Private First Class (PFC) Darlene B. Jordan doesn’t let age or adversity get in her way. While she may be too modest to admit it, she’s been that determined all her life.
“My family was dysfunctional, so I spent lots of time in foster care. And then I became a teen mother at 15. I raised my son as a single parent until he turned 18 and moved out on his own.”
Despite being dealt a difficult hand early in life, PFC Jordan did what she needed to do to support herself and her son over the years. She worked various jobs near her home in Portland, Oregon – from office support jobs in human resources and accounting to driving a school bus because the hours aligned perfectly with her son’s schedule. She even managed to find time to take various community college courses.
There was only one thing she always wanted to do but couldn’t as a single parent without the support of an extended family.
“I had always wanted to join the National Guard. When my son moved out, I went through a bit of empty nester syndrome. I was 34 at the time, so I said, ‘OK, I’ll do it.’”
She put in her notice at work, sold most of her stuff, and headed to Basic Training at Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri. From there, she went to the 369th AG Battalion in Fort Jackson, South Carolina, for Advanced Individual Training (AIT) where she earned her 36B Financial Management Technician Military Occupation Specialty (MOS).
“When I enlisted, I gave up my whole other life. This is my second life. It was the right thing for me to do. I gave up some things but gained a whole lot of others.”
Like the full-time, dual-status financial technician job she now holds less than two years later with the Oregon Military Department in Salem. PFC Jordan does her one-weekend-a-month drills and two-week annual training for the Guard, and at the same time provides payroll and finance support on a daily basis. For example, one of her main duties involves teaching Soldiers how to complete their paperwork before they deploy so that they get paid correctly and their families are set financially while they’re gone.
She says the educational direction the Guard has provided for her “second life” has been well worth her decision to join, as well.
“Before the Guard, I was going for an associate’s degree, but the courses I took weren’t focused. Now I’m taking advantage of tuition assistance, plus I was able to convert my Basic and AIT into college credits. I can finish my associate’s in finance in just a couple of semesters. I want to keep going, though, and get my bachelor’s.”
And, PFC Jordan says, the fringe benefits have even been transforming.
“I just ran a half-marathon – I’ve become a runner and love running with a group of my Army buddies. I’ve traveled places I’ve never gone before. I’m 40 hours a week, but we get an hour each day to exercise. I just love my job.”
She’s even joined a Toastmasters group. Originally, her National Guard Recruiter wanted her to consider a public relations MOS. She shied away from that suggestion, however, at the thought of having to speak in public.
“But the Army has standards, and one of the things they expect is that you can talk in front of people. So, I’m working on my public speaking.”
Of all the experiences she’s had since joining, PFC Jordan says she actually gained the most from Basic Training.
“It was tough at the time, but going through Basic was so amazing for me. You just learn to believe in yourself and that you can accomplish things even if you’re afraid to.”
She says being in her 30s among mostly high school graduates was no big deal.
“There was a group of about 20 of us out of 200 who were over 30. As far as the physical aspect of it goes, we were in the same shape as younger recruits, if not better. You’re more in your prime when you’re in your 30s. And it was easy for me to relate to them since I had a child their age. I helped a lot of them de-stress.”
So what does PFC Jordan’s son think of her decision to join the Guard?
“He’s very happy for me. He didn’t believe it at first, and then he saw me in my uniform and thought it was really cool.”
If you’d like to take your life in a whole new direction like PFC Jordan did, check out the Army National Guard jobs board and contact a Recruiter today.