Meet the Coast Guard Spouse of the Year

By: Prasanthideepika Pavuluri

“I like to think I have three families: my own family, Verizon, and the 100 military families I support in the Coast Guard. I’m a military spouse in only one, but I carry who I am with me all the time.”

Meet Jennifer Mullen: a passionate mom, a senior member technical staff in IT project management, and the Armed Forces Insurance United States Coast Guard Spouse of the Year for 2016.

Jennifer was one of six spouses from all military branches to receive the honor. To earn the title, spouses were assessed on criteria including impact on community change, volunteer efforts, personal sacrifice, professional goals, and service to the military community. Spouses also had to pass through voting sessions and a series of reviews, including a final review by a panel including Joint Chiefs of Staff, senior enlisted spouses and Military Spouse of the Year predecessors.

I like to think I have three families: my own family, Verizon, and the 100 military families I support in the Coast Guard. I’m a military spouse in only one, but I carry who I am with me all the time.

Holding down the home front.

Jennifer’s husband, Thomas, works as a maritime enforcement specialist first class, protecting ports and waterways at home and abroad. He has deployed 10 times and the Mullen family has moved four times.

“I can’t control where we’ll go next or when, but I can control how I’ll be in the moment,” she said. “All of the people around me help, and I draw the most inspiration from my children.”

One day Jennifer’s son asked her what his dad does and where he goes.

“I explained the best I could, but I felt a children’s book about the Coast Guard would help. I couldn’t find one though,” Mullen noted. “I brought home other books and my son noted, ‘that’s not what daddy wears or what he does.’”

So Jennifer took it upon herself to fill the need. She is writing a book to help pre-school and elementary children understand the struggles of change and Coast Guard deployments.

Serving the military community.

Supporting military families is close to Jennifer’s heart. In addition to her home and work responsibilities, Jennifer serves in the Boston, Mass., area as an Ombudsman, an elected liaison between the command and unit families in her husband’s unit. If there’s an emergency, she gets a call.

“This role is about supporting communication between the command and the family members. I ensure every family has resources available to create a network,” she said. “We lean on each other and learn from each other. And when there’s an emergency, there’s a support system in place.”

Tapping into the Verizon network.

“The people of Verizon have helped me through each transition. I’ve had excellent leaders who have identified different jobs that are a good fit for me or helped move my job with me,” Jennifer said. “Since I’m now working from home, that flexibility has been crucial to caring for my family and my extended military family wherever we may move.”

She credits her strong internal network for her ability to manage effectively through these challenges while growing her career at Verizon.

“I feel I have created a support system of teammates and leaders by keeping their needs in front of me,” Jennifer said. “I always ask how they’re doing and offer my help. When I need to take care of something at home or prepare for another move, they’ve been there for me in return.”

She added, “My network is everything to me. I’m not afraid to ask. In a lot of scenarios in IT, as a female and in a management role, many could be shy about asking for help. There’s no one else who knows my story better than me. I want to help others feel empowered to share their story, and be their own advocate.”

“I know the importance of leaning on others to succeed. It’s a belief I carry with me in my role as a mom, spouse, teammate and dedicated member of the military community.”