How Chrissy Houlahan transitioned from a life of military service to civic service

Kaylah Jackson
May 18, 2018 - 3:29 pm

Photo courtesy of Chrissy Houlahan


"It's the family business." That's how Chrissy Houlahan, D-P.A. describes her family's history of military service. 

As the daughter, and granddaughter of career naval officers, Houlahan says her decision to join the military was the "right thing to do." Her initial aspirations to become an astrounaut led her to join the Air Force and through R.O.T.C, she received her commission. as and graduated with a degree in industrial engineering from Stanford Univeristy. She then began her career stationed in Hanscom Air Force Base in Boston, Massachusetts.

"My first assignment was to work in advanced plans and programs, which required working on programs that would be used in the field 20 to 25 years in the future."

As an engineer Houlahan supported efforts advancing military technologies but like many women in the service, motherhood became one of the concerns in weighing the decision to continue a full-time military career.

After three years on active duty, she had her first child. Serving at a time when the Berlin Wall fell, the military was reassessing it's current mission and Houlahan dealing with the responsbilities of being a new mother, entering in the Individual Ready Reserve seemed like a viable option.

"Maternity leave was six weeks long but you needed to wait six months to be able to have your child in base child care. I think that back then, there was sort of this assumption that the active duty member would be a man and the trailing spouse would be able to accomdate the six1 months until base child care would be available," said Houlahan.

Photo courtesy of Chrissy Houlahan

After serving in the military, a career of civic service didn't seem as the natural next step. For the next 25 years she worked with a variety of non-profits and for-profit organzations, some focused on early childhood literacy and some on sports, mainly, the popular basketball apparel company AND1. It was then that she felt uniquely compelled to serve in the political sphere.

"I need to answer a call many people are answering right now. I feel like a lot of our democratic values that we've made such great progress on in my adult lifetime are really being threatened right now. I think that these are things that we need to protect and defend and that's why I've decided to run for Congress. I feel like I have background and experience in the things that we ought to care about as a nation," she said.

While she didn't always believe the military could translate to politics, now during her run for Congress, she's come to the realization that her life in the military is an ideal foundation for working in civic service. 

"I think that vets (and also women honestly,) are uniquiely qualified to be helpful in goverment and public servce in this way. I think we've been raised through the military process to be team players and to be sort of ecumenical, and non partisan and to be people who accomplish things together and who aren't about dividing the team...military members and women also are kind of known for that dispostion," she said.

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