Many of our amazing Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest employees also served in the military. Below, they describe their military role and service, and how their experience affected their current job and civilian life.
Dr. Toni Marengo, Chief Medical Officer (CMO):
I was an OB/GYN in the United States Navy. After completion of my (civilian) residency, I was stationed at Naval Hospital 29 Palms on the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center.
In the military, you have the opportunity to work with a variety of people at varying levels in their professional careers — from young corpsmen on their first enlistment to senior officers charged with providing expert medical care and running the hospital. I also had to learn to work with and collaborate with the line: non-medical military personnel charged with the safety and security of our country. As the CMO, I feel like I apply many of the skills I honed in the Navy to my daily work. I collaborate with many different groups of people every day. In addition I am in a leadership role where I feel privileged to drive the mission of Planned Parenthood forward as well as lift up others around me. Every day I strive to set the best example I can for my colleagues as we work together to provide high quality health care to all of our patients.
While I was serving in the military (and after as a civilian OB/GYN working for the military) I saw firsthand how difficult it was for women (active duty and dependents) to access basic reproductive health care like contraception. There were a multitude of reasons for this, and I developed a passion to improve access, increase the training of all military health care providers, and improve and expand the family planning curriculum taught to military OB/GYN residents. In 2016, with the election of the current president, I knew I had to take my fight for reproductive health care access and advocacy outside of the military in order to fight for all people who need these services. I feel so fortunate as the CMO of a Planned Parenthood in a community with such a large military population, that I can continue to fight for this access for them.
Roselle, Director of Ancillary Services:
I was a Hospital Corpsman in the US Navy. I was stationed here in San Diego my whole enlistment, 5 years. The first 3 years I was at the Naval Medical Center at San Diego (Balboa) with attachment to the USS Mercy, and worked in Labor and Delivery. As a Corpsman, we took care of the newborns as soon as they were delivered and assisted the RNs with the mother’s care before and after delivery. I also became the Leading Petty Officer of the Department, which meant I was in charge of the enlisted personnel in the department. The last 2 years, I was onboard the USS Tarawa and we provided medical care to the ship’s staff, including sick call, preventive services, and medical combat training.
My experience as a Hospital Corpsman really played a big role in my becoming an RN. It definitely provided the foundation I needed. In addition, my military experience as a whole gave me the skills and discipline that helped with the leadership positions I’ve held since my enlistment.
Life after the military is very different. I’m going to quote and paraphrase (to clean some of it up) a post I saw on Instagram recently, since it really resonated with me:
‘Because from day one, we’re told where we rank, and how to act accordingly. You spend years knowing exactly where everyone stands in the hierarchy of command, ranked by accomplishments, intelligence, and time in service. Cut to life after getting out, no one knows their place, everyone thinks they’re the most special flower, and I’m going crazy because I’m trying to stay in my designated lane, but people keep crashing into me. Then you’re stepping on eggshells when you guide them back onto their lane. I genuinely struggle with this every single day.’
I also grew up as a military brat so military life has been engrained in my brain as a child and I definitely struggle with this to this day. I know this is not the most positive thought, but it is my reality.
Brian, Director of Emergency Management and Security:
I was in the Ohio Army National Guard so I was not stationed stateside for Active Duty, but went to various locations throughout the US for training. I was also deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan from 2007 to 2008. My “job” in the military was Military Police. While deployed to Afghanistan, the main roles I served in were convoy security (protecting contractor personnel, supplies, currency, and equipment while they traveled from base to base), police force for a smaller base in Kabul, and guard force member for one of the largest detainment facilities in the country at the time, on Bagram Airfield.
While there are some major differences between my role in the military and my current role, the principles of protection and serving are similar. We were often in the role of protector to either people or facilities, and that directly translates to much of the current role I hold. Also, working for a non-profit with a great mission gives me the sense of serving again, which I think is something every military person feels while they are active.
While I was in the National Guard my civilian life was still fairly normal, with the occasional disruptions to either attend training or deployments. The disruptions would at times be frustrating depending on what was going on, as your life would have to be put on hold. As for politics, I was a bit of a “black sheep” amongst my peers. I’ve always been more of an Independent with a left-leaning view on social issues. Gave us things to argue about to pass the down times and boredom, though!
Scott, IT Support Manager:
I was a Machinist’s Mate 3rd Class (think diesel mechanic and plumber) stationed on the USS Portsmouth (SSN 707), a fast attack submarine here in San Diego.
My military experience has helped me to write policies and procedures for the IT Department, similar to maintenance plans in the Navy, that allow us to keep systems running efficiently and with minimal downtime. It has also helped me to keep a chain of command structure to make sure that requests are getting/given the proper permissions/sign-offs before they are completed, to ensure that everyone is kept safe and secure.
Being in the military has helped me keep structure in my personal life. I can pack a bag for a trip and still have plenty of space leftover for whatever shopping might happen wherever I’m going! It’s amazing how much you can fit in a bag when you know how to roll it up!
April, Patient Flow Coordinator:
I was a combat engineer in the Marine Corps. I was stationed primarily on Camp Pendleton where I was assigned to a bridging company. My primary duties in this company involved building medium girder bridges, construction, minesweeping, demolition, and concreting.
My experience in the military has allowed me to be highly adaptable to the constant changes we see. My service allowed me to work with a diverse group of people, which led me to seeking out that same opportunity in my civilian employment. The leadership positions I held on active duty prepared me to achieve leadership positions at Planned Parenthood by providing me with the tools necessary to lead a team.
My military experience had a huge impact on my civilian life, more so the life I led before the Military. After joining, I was exposed to a large amount of diversity and what I once viewed as being the norm suddenly became a huge conflict for myself. Joining the military gave me a new perspective on the world, as I was no longer sheltered in my little 1800 person town. I am thankful for my experience in the military because it gave me the courage to stand up and say “This is wrong” regarding recent events in politics, such as limited access to abortion or reproductive healthcare.
Sally, Lead Clinician:
I was a Staff Sergeant and an Engineer, and was stationed in Ft Leonardwood, MO; Ft Hood, TX; Vilseck, Germany; and three tours in Iraq.
The leadership skills as a combat squad leader have prepared me for my role as a lead clinician. The camaraderie amongst my military peers is very similar to that of my relationships with my Mission Bay family and fellow colleagues.
My military experience affected my civilian life in that it taught me to value the importance of the impact of my voice and my desire to fight for what’s right.