By Angela Varney
Amanda Herbert enlisted in the United States military three days after her 19th birthday. During the four years of her service, she was offered an experience completely different than a job, or college classes, ever could.
“I always look for challenges,” she said, smiling,“I always thought I would regret not doing it far more than I would ever regret doing it.”
Herbert is a 24-year-old legal studies major at Quinnipiac from Wallingford, Connecticut, where she juggles a 21-credit class schedule, a part-time job and being the vice president of the Student Veteran Organization on campus. She spends her summers working with elementary school children at a local camp.
“I like working with kids because there are a lot of problems really fast,” she said, laughing, “It keeps me on my toes.”
Just a few years ago, working with F-15E Strike Eagles for the United States Air Force in England kept Herbert on her toes. She served two out of her four years at RAF Lakenheath base near Cambridge in Intelligence Operations where she was specifically selected to work with air-to-air and air-to-ground combat. Within the two-year time period, Herbert was also deployed to the Middle East for six months — spending one in Israel — where she continued her work with Intelligence Operations.
Referring to herself and others working in Intelligence Operations as “jacks of all trades, masters of none,” Herbert and her unit at RAF Lakenheath spent half of her second year in the service working in anti-terrorism operations. She said that they would typically be given an assignment and have to find all of the information necessary to “negate or destroy the problem.”
“At the end of the deployment, they had a six-month certificate of ‘most valued players,’ and I was one of the only enlisted people to get it,” she said humbly, “It sounds like just a little piece of paper you’d get when you’re little, but it meant so much. You don’t always get a lot of credit, especially in Intel Operations, but I liked not getting credit until the end because … I guess all of my dedication payed off!”
Above all else, Herbert said that her service taught her the most about herself.
“I learned a lot about myself and my strengths and weaknesses,” she said, “The hardest part was working with people that misunderstood certain things about myself or the work I was doing, but it only pushed me to understand that there are different ways to do one thing. Now I’m always looking at things with a billion different perspectives.”
While Herbert noted that the military might not be the right option for everyone, she insists that true happiness lies within — and may look different for everyone. According to Herbert, having a lot on your plate doesn’t always account for happiness.
“Success is based on yourself, not external forces. We always mistake happiness for success and success for happiness,” she said, “I’m doing what I’m doing because that’s what makes me happy, but I couldn’t give that advice to somebody else who isn’t made happy by that.”
When asked to describe her experience in the service, Herbert smiled wide and laughed.
“There’s a joke a lot of us say: If someone were to ask if we wanted to re-enlist today versus tomorrow, you’d have two totally different answers,” she said, “I would not be the person, student, every aspect of who I am, I would not be who I am today without it. But, it’s not everything I am.”