From Helicopter Pilot to Corporate America
One’s Mission to Serve is often an unfolding process over time. Each decision fuels the next, and in time the tapestry that’s been woven by decisions made reveals the purpose that was intended from the beginning. For some, the decision to join the military was a deliberate choice to fulfill one’s believed purpose. For others, the decision was a steppingstone that would lead to a Mission to Serve that was yet unknown. Cassie Prinke relates with the latter.
When asked why Cassie joined the military she said, “My parents couldn’t afford to send five children to college, so if college was an option for me, I needed to find the means to attend.” At the time, the Army ROTC had a special program allowing students to try it to see if you like it program. Cassie concluded that she didn’t have anything to lose with that offer, so she signed up. Seeing the helicopters during basic training and thinking how much of a blast it would be to jump out of and fly one, she determined to find a way to go to Jump School and Flight Training.
Flight school wasn’t on the Army’s radar for most women. Cassie began campaigning for her desire and came against much opposition. But the resistance didn’t stop her from going after what she wanted. With steadfast determination, she drove over 2000 miles to talk with the National Guard Headquarters in Maryland to find out what she needed to do to get orders to go to Flight School. She told them, “I want to go and I’m here to find out how to do it.” After several attempts and the support of her National Guard leadership she was selected for an aviation training slot. In 1982 she was on her way to Flight school, the first woman of Arizona to ever attend from the Arizona National Guard.
The greatest challenge Cassie had to overcome in the military was not allowing herself to be pigeonholed as something she was not passionate about. She said, “Women were nowhere near being on an equal footing with men in the 70’s, but I had a unique advantage that kept me from being labeled. My dad was physically disabled, and he had an exceptional ability to not be pigeonholed. He would say, ‘We all have our limitations. You can see mine while yours can’t be seen.’ His positive and wise attitude trained me not to have a bad attitude and not to allow myself to be labeled as less than significant.”
After 10 years of dedicated military service, Cassie transitioned into corporate America. Her technical and leadership training in the military provided her the skills needed to work as an Executive Director at Honeywell, and now as a Business VP and representative for LegalShield where she enables Americans to access their rights the military defends. She said, “The military forces you to be innovative and learn you can do more than you realize and to overcome adversities that enable you to move forward even in ambiguous times. Where else but America are people granted the opportunities to be all they are meant to be. Everyone needs a drill sergeant sometime in their life to push them outside their comfort zone and bubble. Bubbles are limited. We have so many opportunities in this country. Our system is better than any other system in the world. I think God knew what he was doing when he made me be born in America and not anywhere else.”
While Cassie’s transition to civilian work was a smooth process, she understands that for many the transition is difficult. She offers some encouragement for both the veteran and the employer. For the veterans, she says, “You need to understand the civilian work environment is different. It isn’t command and control. It’s a different game than the military. If you’re good at playing baseball and we’re playing football, baseball really doesn’t matter. Learn to be in the game that’s being played.”
To the employer Cassie says, “Corporations need to understand veterans are used to a different environment. Most who have served learned to appreciate structure and standard operating procedures. They have a mission-driven mindset and when they buy into your mission, they will be your greatest asset. They will do what’s expected. The military develops people into problem-solvers and survivors. The value a veteran brings to an organization far outweighs the challenges to overcome. Help them fit in and be part of your team.”
We salute Cassie Prinke for her service and thank her for sharing with us her Mission to Serve.
If you would like to learn more about Cassie, you can contact her at email@example.com
Contact us today if you would like to learn about the value veterans can bring to your team culture.