As a kid growing up in Texas, Quadel staff accountant, Ronna Jessen, had two career aspirations: be a Texas Ranger or join the military. So, she did. Jessen was a Tactics Control Assistant (now called a Patriot Fire Control Enhanced Operator) in the United States Army from 1989 – 1994. The Patriot Missile system is an air defense system used to counter enemy ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and advanced aircraft.
With a tactical job that dealt with missiles and tanks, Jessen was the only female in her platoon. Her military experience taught her many life lessons. She reflects on them this Veterans Day.
Lesson #1: Judge People on Performance and Character, not Gender
“I was the only female in my platoon and there were two other females in my AIT (Advanced Individual Training) classes. It was really tough. A lot of times we had to work harder to prove that we weren’t stupid,” Jessen said. “Just because I am a girl, doesn’t mean I can’t do this. It did really make me work harder – even in the physical aspects, too. (Their skepticism) kept me challenged and motivated. Being a female doesn’t mean anything. I didn’t need or want special privileges.”
When the Gulf War broke out, Jessen was sent to a non-deployable unit – the Allied Student Battalion. During her time in the battalion, Jessen assisted foreign ally students who were training on the Patriot Missile System.
Jessen said she joined the military because she wanted to serve her country and see the world. Specifically, she said she wanted to go to Germany – where her uncle served in WWII. Instead, she spent her military career where she grew up – El Paso, Texas. While she never made it to Germany, she was able to interact with, and learn from, soldiers from around the world.
Lesson #2: Embrace Where You Are
“(Being assigned to the Allied Student Battalion) was truly a blessing in disguise. When it happened, I was very angry. I joined the Army to serve my country, and I felt like they had taken it away from me. But, they hadn’t,” Jessen said. “I met soldiers from Germany, UAE, and people from so many different countries. I got my little experience of Germany (at Fort Bliss.) I think dealing with all those people and nationalities and customs really taught me and gave me a perspective on how to deal with people. I was taught that (everyone) is just as human as I am. That is one of the biggest things that has stuck with me my entire life.”
During her time in the Allied Student Battalion, Jessen learned administrative skills and computer programs like Word and Excel. This allowed her to hold many administrative positions throughout her career. In 2020, she graduated with a degree in accounting.
Lesson #3: Never Stop Challenging Yourself
“With my kids in college, I decided to go back to school for accounting. It took me six years, but I finally graduated in 2020 at 50-years-old,” Jessen said. “I love the people I work with. I worked in a lot of different settings, and it’s definitely a great group of people. Everyone I meet is so kind and willing to help. I’ve not run into anyone who has been having a bad day.”