Reaching for the sky to fulfill childhood dream
From the time she was a little girl, Maria Watson knew that she wanted to be in the military. Listening to her uncles’ stories of serving in the Army, Air Force and Navy piqued her interest in the Armed Forces. An outing to an air show with her brother solidified her desire to serve.
Today, we shine the spotlight on Maria as we wrap up our series of blogs featuring a few of the nearly 300 military veterans working for CPS Energy.
The Granite City, Illinois native enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in September 2006 and completed basic training at Tyndall AFB, Florida. “Initially leaving my family for basic training was emotionally hard for me as it is for many. Learning to become my own person with no family around was hard,” she said.
Along with the emotional struggle, there were the physical demands that came with basic training and Security Forces school. Nonetheless, Maria persevered.
She spent six years with the Security Forces at Tyndall Air Force Base, patrolling and securing miles of Florida shoreline as well as property and critical assets including fighter jets.
One of her most memorable moments was working directly with Secret Service agents to provide security for then-President Barack Obama and his family when they visited Panama City Beach.
Another of Maria’s memorable experiences was helping to find a young child on the base and returning the youngster to her family.
“A grandmother had left the child in the car while she ran into the store; when she returned, the girl was gone. We immediately initiated a lock down and started searching,” the Air Force veteran recalled. “I located her not too far from the parking lot. She had gotten scared and tried to find her grandma. We were lucky to find her so quickly and unharmed.”
In 2012, Maria left the now-familiar East Coast when she deployed to the Middle East. She spent four months in Qatar where she worked the search pit area, ensuring all vehicles and personnel entering the location were safe and didn’t present any type of threat. On occasion, she and her fellow troops provided security for the Qatari Princess who visited the installation to meet with Qatari nationals and other leaders.
After returning stateside, Maria was stationed at Tinker AFB, Oklahoma and Randolph AFB, Texas, spending the last six years of her military service as a manpower analyst. Her duties included conducting manpower studies on all of the Air Force’s Acquisition and Sustainment Units.
She rose to Master Sergeant and remained in the Air Force until 2018.
“In my 12 years of serving, I grew as a person while I learned how to be a good follower and great leader. I met lifelong friends and got to experience many different things that I never thought I would,” said Maria. “I was able to learn different aspects and views of various levels of leadership and do a lot of community outreach. The best part was being able to mentor new Airmen and watch them grow and excel in their own ways.”
Maria also credits her military experience for helping her more easily transition into civilian life and into her role as an analyst for CPS Energy. As a member of the company’s Substation Construction & Maintenance team, she manages projects, tracks budgets, and reviews processes to help ensure our operations are streamlined so they’re effective and efficient.
“Understanding the importance of process improvement to create the most efficient and effective team improves overall success,” she says. Maria noted that through her Air Force training and experience, she’s able to confidently brief leadership and speak with the various levels of leadership to handle situations that may arise, further ensuring our company’s success.
Thank you, Maria, and all of our military veterans for defending and protecting our nation and our freedom.