In 2001 Tomasa Wickert was not your typical fresh out of high school navy recruit. Sparked by the events of 911 and a temporary work layoff, she made the decision to join the U.S. Navy Reserves at the age of 35. “It was the best decision I ever made”
While serving in the U.S. Naval Mobile Construction Battalion for the past 16 years, she has been a Peoples Gas Senior Service Specialist for the past 28 years. She is open about loving both her civilian job and what she does for the military.
Seabee’s perform a variety of duties crucial to the war effort. “We have been involved in every U.S. Military conflict since 1942” While deployed to Iraq Chief Wickert worked as the Crew Leader on the Main Supply Route Team. Part of their mission was helping keep the roads safe by repairing holes where IED’s could be placed.
When asked about her experience as a woman in the military she says “In the beginning as a woman I felt I had to prove myself, there are very few women in the Seabees, the Seabees are a very small community, like a family, we stick together and help each other, it doesn’t matter whether you are male or female you are treated with respect as long as you do your job”
The type of work she performs in her civilian and military roles require physical and mental toughness.
“I work out every other day to stay in shape because my strength is very important in what I do in my civilian and military job”
She has been deployed 3 times and earned many awards and medals in her military Career. She describes her deployment to Iraq in 2007 as “the hardest and most difficult, but well worth it because when you go over there and you come back it makes you appreciate life here more.”
Among her greatest achievements was being selected to the rank of Chief Petty Officer. A Great Honor, because only 10% of Navy personnel are selected to Chief Petty Officer. The process is very rigorous involving many tests, character evaluations, and intense physical training. She described the physical training aspect of it and how she was able to help some of the younger candidates get through it.
“It was the hardest thing I have ever done, going through it at age 50, there was only one other person older than me, we were more fit than some of the young people going through it. We older people helped push the young one’s through, telling them you can do this, and we are all in this together”
Prior to joining the Navy, Tomasa took on the responsibility of raising her niece for eight years. She is now a proud Grandma, and mother figure to the younger Seabees in her battalion. The ability to provide strong leadership and mentoring is crucial in her position as Chief Petty Officer.
“Having that mother instinct, I watch over the younger Seabee’s and take care of them, they trust me and are glad to have me as their Chief”
Chief Wickert is passionate about her love for the military and serving her country. She encourages the young people in her family and community to join up. She sees it as a great opportunity especially for the young people in our neighborhoods struggling and looking for a more positive option.
“I wish all young people could do a mandatory 2 years serving their country, it would be good for them it might help reduce some of the crime and killing we are having with our youth today”
Despite a busy life, Chief Wickert, has made time to pursue her educational goals. Ultimately she plans to complete her BS in Emergency Management, retire from the military as a Senior Chief and is looking forward to retiring from Peoples Gas.
It was a pleasure to interview Chief Petty Officer Wickert, with kindness and humility she shared her story. She is truly A Woman of Influence who represents the Hispanic community, has a strong work ethic, values family, and is deeply committed to servicing her country.