For a significant portion of her career in the U.S. Marine Corps, Jodie Grenier collected and used information about enemy threats in order to minimize the danger to her fellow troops in Iraq. That included knowing whether and where minefields and weapon systems existed.
“My job, essentially, was to collect information to mitigate threats to troops,” Grenier said.
Now, as CEO of the Southern California-based Foundation for Women Warriors, Grenier helps women veterans navigate the minefields of civilian life as they transition from the military.
She certainly understands that transition, having made it herself. She recognizes the value of information. She knows the individual challenges women veterans face in choosing careers. She understands how difficult it can be to get a college degree while also paying for housing. And, some women vets need childcare as they build new lives.
As we venture deeper into Women’s History Month, Grenier represents a woman veteran who has made history in the male-dominated world of the Marines and continues to make history by opening doors for other women veterans.
It has become a labor of love for Grenier, whose greatest pleasure is seeing the women veterans her organization has helped become its own success stories, and then to see those women help others to succeed as well.
“We’re inspiring the next generation to understand that they can go into roles that historically have been available only to men,” Grenier said.
Which is pretty much what she did when she was in the Marines. At 18, she joined shortly before the 9/11 terrorist attacks and deployed at 20 as an intelligence analyst in the 1st Marines Division under General James Mattis.
“It changed the trajectory of my life,” she said. It took her to war, with all of its inhumanity and danger. Even so, “the work itself was exciting.”
Grenier deployed twice to Iraq, earning the Navy Commendation, Navy Achievement, Global War on Terrorism Service, and Iraq Campaign medals before leaving active service in 2005, and joined the Inactive Ready Reserve, where she was promoted to Staff Sergeant a year later.
Grenier left active duty, she said, because glass ceilings were impenetrable at the time, and prevented her from advancing in her duties.
“I wanted to go into counterintelligence, but it was closed off to women at that time,” Grenier said. “It was like I could qualify for the Boston Marathon but being told I had to run an 11-minute mile (instead of roughly a seven-minute mile). I could not be a counter-intelligence analyst, even though I knew I could do the job, and I was being told no based on a characteristic – my gender – that was beyond my control.”
When she returned to her native Wolcott, Connecticut, she found few opportunities and even fewer expectations for someone who had developed tremendous skills in the military.
So she went to California, and worked on various department of defense intelligence efforts. She went back to Iraq, this time as a force protection security supervisor working with local Iraqis. While she speaks some Arabic and they spoke some English, some things were lost in the translation.
Occasionally she’d ask for them to bring things from the local market “I asked in Arabic to bring me some hummus,” she said. “They brought me a can of garbanzo beans.”
Grenier next served as a security analyst in 2010-2011 on a State Department contract in Afghanistan, where she provided security and route assessments. She worked alongside contractors from Romania, South Africa, UK, and Australia, along with U.S. Marshalls, the FBI, and the State Department before coming home again.
She came back to California in 2011 and worked at Camp Pendleton training unit commanders, Marines, and sailors, who would soon deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan, on how to collect intelligence.
At the same time, somehow she got involved in the start-up of a veteran nonprofit. It was there that she felt the need for a career change and later received a master’s in nonprofit leadership and management from the University of San Diego.
In 2016, she became CEO of the Foundation for Women Warriors, the organization she runs today.
“Transition was isolation,” she said. “I remember the loneliness, and the struggle to find other women who had similar experiences as me.”
Consequently, her organization supports women veterans making the transition to civilian life. It provides support in many forms, including short-term financial assistance, to help women veterans keep or find homes. Homelessness is a problem that too often stays under the radar for women veterans who are single moms. “Because they have kids and are afraid to lose their kids,” she said.
The Foundation provides stipends to working mothers of children up to five years old at childcare providers of their choosing. Additionally, the organization provides funding for summer, spring break, and winter break camps for children grades one through six, which aids in childcare so these women veterans don’t have to miss work or school when their kids are on a school break.
It also offers one-day workshops to improve their self-sufficiency, and connects them to mentors and other support.
The Foundation’s website features testimonies of women who are its success stories – women veterans like her who have succeeded. Grenier said she gets choked up every time she watches the video because it confirms the impact
s the Foundation of Women Warriors is having. They talk about the friendship, the support, the mentoring. One went on to complete her master’s degree in public health. Another speaks to the help she received for housing.
One woman veteran interned with the Foundation while getting her undergraduate degree from University of San Diego, and is now a marketing analyst with Hewlett-Packard.
“She even held fundraising events for the foundation through HP,” Grenier said. “That’s coming full circle. As they progress through their careers, they are great role models. We love being able to showcase their successes to the next generation of women veterans.”
It’s about women veterans who served their country with honor but now must learn to navigate the minefields of civilian life. They have Grenier and Foundation of Women Warriors to help them get across successfully.
Foundation for Women Warriors is a 501(c3) nonprofit organization honoring the service and empowering the future of women veterans. FFWW programs help women veterans successfully transition from military careers to civilian life. The only organization of its kind in the country, FFWW assists more than 1,100 women and children each year with life-changing services designed to enhance personal and fiscal well-being and enable them to reach their full potential.
To learn more visit: https://foundationforwomenwarriors.org/