In partnership with the Service Women’s Action Network, we are featuring an inspiring woman veteran each month. Recently, we talked with U.S. Army veteran Janiece Marquez.
When former Army Sergeant Janiece Marquez joined in 2005, she first had her hopes on branching infantry. But since that was not available to women at the time, her recruiter placed her in human intelligence.
From there, she deployed to Afghanistan in 2008 with the 101st Airborne Division. During her deployment, Marquez met an Afghan woman who was working as a Pashto interpreter after fleeing to the United States only to return to help troops.inspired Marquez to reenlist.
Marquez inspired by this woman’s story decided to reenlist.
“She said that her goal in life was to come back as a linguist to help the people that are a part of her bloodline, the people who have been so very near and dear to her most of her life and that she had to flee from in order to protect herself and her family,” Marquez said.
After telling the woman that she was thinking of reenlisting and had a slot at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California, the woman encouraged Marquez to learn Pashto.
Marquez would go on to graduate from the school with honors as a Pashto linguist. She also is fluent in Spanish and has an intermediate fluency in Portuguese.
What’s more, she also is fluent in Spanish and has an intermediate fluency in Portuguese.
As a quad-linguist, Marquez returned to Afghanistan in 2011 as a cultural support team member supporting the 3rd and 5th U.S. Army Special Forces Groups in Kunar Province.
“Well I, personally as a woman, I do think it is very important,” she said of the cultural support teams. “You are addressing half of the population that doesn’t necessarily have a voice.”
“We saw a lot of repression,” she added. “And I remember speaking with many women who couldn’t leave to go to the well to pump water by themselves and so they’d have to send their very young children out there.”
Being on a cultural support team impacted her life, especially as a female combat veteran.
“We are trained and attached to Special Operations units who are working on I guess what you would call the front lines of combat,” Marquez said. “And so being there and having that direct combat experience was very profound. And that alone opened more doors for me than I could have possibly imagined.”
She added that her combat experiences gave her credibility when meeting with people and them listening to what she had to say.
After her last deployment, Marquez realized that she had already accomplished everything she wanted in the military.
“There was definitely a point where I had done everything of value that I could have possibly done during my military career,” she said. “And so in a sense, I had peaked.”
She moved to Washington, D.C. to pursue school and to start her business, but soon her business took precedence.
“I would say that though education is very much necessary, it wasn’t as important to what I was doing because, through my military background, I had learned skills and practices that were definitely relevant to what I was doing in the business world,” she said.
Her company was first focused on stability operations and now focuses on green energy development in Africa. For a U.S. Agency for International Development project, they built green energy power plants in a rural community in Liberia at the end of the Ebola outbreak of 2014-2015.
In determining how best to use her skills after her military career, Marquez said that while the military makes large impacts wherever it goes, “I feel like I want to make a smaller impact on a smaller group of people, but that will really change their lives for the better.”
Marquez has since left her company and is currently pursuing school again at Norwich University.
Listen to the entire discussion: