Meet Eyvette Turner, one of our launch peer leaders!
Eyvette is an Air Force Veteran who served for over 20 years. She currently resides in Richmond, VA.
Tell us about yourself.
I was born and raised in Columbus, OH. I moved out of my house when I was 17 and went to live in the YWCA while I paid my way through community college. After school, I went to work at the welfare department, but I didn’t like it so I decided to join the military. I had come from a military family – my older brother was in the Air Force and my middle brother joined the Army. I wanted to follow in my brothers’ footsteps, so I went to talk to the Air Force Reserve recruiter. When I got there, I ended up speaking with the active duty recruiter. He asked me, “why would you come back?” That’s when I decided that I wanted to see the world so why not just go for it. Next thing I knew I was on my way to basic training – I spoke to the recruiter on a Thursday and left for basic the following Tuesday.
My initial job was as an electronic technician – one of only a few women at that time. My job was to take care of the telephone systems and work with the mainframe where all the wires met up for the system. I helped maintain the equipment that the phone wires were connected to and I had to know all the schematics involved. It was interesting work.
Once I went into the Reserves, I was an inspection manager for aircraft, and then the last six years of my service, I was a recruiter for the Air Force Reserves. The joy of recruiting is so phenomenal – I enjoyed meeting people and helping them open a new chapter in their lives.
What was the most rewarding aspect of your service?
The most rewarding aspect of my service was being able to meet new people as well as getting to live in different cities and countries. Moving and traveling with the military is great because you know that you will be set up once you move. You have your assigned duty station or base and there is no need to look for a new job. You get to meet new people and the military provides you with ongoing training which I loved since I really like learning.
What was one of the challenges you faced in your transition from military to civilian life?
When I joined the military, my goal was to enjoy it until I retired, but in 1992 I was a part of Reduction in Forces (RIF), which meant the Air Force had recruited too many people in my career field and they didn’t need me anymore. That was extremely frustrating and made me feel abandoned by a military that had been so there for me up until that point. They explained to us that the first to volunteer for the RIF would get a severance package and the rest will just be released without anything. I was a single parent with two children depending on me so I took the severance package. I got out and I had to figure out what I could do. I went through a difficult period of time. Eventually, I was able to return to the military until retirement.
One of the challenges after retirement was the lack of camaraderie. In the military there is a common thread among people – you are like-minded and you have a mission. You get the job done, complete the mission, and then you have fun. This mindset wasn’t present in the civilian world. It was a bit of an eye opener and a shock. Additionally, you get out there and there is no job waiting for you. Looking for a job was a full-time job and it was pretty frustrating.
Military service didn’t appear to count when I was applying for jobs. In the end, I went back to school and earned a BA in business before going on to get my MBA. At that point, I decided that I wanted to be an entrepreneur and grow a business for myself. I’m working towards that with my organization, At Ease, Life is Fun. The goal is to work with foster care and other agencies that serve at-risk youth to build a mentorship program.
What inspired you to become involved in WoVeN?
Cat and Tina [WoVeN peer leaders from Charlotte]– I met them at the Women Veterans Interactive conference and I really connected with them. They discussed WoVeN and it sounded like a good opportunity for women Veterans to help each other grow.
What would you like to tell women who are thinking of joining WoVeN?
Come check us out! This is an opportunity to enhance your life and be around like-minded people.