Face of Defense: Single Parents Lead Households, Squadrons

If it takes a village to raise a child, how can a mom do it on her own while also leading an Air Force squadron? Two squadron commanders here do exactly that while acting as a guiding light for those who think it’s impossible.

Leading a squadron, which can be made up of 100 to 550 people at a time, can create a collision of priorities.

Air Force Lt. Col. Carina Harrison, commander of the 100th Force Support Squadron, and Air Force Lt. Col. Stacie Voorhees, commander of the 100th Communications Squadron, are both single parents who juggle the competing priorities of family and squadron leadership. Harrison has a 15-year-old daughter and Voorhes has two young girls.

‘It’s Not Hard … It’s Normal.’

“I’ve always had to be a single mother,” Harrison said “It’s not hard, because it’s normal. It’s what I’ve always had to do.”

Being a single parent can bring additional challenges when duty calls.

“I try to not look at it as a balancing act when it comes to my family and my career,” Voorhees said. “When you think of it that way, something is always going to be off set. I prefer the term ‘work-life integration.’ The kids know we’re a part of the military and they also know that they have to put in work and energy as well.”

Harrison agreed and added that having her daughter has taught her to be more flexible with her decisions.

“I try to involve my daughter’s life as much as possible with mine,” Harrison said. “We bond through things that she wants to do, and things that I have to do, due to work. If she wants to be a cheerleader, I will be a cheerleading coach. I don’t know a thing about cheerleading, but you have to pick and choose to make time for your family. You will always have to make those tough decisions.”

These leaders said they are always learning as parents, especially when it comes to handling the curveballs life throws at them.

Both commanders agreed that it can be very difficult juggling so many responsibilities and the feeling the weight of the world is on their shoulders, both at home and work. They said they do what they can to balance their love of family with their love of duty to give the time and patience each deserves.

“Your job is rewarding, but your family is vital; love your family and build a second family from those around you,” Harrison said. “One of the first things I look for, no matter what base I get assigned, is a church. Family, friends and God, that is my village and is what I depend on to help me stay sane.”

Blending family and military life has allowed these airmen to succeed at both.

“The climate here is really supportive, which makes a huge difference,” Voorhees said. “Being able to bring my kids with me to events on base or if I need to have them here in the office, has helped me learn to better value the time I have with those people in that moment and to use it to its fullest. It’s little things like that which show you can be in the military and still be a single parent or just able to have a family in general.”