“The life of a military family is often filled with changes and dangers that most of us can’t imagine trying to tackle,” shares Pioneer CEO Michael Shepard. “In May, and every day, we thank our team for the many sacrifices they make to support their partners.”

To mark National Military Appreciation Month, our communications co-op invited one of our employees, Rachel Tringali Marston, to share her story.

I have a lot to celebrate in May. Not only is it my birthday month; it’s also my work anniversary and the five-year anniversary of Pioneer Social’s overnight monitoring program. 

Pioneer Social logoWhen Pioneer Social began, monitoring was mostly done during typical business hours. However, the team saw a shared need for monitoring electric co-op social media channels around the clock. To meet this growing need, the leadership tapped into a network of qualified military spouses stationed around the world.

That’s where I came in. During a like-minded military spouse get-together, I told Melissa Shaw, now Pioneer’s vice president of digital solutions, about my husband’s orders and our upcoming move to South Korea. At the time, I was freelancing while finishing my master’s degree in strategic communications. I had nearly a decade of public relations and communications experience. What would the move do to my career?

Have you heard about military spouse unemployment and underemployment? According to Blue Star Families, the unemployment rate is 12.04% for military spouses, compared to 7.74% for civilian spouses. Also, the underemployement rate is 38% versus 6% relative to level of education. This data is from 2018, so it might differ today, but it’s still compelling.

My biggest worry was I would find myself lacking work I was passionate about. I’m lucky Melissa saw my potential, and that Pioneer Social needed support at night. While most folks are home by 7 p.m. ET in the United States, I would start working at 8 a.m. Tuesday morning in South Korea.

The opportunity to “pioneer” the Pioneer Social overnight monitoring program, which later developed into the TwoFourSeven Response Program, was exciting. I jumped at the chance. Living in South Korea meant I would be about 13 hours ahead of the United States. That allowed me to be human eyes on Pioneer Social-managed pages overnight, giving the electric cooperatives we serve peace of mind. This was especially important during outages or when questions came up while utility staff slept.

As more and more utilities joined Pioneer Social, our team grew. The program’s success created more opportunities for other military spouses stationed overseas to continue their careers. It allowed me to grow, as well. When I moved back to the United States, I was able to serve Pioneer’s members in other capacities. Today, I’m an account manager, helping electric and telco utilities develop engaging cross-platform marketing campaigns.

No cat left behind! We brought our cat, Xena, with us when the military moved our family to South Korea. Thanks to Pioneer, I was able to bring my career, too.

I’m proud to be a part of Pioneer Utility Resources because of their advocacy for military spouse employment. Today, there are 11 current and former military spouses around the world serving Utility Pioneers. Our footprint covers three different continents. I’m honored to continue my role with Pioneer, serving utilities and their evolving communication needs.

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