“It’s like a driver’s license; You’ve been riding in the car with your family, watching them drive every day, but it’s nothing like driving yourself.”

It’s only fitting for the start of Military Appreciation Month that we highlight one of the trailblazers in the U.S. armed forces.

The ClearanceJobs podcast was joined by Matice Wright-Springer, who in 1989, became the U.S. Navy’s first African American female flight officer where she went on to serve on active duty for eight years. After transitioning out of the military, she worked in the private sector serving multiple contractors, serving as a White House Fellow, as principal director for the DoD, and now a vice president at ManTech, a $2.5 billion defense contractor that has been in business for over 50 years.

Matice discussed her role in the U.S. Navy and noted some things that even our veterans from other branches may not know about flying in the cockpit.

The institutions in other branches of the U.S. military are rigorous and can be difficult. It was very simple to Matice, though: she wanted to fly airplanes. After being at the naval academy for four years in the classroom, she thought learning how to pass the tests and perform at altitude would be her biggest obstacle. She learned in the first few days that she was the first black female flight officer, and that was something to grasp. She notes that she “didn’t see someone that looked like her in a flight suit until she put one on.” Her cohorts just didn’t look like her, but she wanted her teachers to treat her as a student so she could carry out the U.S. Navy’s mission.

If you’re transitioning from the military to the contracting world, those serving on active duty can glean insight from the positive experiences along with things Matice wished she would’ve known moving from the flight suit to business suit. It’s initially a daunting thought– but Matice says you need to learn to be comfortable with uncomfortable.

Tune in to this episode of ClearedCast where Matice talks about how she applies being the ‘first’ in her civilian job, currently in public policy, where she applies her Master’s in Public Administration from Harvard and her military background to safeguard the nation while shaping public policy.

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Katie Keller is a marketing fanatic that enjoys anything digital, communications, promotions & events. She has 8+ years in the DoD supporting multiple contractors with recruitment strategy, staffing augmentation, marketing, & communications. Favorite type of beer: IPA. Fave hike: the Grouse Grind, Vancouver, BC. Fave social platform: ClearanceJobs! 🇺🇸