his daughter have also been an amazing support system while I have been overseas.

5.    Branch: Army

6.    Job Title: Human Resources Specialist (42A)

7.    Job Description: I work with personnel files and information. Including things like birth certificates, marriage certs, transcripts, awards, advancements and promotions, flags (which is what we call it when someone does something wrong and it goes it their record). I also track the movement of personnel in Afghanistan and throughout the Middle East. I have a Secret Security Clearance which allows me to access different sites in order to do this. 

8.    Enlist Date: 20 August, 2014

9.    What motivated you to join the military? The dad and my grandpa inspired me. My dad served in the Army during the first Gulf War in the early 90’s. He was stationed in Germany for the majority of his career. My grandpa was a Marine, and he never let anyone forget it. The kindest soul I knew but also probably the biggest badass up until he passed away last March. 

10.Why did you choose this branch? I chose the Army because I felt I could make the biggest impact here. I felt that, though I knew it would be difficult, the challenge would teach me a lot of myself and breaking through those limits you subconsciously make for yourself. 

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11.Tell me a little about your time in boot camp. Well, basic training sucked… I’ll just be blunt with you. I always say “It was the most fun I would never want to have again,” and that pretty much sums it up.  I got to experience things at 18, though, that many people won’t experience throughout their entire life. When we first got there, we were issued our weapons and it was the first time I had ever held an M16. The first two weeks were the worst. Basically the Drill Sergeants are awful because they’re weeding out the weak. They break you down so they rebuild you into a Solider. The advice I was given by my dad was if the Drills don’t know who you are, that’s a good thing. Unfortunately, or fortunately, that didn’t last very long for me. I was the only female throughout my cycle to score a perfect 300 on the Physical Fitness test. My Senior Drill Sergeant quickly noticed the leadership potential in me and referred to me as the Super Soldier for pretty much the whole cycle. I was names the guidon bearer for our Platoon, and held the honor up until we graduated. The most challenging part of the whole thing for me was the ruck march at the very end of the 11 weeks. We had spent a week in the field, no showers or bathing other than the baby wipes and water bottles we had brought along with us, and had to march back 12 miles in the middle of the night. During the march I kept saying to myself, “Remember why you’re here,” over and over again. Those words, and the thought that I would be seeing my family again in a week or so, kept me going and helped to make it all worthwhile.

12.Where have you traveled to while in the service? The Army brought me from Minnesota to Arizona, where my Guard unit mobilized to Afghanistan through Ft Bliss, TX. I was also sent to school at Fort Jackson, SC, which is where my basic training and AIT took place as well, just before our mobilization last summer. I’ve been through Germany and Kuwait before finally getting to Afghanistan.

13.What are some things you miss most about home when you are deployed? The hardest part of being deployed for me is missing my usual routine and having to establish a new normal. The time change is tough, being about 11 hours ahead of everyone you love isn’t easy and makes communication a real challenge. I miss my niece more than anything. She turns one on Feb 11thand I’ve missed quite a few milestones since I’ve been away. My sister sends me lots of pictures and videos of her, but it still doesn’t equate to being there and holding her and watching her big blue eyes take in the world with wonder. I can’t wait to kiss her squishy face when I get home!

14.Which medals or citations are you most proud to have earned and why? Because of my ability to take charge, I was awarded an Army Achievement Medal at the end of basic training. It was a great feeling knowing my hard work had been recognized and acknowledged. 

15.What rank are you most proud to have earned and why? I know it’s hard to believe, but getting my time in service and time in grade waived during my basic training days to be pinned E3 was probably the most memorable advancement to me. Ask me the same question once I get pinned E5, though; I’m sure the answer will change.

16.What are some of the biggest challenges of being a woman in the military? Being a woman in a primarily male dominated profession is always a challenge, but being a female in an Infantry Battalion is a whole different story. In a Battalion of almost 400 people, we have less than 20 females, all of which are either medics, admin personnel (like myself), or intel workers. The spotlight is always on us in some shape or form, which has both its benefits and its drawbacks. For the most part, though, we’re like a big family. We all take care of each other like brothers and sisters, because we are all each other have while we’re overseas.

17.Tell me about some of the special people you have met.The military has brought me lifelong friends. I still keep in contact with people from basic training and the school I was sent to before we deployed. My friends Anna and Jasmine who I met in basic and AIT are both still in the military. Jasmine, who lives in Idaho, went OCS and is now a 2ndLieutenant, and Anna is in the Kentucky National Guard. The friends I met in training before mobilizing are doing various things: some are deployed to Iraq or did a quick tour in Kuwait, and some are back at their units in the States. A few of the marines I trained with are stationed in Okinawa and hearing about how their experiences differ from mine is pretty cool.

18.Do you plan to retire in the military? Or what are your post-military plans? I plan on staying in for as long as I can. The military has great benefits that pretty much get better the longer you stay in. I plan on finishing my Communications degree online when I get home, and have been fortunate enough to have gotten invited to attend an awesome Police Academy in Arizona. 

19.How has your service and experiences affected your life? The military has taught me to work hard for everything I want and that nothing comes easy. It has motivated me to become a harder worker and an all-around stronger person. The part about the military members don’t usually talk about is who they’ve lost along the way. A few of my friends from basic have passed away over the last four years, and one of the marines I trained with before my deployment was killed this past fall. Losing friends is a part of what we signed up for. It’s part of fighting for this country and you have to be able to recognize and accept that some of your friends might not make it home from their tour. You also have to recognize and accept that you, yourself, may not get home either. I think the most surreal experience I have had throughout my military career was sitting down with my mom before I deployed and talking to her about the wishes I have for my funeral if I were to be killed. That’s not usually something a 22 year old sits down with their mother to talk about. 

20.What do you like to do for fun? For fun at home, you can find me hiking in upstate Arizona, going out with my girlfriends in Oldtown Scottsdale, or spending time with my boyfriend. I love to go on weekend trips to visit my sister, niece, and brother in law in San Diego. Here, I occupy what little free time I do have with going to the gym, finding new series on Netflix, or reading. Right now I am in the middle of the book 13 Hours.

21.How do you stay in shape? I am at the gym at least 6 days a week here in Afghanistan; at home it’s more like 5 days a week. I train legs 2-3 times per week, and work upper body in some shape or form the rest of the days. I run at least 4 days a week, anywhere from 3-4 miles. I just began training for a half marathon, however, so my running routine is about to become much more tedious. My diet consists of pretty much a little bit of everything. I don’t like to restrict myself from eating certain things; I believe everything is okay in moderation.  

22.What makes you feel strong? Being in Afghanistan is kind of like the movie Groundhog’s Day. Every day is the same (with the exception of a few things). When you get into a routine like that, it often times feels like what you’re doing doesn’t have an impact. Sometimes I have to sit back and remind myself that this is a field only 1-2% of the American population works in. I have to remind myself that not many women can do this job or live this lifestyle. This is uncommon. This is unique. I am uncommon and unique. That makes me feel strong. That makes me feel like I’m making an impact not only in my Unit, but in the lives of people back home. 

23.Favorite part of your job: The best part of being a Human Resources Specialist in the Army for me is watching career progression in Soldiers. We quality check promotion packets each year and getting to see people move up in this field is awesome for me. I love helping people and being that person they go to for questions about certain things. I get calls from 1stSergeants and Commanders asking me questions and for my advice on who should be given the chance to promote and who, by regulation, should maybe wait another year. It’s a great feeling knowing you’re appreciated and get to be there for the battalion at the same time. 

B United - Delivering Healthy Care Packages to Support Women in the Military

I have some SUPER EXCITING NEWS, you guys! As some of you might remember from my previous social media posts, one of my VERY best childhood friends, Whitnee, who is in the Air Force, was deployed overseas this past year. She reached out to me back in October 2018 asking for my help. The food where she was stationed was pretty awful and she was struggling to get enough protein in her diet so she could function at her highest capacity on the job – and her JOB is protecting our country. 

In addition to serving in the military, she works as a personal trainer back in the states and helps others define their strong. I have always looked up to Whitnee for her determination, work ethic, fortitude - and her willingness to give of herself so freely to others in need. So when she reached out to me asking for help, I rallied my troops to do anything I could to help her - because that is exactly the kind of person she is. 

 We have been friends since we were FOUR, and let me tell you... this girl is a total POWERHOUSE. Growing up together, she was an incredible athlete (volleyball, basketball, track), an honor student, and has the most incredible zest for life - always smiling, laughing and choosing happiness and positivity - even when life gets hard. 

When I shared Whitnee’s story with my amazing Isopure family, they generously donated a HUGE box of protein powder that I shipped to her, and I have joined forces with several other brands who make some of my favorite products, who are so graciously donating goods to ship in my healthy care packages to these inspiring women.

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A month later, I received a package in the mail from Whitnee!  It was an American flag and a certificate that was in MY NAME... that she and another female pilot flew on a jet the night a successful mission was executed. After I stopped sobbing over the generosity of this beautiful, priceless gift, I had an idea – and an overwhelming sense of urgency to help other women serving overseas.

So I have started a passion project, called B United. Every month, I will send healthy care packages to the badass women who selflessly serve our country and will be sharing these courageous women’s stories on my blog to all of YOU! 

To kick-off this series, I want to introduce you all to my new friend -

Jen Clark Workman, Combat Medic,United States Army

Jen Clark Workman, Combat Medic, United States Army

Name: Jen Clark Workman

Age: 37

Hometown: Wilmington, Delaware 

Family: Three Chihuahua’s : Taco Bell, Tinkerbell, and Lily Bell

Branch: Army

Job Title: 68W - Combat Medic

Job Description: Provide emergency medical treatment, limited primary care, and health protection and evacuation from point of injury or illness

Favorite part of your job: I love working with brand new Soldiers and junior Leaders, teaching them about the Army, and seeing that “lightbulb moment” when things start to make sense. I also have great coworkers - they keep it fun!

Enlist Date: 17 November 1999

What motivated you to join the military? When I graduated high school in 1999 at the age of 17, I wasn’t motivated to attend college. I was working two jobs and wanted a change. I called an Army recruiter on a whim one day and a few months later, I was on my way to basic training. Looking back though, the idea of getting to see the world while serving something greater than myself was the biggest motivator. 

Are or were any of your family members in the military? If so, who and what branch? My grandfather served in the Army during the Korean War, and I have a cousin in the Marines.

Why did you choose this branch? Considering I get significant motion sickness, I knew I couldn’t serve on a boat in the Navy or an aircraft in the Air Force. The Army recruiter was my first call, and I was offered the duty station of my choice, the job of my choice and a small bonus.  

Tell me a little about your time in bootcamp. I remember being scared to death, I was a very shy, quiet and extremely awkward 17 year old! The first day with the drill sergeants “shark attack” on all of us new recruits was intense; in that moment, I seriously had doubts if I made the right choice.  Seriously though, I had amazing drill sergeants; they were super tough, constantly pushing us to our limits, but making us stronger in the process. I’m extremely grateful for their motivation and professionalism. It was 10 weeks straight of overcoming insecurities and fears – like my extreme fear of heights while repelling from a tower, fear of failure to achieve the minimum standards on basic rifle marksmanship, the Army Physical Fitness Test standards, the anxiety of throwing live grenades, and rucking 12 miles with a 35lb ruck on my back in 3 hours. It’s a lot of stress for a young person with little experience in life with not much of a physical background. I played volleyball in high school, but that did not prepare me for the rigors of basic training. 

Where have you traveled to while in the service? Germany, Kosovo, Macedonia, Fort Lewis, WA, Kuwait, Fort Bragg, NC; Schofield Barracks, HI; Iraq; Fort Richardson, AK; Afghanistan; Fort Meade, MD; Fort Bliss, TX; and Camp Humphreys, Korea. 

What are some things you miss most about home when you are deployed? Mainly family and my fur babies, but sometimes it’s simple things like fresh air, green grass, and ordering food in English. 

What rank are you most proud to have earned and why? First Sergeant; it is literally the most rewarding position in the Army in my opinion. Being able to mold, influence, train, mentor and guide young Soldiers to become young, professional Leaders is the most satisfying achievement there is. It is truly an honor to hold the position of First Sergeant in the Army. 

What are some of the biggest challenges of being a woman in the military? There are a few instances where I served in all male units; I’m going to be honest, it’s not always easy because not everyone receives females with the same mentality. I had to prove my abilities early on to gain their trust and confidence. I’ve had overall great experiences and have been received well, but it doesn’t always come easy. 

Do you plan to retire in the military? Or what are your post-military plans? I really want to start my own business when I retire in the next year or so. I would like to try my hand at a Hawaiian food truck! 

How has your service and experiences affected your life? I’m definitely appreciate the small things, I’ve learned not to take anything for granted. I know that if you want something, you have to be willing to put in the hard work and go the extra mile to achieve your goals, nothing is handed to you. I’m definitely more resilient because of the Army. Things don’t always go the way you plan, you quickly learn to adapt and move forward, instead of focusing on everything that’s going wrong. 

What do you like to do for fun? I love traveling, working out and cooking. 

How do you stay in shape? I’m really into high intensity circuit training and have come to adopt the “functional fitness” mindset. I use my Fitbit to keep me honest, it helps keep me moving throughout the work day. I really enjoy working out with other people and motivating them to achieve their fitness goals. Helping others helps me to push myself at the same time.

What makes you feel strong? The will power to say no to all the junk food I really want to eat. Just kidding. JI think just seeing myself getting stronger at the gym, being able to move heavier weight each time or go a longer distance, that sense of accomplishment and achievement. 

Do YOU know an amazing woman deployed overseas Who’s story I should share & can send a healthy care package to?

Want to donate products for Care packages?

Let’s talk! :)