My journey in supply chain began as an aviation storekeeper in the United States Navy in 1999. As a young woman growing up in Baltimore in a family of biological siblings, half siblings, and foster siblings, I knew I wanted to move out of state after high school. When I was in 11th grade, I found myself talking to a military recruiter, and ultimately decided to enter the military right before beginning my senior year of high school under the Delayed Entry Program (DEP), with a date to ship out just five months after graduation.
As a 17-year-old away from home for the first time, navigating boot camp was a thrill. I enjoyed being challenged and finding solutions to the problems presented to me. It didn’t take long before my natural role as a leader began to shine through, and I was quickly put in charge of my boot camp division. It was remarkable to lead 80 women during their boot camp journey alongside of the recruit division commanders, and be assigned to the division at such a young age.
Upon officially entering the Navy, under the advisement of my recruiter, I didn’t select a specific job. As I entered “the fleet,” I was assigned to a P3 Orion Aircraft command, where our mission was reconnaissance and reporting drug smugglers that were identified in foreign waters. During this time, I never served on a ship, as the aircraft for this command was too big to deploy on water vessels. Since I didn’t choose a specific rating, I transitioned to become free labor to the military command, and began my first deployment overseas at NAS (Navail Air Station) Sigonella, Italy, where I performed miscellaneous tasks including waxing floors, painting walls, making cappuccino, cleaning, working in a snack shop, and working in a hazmat yard.
Eventually, I settled on aviation storekeeper, after learning more about the position and the opportunities associated outside of the military. In this position, I learned about supply and the supply chain in general, as I was responsible for ordering, stocking and distributing required equipment for prompt completion of maintenance. I gained additional experience while serving as a night shift supervisor and OPTAR (Operating Target) Manager in locations such as Italy, Puerto Rico, Greece and Germany. Ultimately, I was awarded many medals through the mission carried out by the P3 command, including the Kosovo Campaign Medal.
One key takeaway from my time serving in the Navy is that people often associate and remember names of impactful people. I developed great leadership traits due in part to my eagerness to assist, my ability to perform under pressure, my accuracy, and reliability. Many tend to associate veterans with those who have retired or been injured while serving, but if you’ve served honorably for any amount of time, you’re a veteran and you deserve all the accolades.
Military personnel are uniquely qualified for positions within the supply chain, especially in times of turmoil, as we’re trained to perform calmly under pressure in any circumstance or condition. Exposure to the military supply world has helped me tremendously when faced with new challenges on the government contractor side. Some of my knowledge about logistics and supply chains came from my military background and training as an aviation storekeeper. Working with different military supply locations helps when trying to figure out logistical challenges surrounding procuring and shipping goods to troops and bases, and building connections with current logisticians who are actively serving certainly comes easier when they know you’ve walked in their shoes.
Military training goes far beyond what’s needed during your time serving, teaching you skills to carry with you throughout your career and life. The Navy gave me a great start to the supply chain industry, and I would have never thought that I would still be in this field today.
Quawnishia Morgan is warehouse and logistics manager with ADS, Inc.
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