Courtney Snyder trained for months to prepare for her first big race—the Sparkasse-3-country- marathon through Germany, Switzerland, and Austria. “My husband was deployed,” she recalled,” and there were several weekends when I ran 10 or 20 miles at a time while pushing my daughter in her stroller. Thank goodness for parks and pit stops!”
Her plane ticket from Spain to Germany and her hotel room were paid for, and Courtney had hired a babysitter to accompany her to the race to watch two-year-old Olivia while she ran. “Unexpectedly her husband’s ship pulled in the day before we were supposed to leave,” Courtney explained. She decided she couldn’t miss out on the chance to spend a week with her husband, so she pulled out of the marathon, but she didn’t want all that training to be for nothing. “It was challenging trying to train while my husband was deployed! So, we mapped out a marathon route around Rota, Spain where we live. All the people who had helped me train met me at different mile markers and ran different portions with me. My husband met me every few miles to give me water and energy chews. I ended up running a marathon that week, even though it wasn’t the three-country marathon, it was still special.”
That determination to take on a big challenge and improvise when necessary will serve Courtney well in her new role as director of NMCRS Rota, which she assumed on January 7, 2019. The office’s previous director, June Brennan, agreed to postpone her retirement and stay on in an advisory capacity through February 22 to ease the leadership transition in one of the largest European offices of the Society.
Courtney’s management experience comes from her experience in the world of aquatics and recreation. “My degree is in sport management, and I’ve worked as a coordinator or director in aquatic departments for cities and counties and the YMCA,” Courtney explained. “I’ve also worked for the Morale, Welfare, and Recreation department that oversees sports and fitness facilities on Navy installations.”
While she’d known about the Society since becoming a Navy spouse nearly five years ago, she didn’t have any personal experience with NMCRS. Through her role as Family Readiness Group (FRG) president for the ship her husband is assigned to, Courtney was already in the habit of helping service members and their families. “When we PCS’d from Whidbey Island, Washington to Rota, I took a temporary position at the Navy’s Fleet and Family Support Center office, filling in as a program assistant for someone on maternity leave. There aren’t a lot of job opportunities on the base, so I thought a temporary position was better than nothing. The Fleet and Family Support Center office is in the same building as the NMCRS office, so I got to know more about the Society, and I learned as much as I could about resources for US military families in the local community. I know firsthand what families go through when PCSing overseas, and as FRG president, I had gotten to know a lot of families and their hardships.”
“What’s similar in working for the Society and my previous experience is that my primary goal is to make a positive impact on the community I’m serving,” Courtney said. “Going from aquatics to the Society is a big learning curve, but nothing I can’t handle. I understand budgeting and marketing and managing people. I’m working hard to learn the Society’s policies and procedures.”
Fortunately, Courtney has an expert teacher in retiring director, June Brennan. “It’s an honor for me to get the chance to learn from her,” Courtney said. “The time I’m spending with her is very valuable and I know a lot of other directors don’t get that opportunity. There are also lots of great volunteers here who have been very welcoming and open to sharing information with me. I’m coming onto a great team. Of course we have a huge turnover coming this summer with several people PCSing so we need to recruit new volunteers.”
Courtney is concentrating on learning the Society’s casework policies for financial assistance. While she hasn’t worked for the Society before, she definitely knows military culture. In addition to her Navy husband, her younger brother and an uncle served in the Navy, and her husband comes from a long line of Sailors. “We’re a very Navy family,” she said.”
Through her participation in Stroller Warriors, a running group for military family members, Courtney has also met service members and spouses from the Marine Corps, Air Force, and Army. “I had been a long-time member of our Stroller Warriors chapter in Whidbey Island. When we moved to Rota, I created a chapter here. Now that I’m director of NMCRS Rota, I can’t run as often as I used to, but I still lead Stroller Warriors workouts on Saturday mornings.
Because of the frequent turnover of personnel, NMCRS directors typically face a constant challenge of getting the word out about the Society’s services to commands and service members, and Rota is no exception. “We’re ramping up our visibility on the base, setting up information tables at various locations, and getting more information out through social media. We’re getting out and talking to people so they know we’re here and how we can help. We see a lot of clients who need assistance to set up their households when they arrive, especially because of the expense of renting a house in town. We also see quite a few clients who need assistance for emergency travel because flying home from Europe is extremely expensive. Life happens – and we’re here to make it easier.”
Welcome to the Society, Courtney!
By Betsy Rosenblatt Rosso