Your leadership during the Women’s March was inspiring! You organized, you galvanized, and you helped raise at least $8,000 to help veterans travel to D.C. for the March. What was it like marching with your fellow veterans that day?
We actually ended up raising over $11,000 to sponsor women vets, which was not only incredible for the growing #VetsVsHate movement but had a special meaning to me as a woman vet myself. The Women’s March on Washington was powerful and surreal. I had many emotions, but the strongest was when I was meeting other women vets for the first time that morning, sharing community, stories, and struggles. There was a moment when three of us were sharing our experiences, and it felt like everything I’d wished for. The feeling of understanding, affinity, and solidarity — especially among women who’ve served — was more powerful than any words I can use to describe it.
The Women’s March was a huge success. What’s motivating you to keep taking action to resist the new administration and its policies?
Something I think about constantly is how much more successful would we women be, if there were no ceilings, no wasted labor in combating prejudices and gender bias. The Women’s March on Washington is a powerful story we can’t let go of. Brilliant leaders brought together this historic, global, peaceful demonstration in a short time — approximately two months. Imagine what we can do with more capacity, time, and coalition-building. Women have been warriors and leaders at every turn, during the darkest periods of history. I’m motivated by other women, like Judith LeBlanc, Erika Andiola, and Governor Kate Brown, who continue this legacy of fearlessly fighting for communities. This administration has done us a service by showing its teeth and helping us to be even more fearless in fighting for our freedoms, liberties, and ideals.
You’ve done some fighting for freedom yourself. Tell me about your work in the U.S. Air Force as an operations intelligence analyst.
I enlisted in the U.S. Air Force out of high school with encouragement from my mother. While I was very talented, I was also challenged. Having grown up working class, I had experienced discrimination along lines of race and class. I had also lacked mentoring and knowledge about higher education. My career in the Air Force was deeply transformative.
I was deliberate in choosing a field that required high scores, and long, intensive training, although at first I did not fully understand what the intelligence community was. The greatest part of my work was serving and being able to be a meaningful actor alongside a vast array of folks — high-level commanders, air crews, law enforcement, counter-violent-extremism (CVE) experts, aeromedical teams, and all types of deployers from various branches of the military. My experience is unique and multi-faceted, and it gave me tough challenges and lessons — as well as great opportunities — that have made me who I am today.
How has what you learned in the Air Force fueled your activism?
Growing up the daughter of a strong and incredible Honduran immigrant and single parent, I was taught to be political at a very young age without really knowing it. My aptness for critical thinking followed me into the military where I quickly picked up on political cues in my work in military environments. I thought critically about policies, such as “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” as well as gender norms.
At the same time, I loved the Air Force’s core values because they strongly resonated with my mother’s teachings: “Integrity First, Service Before Self, Excellence in All We Do.” These values further developed my moral compass and leadership skills and encouraged me to speak out and to serve in innovative ways — whether through peer mentoring or by being unafraid to share ideas with superior officers.
So, based on your decade-long career as a geopolitical and operations intelligence analyst, who specialized in strategic analysis, counter-violent extremism, and international affairs, what are your concerns about our new Commander-in-Chief?
This administration is deeply unqualified and undermines and endangers our country’s values. It is compromised and marred by influence from an adversarial foreign power and is positioning itself to become an authoritarian regime. I have a deep respect for the position of Commander-in-Chief, but I feel this head of state is an illegitimate one. He’s proven this with his blatant disregard for the intelligence community.
In less than a month, the barrage of consequential and haphazard executive actions this administration has put out proves its inability to manage or even understand the important position of Commander-in-Chief. This administration is not only a danger to us domestically, given its attacks on civil liberties and its politics of bigotry and discrimination, but also to our country’s global standing and diplomatic ties. From a foreign policy perspective, I fear we will be thrust into instability and war. This administration can’t be trusted with nuclear power or authority over our military.
What are your thoughts about adding Steve Bannon to the National Security Council?
Steve Bannon is an extremist and white supremacist with a long and proven bigoted agenda, and he has no business being in any public service seat. It is imperative that our elected leaders prioritize our country’s well- being and stop ignoring the deep danger he poses. Beyond our own country, other nations are watching us intently, and Bannon’s position of authority is intolerable. I invite folks to go to www.nomorebannon.com
I know it’s less than a month since the Women’s March, but what shape is your resistance work taking going forward?
There are many fast-moving pieces to focus on in terms of building the movement and mobilizing our diverse communities in different ways. Much of my focus has been on collaboration and coalition, both with #VetsvsHate, Common Defense, and other resistance movements. I’m connecting with folks of alignment, identifying areas of need and abundance at the local level, and working to engage with international counterparts. I’m also very focused on making this work sustainable, given its dire and fast-moving nature — for myself as a leader, for those I serve, and for the movement as a whole.
What advice and encouragement do you have for others who want to carry the momentum of the Women’s March forward into meaningful and effective resistance?
Be unafraid to plug in, learn, and contribute. This isn’t “just politics.” It’s our civic duty and responsibility and it requires all of us to show up and raise our voices in different ways. Leadership shows itself in big and small ways, and we have the agency to be the leaders we need. To be successful we must take the first step to plug in, ask for what we need, resist, persist, and act with intentionality. No matter who you are, there is a place for you in the movement. No matter your background, where you are in political education level or experience, if you align and are willing to learn, we welcome you with open arms at this critical moment. History has its eyes on us.
*Interviewer’s Note: After I interviewed Pam, the AP reported that National Guard troops might be deployed to “round up” undocumented immigrants. This news broke after sweeping ICE raids had already set communities across the country on edge. The administration later denied the report, saying that it was based on a draft memo being circulated around the Department of Homeland Security. Nonetheless, the existence of the draft, dated January 25th, 2017, suggests that militarized immigration-enforcement efforts are under consideration. As Rep. Joseph Crowley, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, pointed out, “seeing these kind of actions . . . even being talked about” was alarming.
In response to these events, Common Defense sent out this message:
On #ADayWithoutImmigrants we proudly participated bilingually, something I’d say isn’t often seen with veteran’s organizations and certainly shifts the narrative:
Immigrants are foundational to all aspects of our American life and military community. Immigrants have fought in and with the U.S. Armed forces since the Revolutionary War. We stand in solidarity and action with affected communities today and always. No one should live in fear and in the shadows because of a failed system, and our families and communities should not be ripped apart. #UnDiaSinImmigrantes
Los inmigrantes son fundamentales en todos aspectos de nuestra vida y comunidad militar estadounidense. Inmigrantes han luchado en y con las fuerzas armadas de los Estados Unidos desde la Guerra Revolucionaria. Estamos en solidaridad y acción con comunidades afectadas hoy y siempre. Nadie debe vivir con miedo y en las sombras debido a un sistema fallado, y nuestras familias y comunidades no deben ser destrosadas. #UnDiaSinInmigrantes
We are onboarding and connecting a vast number of incredible military veterans and families and are also in discussion with other social movement and organization leaders regarding course of action regarding ICE raids, the National Guard memo, and other action campaigns.
Thank you for all your support and help in these troubling times.
US Air Force Veteran