While Petty Officer Chantelle Degan was deployed on the USS Boxer (LHD 4) out of San Diego, she served as an Information Systems Technician. She also served as a key person for the Active Duty Fund Drive in support of the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society. At sea, Chantelle became friends with another Information Systems Technician, Jeremy Dousay, who later became her husband. Even though she only served in the Navy from 2005 through 2009, that experience changed the course of Chantelle’s life.
“We got married in May 2012 and moved to Rota, Spain in July 2012,” Chantelle explained. “I didn’t know anybody or anything. And we were only supposed to be in Rota for about a year, so I didn’t think anyone would hire me. Jobs are hard to find overseas, so I looked into volunteering. First, I volunteered to serve as the Ombudsman for my husband’s command. While attending the Navy’s Intercultural Relations class for newly assigned Navy service members and their spouses, where they explained the Spanish culture and gave you a taste of what to expect, they also talked about volunteer opportunities. A volunteer from the NMCRS office was presenting at the class and, since I already knew a bit about the Society, I thought volunteering with them would be an awesome fit for me.”
Once Chantelle found her way to the Society’s Rota office, she took on a variety of roles, gaining experience that has shaped her future career aspirations. “I started out as a Client Services Assistant, then became the newsletter editor, and then was assigned as the Communications Lead where I was handling publicity about the Society and our office here on NAVSTA Rota. Meanwhile, I was also doing casework to help clients with financial assistance, and eventually became the Chair of Volunteers.”
Most recently, Chantelle participated in NMCRS’s 2016 International Conference Cost Containment and Mitigation Focus Group. Just as a client must understand their personal spending habits before they can improve their budget, this focus group realized that NMCRS offices can’t contain their business costs until the office leadership knows what their expenses are. To reach that goal, Chantelle personally took on the development of the FSO Expense Tracker that all NMCRS offices are now using to track their expenses.
Although the one-year posting in Rota stretched into five years, Chantelle came to love the city and country. “The simplicity of life here is kind of nice,” she said. “People aren’t in a rush to get everywhere. They don’t drive everywhere—they’re more into walking or biking. The beaches are beautiful and cell phones don’t rule people’s lives over here.”
Chantelle’s husband recently received orders to US Army Base, Fort Huachuca, Arizona. So she recently stepped down as Chair of Volunteers so she could take a part-time job at the Navy Lodge to make some extra money before the couple returns to the States in June. She plans to continue serving as Communications Lead and as a caseworker until she and her husband transfer.
Unfortunately, Fort Huachuca is more than 300 miles away from the nearest NMCRS office at MCAS Yuma, Arizona, so Chantelle won’t be able to volunteer for the Society. She does, however, plan to pursue financial counseling certification and become a professional financial counselor. “Since I’ve started volunteering with the Society, financial counseling has become a huge interest of mine,” she explained. “I love being an information source and helping service members come to terms with their financial responsibilities and learn how to be financially self-sufficient. It’s so rewarding when you see the light bulb go off for someone. I love being able to help the military community. Especially being here in Spain there aren’t a lot of options, for financial assistance or education, or resources for parents with newborns and other family situations that result in unexpected expenses.”
Chantelle appreciates the opportunity she’s had to serve with NMCRS to help clients, mentor and support other volunteers. “It’s rewarding to be able to help others. Because I’ve been here in Rota for so long, I see people come in and grow and blossom and I’ve helped them achieve their goals. That experience is something I’ll take with me.”
At the same time, Chantelle has developed her own skills. “I’m thankful for everyone who’s believed in me enough to give me leadership roles. [NMCRS Rota Director] June Brennan has been an amazing mentor and leader. The Society does great things for the military community. I’m so proud to be a part of it.”
“It’s always refreshing to mentor someone like Chantelle, who’s not only eager to learn, but also challenges me to be better in my own role,” said NMCRS Rota Director June Brennan. “We’ve worked very well together, and formed an incredible team of volunteers. Chantelle clearly has grown and developed – both as a financial counselor and as a leader. I know that Chantelle is disappointed she won’t have a local NMCRS office to work with at her family’s next duty station, but I don’t see that as stopping her work with the Society. With today’s technology perhaps she’ll become a virtual volunteer, finding ways to make things better for the Society worldwide.”
Chantelle is finishing up five years as a volunteer in the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society (NMCRS) office in Rota, Spain. During her tenure, she has served as Chair of Volunteers and Communications Lead, and has achieved certification as a Level IV Caseworker. Recently, Chantelle was honored with a meritorious service award from Admiral Steve Abbot, president NMCRS. In Chantelle’s award, Admiral Abbot noted, “Since joining Team Rota, she has accumulated nearly 5,600 volunteer hours and displayed extraordinary loyalty and capacity in a variety of roles. Ever the engaging leader, she managed the recruitment, training, supervision and recognition of 260 volunteers with an aggregate total of 45,000 hours of service to the Rota community.”
Thank you for your dedicated service, Chantelle! You will be missed, but not forgotten. Always remember: Home is where the Navy sends you – and we hope that’s back to a Navy base with an NMCRS office soon.
By Betsy Rosenblatt Rosso