Amy Manjarres: An Air Force Woman

Amy Manjarres: An Air Force Woman

Name: Amy Manjarres
Class Standing: Junior
Major: Psychology
Interviewed by: Scott Moncrieff
Served in the Air Force from 2001-2015


How did you come to Andrews?
My father got his MBA at Andrews, and right about the time he graduated I was born. So Andrews has always had a special place in my parents’ hearts. When I was discharged from the military, I was devastated, because I wasn't planning on it. And to add insult to injury, my husband left me. So I came home in shambles and my mom said, “Why don't you go to Andrews?” I was in so much pain that I thought I just wanted to spend the rest of my life under my mom's skirt, protecting myself from the world. But maybe within three days the pain started getting so much worse that I thought something just needs to make it stop, and my mom's words just seemed like a good idea. I thought even though it's going to take awhile to apply, to get my transcripts, to get admitted, it's going to help make the pain go away because my mind will be focused on school and not on what has happened to me.

And how is that working out?
It's wonderful. My mom told me, “You have the GI Bill, you're not old, you can still rebuild your life. Don't look at it as your life ending. Why don't you look at it as your life starting again? Now you can live for yourself because your life belongs to you and not to the DOD (Department of Defense).” Part of me thought, “You're just saying that to make me feel better.” But she was right.

What is your life vision now?
I'd like to be a clinician, and I would love to work with young women. So many young girls have their self worth in the wrong places. This is not just girls—guys too—but I think girls are more vulnerable to it.

Wrong places like what?
Popularity, how much guys seek after them, how attractive they are, how much money they can make or have. They think, “If I'm likable then I love myself; if I'm not, then I should just die.” You see so many girls just sulking over rejection and not being able to get past that. If you have your self-worth in the right place—in this case being Christ, the person who truly loves you to the point of having given his life for you—then none of that is going to matter. You're going to become Teflon. You're not going to be so susceptible to rejection, because you're not going to be looking for the crumbs of somebody else's affection. You're going to have standards. You're not just going to go with the first guy who was nice to you, who smiled at you. I went through the Neil Nedley depression recovery program last year, and one thing that stuck with me was that to be happily married you have to be happily single. I think that's a concept that a lot of youth out there don't have. That's a reason why I would love to work with youth.

Let's back up and talk about how you got into the military.
Well, no glamorous reasons. I just wanted to run away from home. I was living in Florida, where my mom and dad are. At the time my life was just so boring, leading nowhere.

Had you finished high school?
Yes. I was in Miami working at Borders bookstore doing nothing. From there going to Miami Dade community college, and from there going home and the following day it was the same routine. It was a year-and-a-half of this and I couldn't take it anymore. My sister happened to mention that she had an employee who was going to go sign up for the Army, and he said he was going to get $50,000 for school. I thought that sounded grand. I can go away from home and I can get my school paid for, so why not? So I told my sister, and she said, “Don't go in the Army, go to the Air Force. They treat you better.” The next thing you know, we were down to the recruiter's office; we were actually going to join together. Unfortunately we didn't have the best recruiter and he kind of tricked us. For us to go together I would have had to wait one more month—and the recruiter didn't want that—these recruiters are always so desperate to meet their monthly quotas. So I ended up going in by myself and she didn't go in at all.

How was basic training?
It was an irritation.

Were you an athletic person?
I'm small, I'm compact, I'm stocky, I'm strong, but I'm not necessarily athletic. I was born with brute force. Physically, it was not that demanding. The hard part was sleep deprivation.

You mean they purposely kept you from sleeping eight hours?
Oh yeah. They gave us homework, which meant that we had to spend our off time studying. Many times I would be in my bunk bed with a flashlight under my covers and I wouldn't go to sleep until midnight. Most of us were operating on four or five hours of sleep.

Do women do running and push-ups and obstacle course, all the same things as male recruits?
They do, but only a fraction of it. When I went in 14 years ago—and it's changed a lot—women had two minutes to do 14 push ups. Guys had to do a lot more, like 60 or 70.

What did they require of you in terms of running?
Back then I think they required a female to run two miles in 17 minutes or less.

What jobs did you do?
The first four years I was a Diesel Mechanic. This was on a refueling truck, the kind that transports fuel to the fighter jets or cargo planes. And I also had to learn to work on diesel trucks that carry ground fuel.

Were you integrated with the men?
Yes. Males and females were part of the same squadron. We had separate housing but during the day we were operating together, ideally, without respect to gender.

So then after the first four years...
Instead of working on the refueler trucks I was placed in the position of driving them. And now instead of being at a mechanic shop, secluded, I was going out to the flight line to refuel fighter jets or cargo jets. Whatever came through we would go and refuel. When we were not doing that we would be back at the storage unit monitoring tank levels, pipelines, taking fuel samples, things like that.

Were you stationed abroad?
The first seven years I was here in the States. Then I (spent) four years in Japan and two years in Turkey.

Do you speak Spanish?

Did the military ever use that?
No. However, for the last three years of my career they gave me $100 a month extra because I was bilingual.

What were some of the good things about being in the military?
I definitely had a few good supervisors. And I would say that the bad things that happened to me that required resilience—that's a good thing, because it’s growth. I think the opportunity to be broken and then built back up, it's probably the best thing.

Do you mean the way the military broke you down and built you up?
Not necessarily the military—it was more of a personal experience. Being a female in the military was hard. Like I said earlier, ideally there is no such thing as gender during the duty hours. But that's just an ideal. There is gender discrimination.

How would that manifest itself?
Coworkers would throw a fit and say, “I'm not going to let a woman tell me what to do.”

You were in a supervisory position?
Exactly. I heard comments like, “Women should never be mechanics; a woman should never supervise a mechanics shop. A woman isn't born to be a mechanic.” And this is coming from people who'd been in the service a shorter time than I had, in the same job.

But people can't talk back to you in the military if they're in a subordinate position to you, can they?
A lot of things got swept under the rug. If I complained to a superior and said “Fouffy over here isn't wanting to carry his load; he refuses to take orders from a woman,” there would be no repercussions. They would just say “Fouffy, go do your job when she tells you to do something.”

Would they have reacted differently if you had been a man and told Fouffy to go do something?
Of course. I saw it happen.

Were there any female officers in your chain of command?
A few.

Did you have to go through weapons training?
Not very often. You know they call the Air Force the “Boy Scouts of the military,” and it’s not without reason. All weapons training, when I was in, was only every two years for one day. Even when I went to Iraq I only got the one day weapons training.

So you went to Iraq?
Yes, that was my last appointment. I drove a fuel truck, I did maintenance on the fuel trucks and I monitored the storage compound.

Were you ever under fire?
Thank God nobody I was with ever got blown up or killed. We did get indirect fire. We had a scare one time where some TCNs—that's third-world nationals—brought in some guns and explosives to the base. I don't know how they managed to do it, because every day when they would come in they would be searched. But somehow towards the end of the day they got caught. I guess they had been stashing everything in one of the porta-potties. After that they made us carry a weapon without a magazine for about a week. It was almost like a joke—we were supposed to give a show of force. I was in Southern Iraq, which was a lot safer than Northern Iraq.

So what is it like, in the military, having someone else have control over your life?
It can be very frustrating. The more you give them the more they want. They're not happy with you putting in eight hours. If you put in twelve, then you’re “good.” If they see you going home on time because you're caught up with your work then they frown on you. They ask “why are you going home?” And you say “because my work is caught up,” and they say “well there's people here who are staying late to do their work—you could help them.” They were very over-reactive to some situations, like let's say there's an inspection coming in 6 months. The inspections were normally to see that we were doing our day-to-day job by the book, logging everything that we did or didn’t do, following checklists on the daily operations. If you're doing things correctly every day, you can get inspected without notice and nothing should worry you. But these people would just panic and 6 months out they would make us work 12-hour shifts which would turn into 14 hour shifts; they would take away our weekends.

Would you get paid extra for that?
Oh no. It's a salary. So it was a lot of unnecessary stress. I think that was one of the most frustrating things: that no matter what you did it was never enough.

Did you acquire any qualities such as self discipline or toughness in the military that would be a help to you afterwards in civilian life?
(big laugh). Wow, I would say it got to the point where I acquired more toughness than necessary, more toughness than healthy. Instead of becoming just a firm person I became an angry person. I became violent; my language was horrible. I think it was kind of a defense mechanism. I no longer wanted to be seen as the kind of nice person, tolerant, happy, Because I got walked all over from being that and I was tired of it. For instance, the maintenance wasn't done on a tank and it wasn't logged in and that was grounds for disciplinary action to be taken against the whole group. Well guess who would take it? I would take it and everybody else would be off the hook. If there was a holiday coming up everybody would be off and I would be the one working. So they took my kindness for weakness and I got tired of that. So I went to the other extreme. Not only was I an angry person, but I became very cruel. And I would say that the better traits of character had to be worked on once I was out of the military. It was a work of reformation.

If an Andrews student were to say to you “Amy, I'm thinking of joining the military,” what would be some advice you would give them?
I would say “do not join until you have the certainty that your relationship with Christ is strong.” There's so much peer pressure in the military that it is easy, it's so easy, to give in. If you go there with a weak foundation, you will not stand.

Have you seen Hacksaw Ridge?
No, but I want to. Desmond Doss got so much respect without firing a gun, without yelling at one person, without using one profanity. What could be better than that? In Proverbs (16:7) it says something like when you're straight with God in every area of your life, even your enemies will respect you.


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