Season 4 Episode 145: Going from Officer to Dependent with Charlene Wilde

This episode of the Lessons Learned for Vets podcast kicks off our 4th Season! We are excited to host Charlene Wilde who served as a US Army Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) Officer for six years. As a veteran and military spouse, Charlene is now the Senior Vice President of Operations at American Armed Forces Mutual Aid Association (AAFMAA). This podcast focuses on how she transitioned back into the civilian workforce after an 11-year break and the strategies she used to expand her opportunities at AAFMAA. We are grateful to AAFMAA for sponsoring this episode.


Charlene made the decision to separate from the military after she had her first child. With her husband recently deployed to Iraq and a short 6-week maternity leave over, Charlene persevered as a CBRN officer for awhile before realizing she wanted to prioritize her new role as a mother. Unfortunately, her command and unit were not supportive of military women who wanted to continue serving after becoming a mom. After Charlene separated, she found the support she needed through the military spouse community.


As a veteran and military spouse, Charlene spent a significant amount of time overseas with her husband. At the time, remote work was not as prevalent as it is today. Charlene had the desire to continue learning and serving, so she volunteered as much as she could through military organizations and spouse groups. Volunteering was an opportunity for Charlene to gain new skills - skills that helped her gain future employment. Charlene encourages mil spouses to take a strategic approach to volunteering in order to build a resume. Taking classes or pursuing certifications are also great ways to fill gaps on a resume.


When Charlene began applying for roles after an 11-year break, she tailored her resume to focus on her organizational and leadership skills. She took advantage of Fort Belvoir’s military spouse employment office and began networking. AAFMAA hired her as a team leader in 2015. Charlene admits that when she first reentered the workforce, she viewed her role as just a job. A year later, she shifted her mindset from job to career. With this mental shift, Charlene began to look for new opportunities to grow within the company.


AAFMAA has a long and solid history of serving the military community. It is the longest standing not for profit association to provide military families with affordable financial solutions, including life insurance, investment management, residential mortgages and Survivor Assistance Services. In addition, almost 40% of AAFMAA’s workforce is either a veteran or a military spouse.


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