When you picture a member of the military, what comes to mind? A tall, burly Marine in camo? An Air Force or Navy pilot? Army cadets? How about police officers?

When you picture a member of the military, what comes to mind? A tall, burly Marine in camo? An Air Force or Navy pilot? Army cadets? How about police officers?

If your first thought is that person is a woman and someone's mom, you are right on point. Women make up about 20 percent of the military today. And it's far more common now to see female police officers on patrol. But females in these types of careers are still in the minority.

So what's it like to serve, protect and be a mother? Listen to the viewpoints of a few local moms packin' heat.

Q:As a woman, what kind of reaction do you get from the public -- including kids and other moms?
"When kids see me in uniform, they say 'Oh, look at the soldier lady,'" said MSgt. Stefanie Hauck. "They all think I'm in the Army. I explain to them that I'm in the Air Force Reserve and I work at a big base in Dayton called Wright-Patterson where I handle deployment-related logistics. People also ask if I'm a pilot and I tell them no, but I help support flying operations - Agile Combat Support - by getting the materials, equipment and personnel to where it's needed in a rapid and efficient manner. Most people on the street thank me for my service and I very politely say, 'you're welcome.'"

For Heather Galli, community relations officer for the Upper Arlington Division of Police, reactions vary. "People are usually surprised at first when they hear I'm a police officer," Galli said. "And it differs in the setting. I ask small children, 'Who can be a police officer? Can a mommy be a police officer?' It's getting them to see the bigger picture."

Occasionally even adults miss the mark. Galli said that sometimes a mom will see her and say to her child, "Be good or the police officer will get you."

"What I'd like them to know is that we're here to help protect you and keep you safe," she said.
The job
Both Hauck and Galli are mothers of two and both have jobs that require time away from home -- responding to the call of duty.

In her civilian life, Hauck is an editorial web producer. But as a member of the Air Force Reserve, she spends time at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. "I usually pull about 30-50 days a year of duty in addition to the regular weekends," Hauck said. "I'm always going to some type of training, helping out with inspections ... and the like. I have not been deployed under the current operations yet since my job involves deploying others out instead."

As a police officer, Galli's job isn't confined to a traditional 9 to 5 schedule. "I could be called out if there is a need, whether or not there's a family event going on," Galli said. "We take an oath to protect and to serve, so we need to be available when people need us."

Q:How different is it for a woman serving in the military?
"No difference," Hauck said. "We are treated the same as our male counterparts. Same training, expectations and fitness standards. It's a job like any other except that we deploy and other professions in the private sector do not."
Galli agreed. All police officers -- male and female -- have to meet physical standards and graduate from the police academy. "You need to know yourself and your strengths and weaknesses," Galli said. "Everyone has a set of skills and [an] individual's response to a situation might be different. But we all mediate, try to find the best solution and enforce the law."
Tools of the trades While Hauck doesn't typically have to carry her M-16 rifle, she does have to stay qualified to use it, which involves going to the local shooting range on a regular basis to practice. Galli is responsible for her weapon 24/7. "I treat my gun like a tool -- it's a part of my job," she said. "You need to have a sense of responsibility -- any parent with firearms in the home needs to address that." Galli has had discussions with her 6-year-old, explaining what a gun is and what it is used for.

"She knows that a gun can kill people and there are bad people in the world who would hurt other people. It's my job to protect and keep people safe." Galli also suggested that parents teach children firearm safety. "My daughter knows if she sees a gun to stop and not touch it; to leave the room and tell an adult."
Public service "We are regular people with a duty, who have taken an oath and we are willing to step up," Galli said. "It's my job to raise awareness, help with crime prevention, provide education and demystify what police officers do. As a mom and police officer, it really drives the point home when we see kids who are abused or in need and help get them a better life. We help them get the tools they need and empower them to not become victims of crime and to seek help."

Marguerite Marsh is a freelance writer and winner of the Ohio Public Images 2008 Print Journalism Award of Excellence for her Columbus Parent article "Motherhood Redefined and Transformed by Treacher Collins Syndrome." In addition to writing about health and wellness, families, relationships and pets, Marguerite writes the Pet Blog, Heavy Petting.