Navy Veteran Overcomes Stereotypes to Excel

Murkowski Spotlights Kenai Peninsula Jet Mechanist Turned Librarian

WASHINGTON, DC – Senator Lisa Murkowski is today releasing her 21st Veteran Spotlight interview, focusing on the military service of Soldotna resident Jane Fuerstenau who served in the U.S. Navy for five years as a jet mechanic and then served our country in the reserves.     

During her Veteran Spotlight interview, Fuerstenau recalls being 18 years old and a year and a half into college when she realized it wasn’t for her.  She decided to join the military.  It was the luck of the draw that brought her to the Navy, and although she singed on to be a hospital corpsman, a paperwork mix-up put her on track to become an aviation machinist.


Jane Fuerstenau, U.S. Navy veteran

(Click on image for excerpt of Jane talking about some of the discrimination she has experienced as a female veteran.

CLICK HERE for the extended interview)

“They said you’ve got a choice: you can go home right now and we will discharge you from the Navy, or you can become a jet mechanic,” recalls Jane Fuerstenau.  “I thought of all the weeks of basic training I had gone through and all that I had done, and I said ‘I’m not throwing that away.’  I thought they were crazy, there is no way they are turning me into a jet mechanic.  Turns out, I loved working on those planes.”

At first, Fuerstenau’s parents didn’t support the move, but came around when she excelled in the Navy.  She climbed the ranks for the next five years, until she realized the next promotion would take her off the jets she loved.  Fuerstenau decided to leave the Navy to pursue the next chapter in her life, but says it was difficult to find a job as a woman with a mechanic background. 


Today, Jane Fuerstenau is head librarian at Kenai Peninsula College where she has embraced her military and veteran status and connects with her veteran students, but she says it was a long time coming.

“For years, I absolutely did not talk about my military experience.  I didn’t want anyone to know,” Said Fuerstenau.  “I didn’t feel like anyone I worked with would respect a veteran, especially a female veteran.  That changed right around the time that Facebook came around and I reconnected with some of the guys I had served with.  They couldn’t believe that I was working as a college librarian.  Yes, you can be a mechanic and English major.  Every time I overcome one of those assumptions I have more confidence in myself because I just never know what I might be able to do if I try.” 

“Jane Fuerstenau story is truly inspiring,” said Senator Murkowski.  “She overcame obstacle after obstacle and never stopped until she was the best at what she was doing.  We owe it to veterans like Jane to honor them through sharing their stories, and we owe it to the rest of us to learn from the high levels of patriotism, commitment and service they demonstrate for us.”

The “Veteran Spotlight” project is Senator Murkowski’s monthly focus on an Alaska veteran of American conflicts worldwide to honor and draw well-deserved attention to Alaska’s men and women who served.  Today’s installment is the twenty-first in the series that began on Memorial Day weekend of 2012.  Every month, Sen. Murkowski posts a biography and an interview with an Alaskan who served our country abroad in conjunction with the Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project.  You can watch them all by clicking here.

Senator Murkowski invites all Alaskans to nominate a veteran from the 49th state to be featured in the Veteran Spotlight project.  If you have a family member or friend in the community you think has a story to share, email Spotlight@Murkowski.Senate.Gov.