Reservist — and employer — adapting after deployment
The Herald-Sun, Durham, N.C.
DURHAM, N.C. – Night and day. That’s how U.S. Army Maj. Megan Miranda described the work days at her current job at Third Degree Advertising in American Tobacco versus the job she held a few months ago as a company commander deployed in Afghanistan.
Miranda has worked at Third Degree since 2010, and is also in the Army Reserve. She joined ROTC in college, and was commissioned in 1997. Fifteen years later, she’s still in the Army.
“It’s in you, rather than you in it,” Miranda said. “At this point, it’s such a part of my life, a good part of my life, I’ve decided to stick with it.” After five years’ active duty, she switched to the reserves because she wanted to pursue a career in marketing. She received her MBA from Georgetown University.
“The reserves lets me keep my hand in and contribute something, but still do work I love to do, which is being here,” Miranda, 37, said in the Durham office Thursday, a colorful space in American Tobacco Bay 11.
Keeping her hand in has meant two previous deployments as well. One was short, and included time in Kuwait, Bahrain and Iraq, and the second was a tour in Iraq. She works in Military Information Support Operations, previously called PSYOPS, short for psychological operations. There are parallels between MISO and marketing and advertising, she said. MISO uses a variety of media to influence attitudes and behavior of the target group, ultimately to support the U.S.’s objective, she explained. In marketing and advertising, you are also looking for reaction with an audience, she said. They are very different environments with different risks though, she said.
Miranda’s husband, Bill, is active duty Army and stationed at Fort Bragg. They live in Lillington. When she was deployed in Afghanistan, he was also working in a war zone – in Iraq. His deployment was January to November 2011, and hers was August 2011 to August 2012.
Her deployment was a surprise, and she stepped in another commander’s place on mobilization day with the 350th PSYOPS Company out of Twinsburg, Ohio. They spent 10 months in Afghanistan. As a company commander, she worked in an office and her 60 soldiers were spread across 12 locations in the Helmand Province.
Everyone worked long hours, Miranda said. Her typical workday was 14 to 18 hours, seven days a week. She was a strategist, looking at the big picture and making the best use of tools at her disposal. Her civilian job is similar in that way, but not others.
“Here, the environment is night and day,” Miranda said. She doesn’t have the stress of worrying about the safety and welfare of those she is responsible for and everything they do and don’t do, she said.
Adjusting between her careers is something she has gotten used to, Miranda said, especially with three deployments. Part of adjusting to life back home is taking everything in, she said.
“The visual stimulation of a grocery store or Target is overwhelming, but in a good way,” Miranda said. “Being home in general makes me so thankful for everything we have – even silly things we take for granted.” Miranda has a long commute, but she still gets to drive a car with her music and coffee rather than walk to work in the heat. She also appreciates indoor plumbing, dressing like a girl, being herself and having some down time for family and friends, she said.
“We’re such a fortunate country,” she said.
The Army gave her tips on readjusting back home, and to Third Degree as well. Miranda said that Third Degree was supportive from the start, asking how they could help.
It was a first for the company, facing an employee’s being deployed. CEO and founder Roy Page, who works in Third Degree’s home office in Oklahoma City, Okla., as well as Durham, said they’re more accustomed to employees being out on maternity leave. Page said they knew any deployment would be much harder on her than the company.
Still, a small company losing one of its teammates meant wrapping their heads around how to replace her, Page said. Other staff shifted roles and more were hired as the company grew.
Page said what he admires about Miranda, and what he hopes she admires about them, was the commitment to stay in touch during her deployment. They sent her care packages and she sent them a newsletter, including a photograph of her holding a Third Degree patch. When Miranda was scheduled to return this month, the management team in Durham looked at their workload, how the company had changed over the past year and Miranda’s skill set. An account manager previously, Miranda is now in content development.
Page said that his view of soldiers as employees, judging from Miranda, is that they are extremely smart, intelligent, natural leaders and self-starters. They also have autonomy and don’t need a lot of hand holding, Page said.
Miranda’s back to her usual status in the Reserve, with one weekend a month and two weeks a year of duty, varying with the needs of the Army. She’ll soon be transferred to Fort Bragg. Miranda said she knows the expectations for each job and adapts accordingly.