Don't Mince Words


The lottery I won

Posted on June 13, 2013 by Marna

The Pentagon, south parking view

Thirty years ago today I started the best job of my life.

Several months before the end of high school, my parents convinced me that I should enter a lottery to get a summer government job.  They both had served and felt it would be a great way for me to lock into a good, secure job that I could possibly come to after college graduation.  I wasn’t sure about that, but I was sure I couldn’t spend another summer working as a secretary at the ophthalmologist’s office.

The lottery was random.  You didn’t know what government agency you’d get or what functional division.  I just knew the pay, GS-4, which was $6.18 an hour, was much better than my $5 an hour office job.  And all of this beat minimum wage which was $3.35 at the time.

The lottery letter came.  I was sure I was going to get something boring like Department of Agriculture, or worse, Taxation.  But the return logo was the U.S. Air Force.  I was selected to be a Pentagon intern working for the Secretary of the Air Force, Office of Public Affairs, in the Media Relations division.

During the next four years, while on college breaks, my writing was sharpened.  My work at the Pentagon actually helped me select my major, English, and later my master’s, Mass Communications.  I wrote press releases, talking points, and prepped spokespeople for media.  I learned about spies, whistleblowers, and crisis communications.  I managed the early work on the B-2 “Stealth” bomber rollout.  The guys taught me about life-work balance as well.  My softball team position was first base cooler.  I proudly made office beer runs, rolling my keg-on-dolly past Pentagon tours.  The early-to-mid 1980s was a crazy time to be working in defense with all the contract awards and changing news cycles.  I was always learning and laughing.

My internship never evolved into a full-time, permanent job due to budget cuts.  But I did gain a professional network of mentors.  I learned so much, gained more responsibility with each project, and was recognized for my achievements.

In my lifetime, I have yet to have a professional experience that matches what I got working for the Air Force. I’m still connected to many of the officers I worked with.  While they remember me as their little intern, I remember them as the men that shaped my life.  I am proud I got to serve.  Thanks for making me a winner.

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  • About Marna

    Marna’s writing career started as a Pentagon intern. Early exposure to $500 toilet seat press releases made her appreciate creative nonfiction. Now she has more than 25 years of senior-level marketing and communications success working with Fortune 100 companies, government, nonprofits, small businesses, startups, and agencies.

    Stats: 369 Posts, 128 Comments

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