Living La Vida Global
Lieutenant Commander Kailie Benson of the Coast Guard, aka Alternate Captain of the Port Savannah, is a fresh-faced petite woman with an aura of confidence and surety, but she's not as "buttoned up" as one may assume. She's a woman who knows what she wants and thrives in a structured world with the added benefit of a "fantastic staff" and an exciting daily routine. She is also kind and even-keeled, enjoying the problem-solving environment and looking for greater efficiencies and processes to streamline her responsibilities and those of her people.
After graduating from college in Canada with a degree in French and Ancient History, "I did what most people with undergraduate degrees in French do, I bartended." She lived on the coast of Florida in Pensacola. She intended to join the Canadian Army after graduation, so her French degree made sense because it would help her to secure better posts. But her family immigrated to the United States and the allure of sunny days in Florida won out over her professional goals in the Canadian army.
Her husband, David, a helicopter pilot and trainer in the United States Navy, was stationed in Pensacola when Kailie first discovered the Coast Guard in a Navy magazine ad. "David and I were dating at the time and he was sent to Japan. The ad looked interesting so I called the recruiter. After boot camp, I was shipped off to Hawaii as a quartermaster (a navigation specialist) and then went to officer training school. I've always been attracted to the maritime environment." This has proved to be a very good fit.
Kailie's future is filled with choices. She is qualified to retire in two years but is also up for promotion this summer. In addition, she is working on her master's degree in International Relations. Her future may be determined by her "aha" moment. It came during her three-year stint doing international port security work along the west coast of Africa. "It just opened my eyes. Billions of people's standards of living, the things they're dealing with, and the basic building blocks of life-the things we take for granted-are not even a blip on the horizon for them. I'd like to take my skills and experiences and apply them to global problems like poverty, hunger, and healthcare concerns. It's just very intriguing as to why we can't solve these issues. When you really see the struggling humanity, it's heart wrenching. I've been researching non-governmental organizations and international organizations that are doing much needed work in countries all around the world. I would like to apply my skills in that regard, but I don't know what that looks like yet. It's just a thought in the back of my head. I'd like to go bigger," Kailie said with great passion.
Her family has also been affected by these experiences. "The three years I spent traveling .actually, it changed my life. It changed the whole way I look at life and what I value. People tend to get lost along the way and value things that, in the long run, don't mean anything. It's huge. That's what I want for my kids. It was great for them to live three years in a foreign nation and have a different perspective other than just a North American perspective. Traveling to a new place and experiencing it for longer than a holiday does a lot, making the synapses fire, to expand the perspective. Especially when they're young," Kailie's voice lightens as she speaks about her family and the dreams she has for her kids. Her goal is to raise globally-aware, socially-conscious children.
The Lieutenant Commander has come a long way from her rebellious years in an all-girls Catholic school, where she tested the limits of what she could do with her required uniform. Ironically, the structure is what she prefers, and the uniform is one less thing to think about. It has served her well, as she is also serving us well. As for her family, they will not be windbound, stuck in a holding pattern in one port. Curiosity, determination, and a proper perspective are launching their global lives.
Favorite country to travel to: S„o TomÈ and Principe, a former Portuguese colony island nation off the coast of West Africa. "Cool place to travel, but hard to get to."
If you ever get the chance: "Go to the coast of Croatia on the Adriatic Sea. The island of Hvar, is fantastic. The food is extraordinary and they have the most incredible red wine with beautiful, hospitable and very friendly people."
Life choice: No television in the house. She has on-the-go, athletic kids, not spectators, and she wants her kids to be kids for as long as they can without the media infringing on their developing psyches. Samuel is 10 and Ryleigh is 8.
Grew up in: Halifax, Nova Scotia. "We did what every Canadian dreams of doing - moved to Florida."
Lowcountry favorite: We love Lowcountry Boil and local Sweetwater 420 beer.
Recent reading: The Bottom Billion, The End of Poverty, and Mandela's Way