Story 11: We asked Women Veterans, What’s it Like to Travel While in the Military?

Featured Image: Tiffany McKeaney

We asked two women Veterans to answer questions about their time spent traveling during active service in the US Military. We had no idea what their responses would be and really appreciate that these women shared their experiences with us! 

Photo by Tiffany McKeaney
Photo by Tiffany McKeaney

Introduction: 

Tiffany McKeaney {TM} started out in the Army Reserves. She served her first 10 years with them, and then switched to the National Guard in 2014. Her rank – Specialist, E-4.

Kyleanne Hunter {KH} was in the United State Marine Corp for 10 years. Ky was a combat helicopter pilot, say what?! We asked her, what that was like. KH: From a flying aspect – helicopters are amazing! However, combat is always a tough experience.


Let’s get started!

ST {Swell Travel}: Were you deployed internationally and if so how long and where?

TM {Tiffany McKeaney}: I was deployed from March 2008 to March 2009 to Iraq. We started off in Fallujah and then moved up to Mosul towards the end of our tour.

KH: Yes – Iraq

ST: How many countries and US states have you seen? 

TM: 2 countries – Germany and Iraq. I have been to NJ, TX, MO, CA, Alaska

KH: I worked in over 52 countries – most in my work as a legislative liaison officer. I was stationed in 5 different states within the US.

ST: What was your living situation like?

TM: In Iraq, we started out in old Iraqi Army barracks buildings. Then we moved into 2 man trailers. The barracks were old empty buildings that were turned into squad size bays. We did, luckily, have air conditioning that would go out often.

KH: I was single throughout my time in the military. While stateside, I lived alone – in a verity of different houses and apartments. While deployed we had modular-type housing. As the only women, I frequently had my own one.

ST: Do you get any opportunities to hang out or make friends with locals? Was your interaction with locals primarily through work or military?

TM: You didn’t really hang out or make friends with them when you were deployed. We did interact on a daily basis, and the ones I met were predominantly nice.

KH: In my work with the House Democracy partnership, very much so – I worked with the militaries and governments of host countries. While in combat situations I did not have interaction with locals.

ST: Did you have time off to explore on your own? If so did you face any barriers because of your service?

TM: When you weren’t in Iraq you did. If you were away for training somewhere you usually got some free time to explore.

KH: While I was deployed I didn’t have time to travel on my own.

ST: What did you get to see or do?

TM: Free time we pretty much went to the local towns and shopped or ate at local restaurants. In iIraq you don’t leave the base unless on mission.

ST: Did you learn the local language? How did you learn it? 

TM: They taught us basic language. Basically enough to say stop, go, move, and show your ID.

KH: No – but I’m fluent in French and Russia

ST: What are your thoughts about living abroad for work? Would you do it again?

TM: It was an interesting year, I don’t know if I’d go back to Iraq to do it, but abroad is fun.

KH: Yes – my work is largely in the international security arena, and I would love to be back working abroad someday soon!

ST: Most people who visit as tourists only get a cursory exposure of a country’s culture. Being in the military, you had an opportunity to understand their government or political issues, well beyond what a casual visitor might understand. How did you feel about the country, culture or its people? Did you feel like a visitor? Or a helper? Something else?

TM: Iraq is its own world. They don’t care about us over here, and how we do things. They want to keep things the way they’ve been for thousands of years. Some people want change while others want us gone. The government there was not good, but the culture and sights were thousands of years old and it has an amazing history. The buildings we saw were from biblical times! I definitely felt like a visitor, but we did help as well. The women and children often liked us there.

KH: When I worked with the House Democracy Partnership as the military liaison, I felt much more like an employee. Given my former line of work, I have a hard time feeling like a tourist anywhere (that, and I’ve never had the financial means to travel for leisure, so not really sure what that feels like).

ST: Would you ever go back as a tourist to the country you were stationed in?

TM: No way! It’s not even possible to do that.

KH: Yes

ST: Do or did you miss American culture while you were abroad? What aspects did you miss/not miss? Do you ever feel more or less American after your overseas experience?

TM: Of course, I missed TV and popular gossip. Being able to come and go as I pleased, and women are second-class citizens there. I definitely don’t feel less American. We were trying to help, and I feel we made a little difference.

KH: While deployed I always felt like I was in a time lag. I didn’t hear any new music, see any real movies, etc … but there’s not much about American culture that I really felt like I missed. (except the ability to just drink water out of the faucet!)

Thank you for your service Tiffany and Ky!

Is anyone else surprised or fascinated by these answers like we are? Again, totally eye-opening and new perspective on travel for us!


If you’d like to submit a story about your travels please email us at tiffany@swell.world or jenie@swell.world.

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