A new Air Force policy opened a career door for one spouse who thought her dream expired.
Yolanda Tann dismissed the idea of joining the military when she and her high school sweetheart, Marine Staff Sgt. Tony Tann, married in 2002. But she never imagined years later, after his retirement and an age limit change, her passion to serve would be quenched.
Yolanda grew up in a family heavily saturated in the military. Her father was a Marine and her grandfather served in the Navy. She loved hearing their stories of camaraderie and wanted to be able to one day say she was part of something bigger than herself. Everything fell into place when she joined Army ROTC in high school. She felt at home. For her, the legacy of her family was propelling her towards destiny.
But her military track took on a different shape when she met her future husband in NJROTC. Within seven months after she graduated, they were married and she moved to Okinawa to be with him.
“I already knew that Tony was going into the service. We didn’t know if it was going to be a long haul thing but I wanted to support my husband. I no longer thought of joining,” she said.
She also didn’t view this as a sacrifice. The most important thing in the Tann household is that at least one parent always be present.
“I never wanted dual-military for us. That works for some people but we wanted stability for our kids,” Yolanda explained.
She didn’t resent this decision. Her mission was to take care of the family so her husband could focus on building a successful career and providing for them.
Off and on they would jokingly talk about how funny it would be if she joined the military after he got out. Yolanda didn’t think it was a possibility because she exceeded the cutoff age of enlistment. Tony always thought it would be amazing if she could fulfill what she wanted to do after all this time.
In 2014 the decision was made to change the cutoff enlistment age in the Air Force from 27 to 39. Yolanda is 36.
Tony, who has now been retired since 2019, fully supports her decision to enlist.
“I’ve been trying to find work since February but nothing panned out. I don’t think it was in God’s plan,” he said.
He embraces this opportunity to spend more time with his children and be the present parent while his wife commits to serving her country. The Tanns have officially switched roles.
But Yolanda faced one last roadblock. Her weight wasn’t within enlistment standards. She’s been working hard at it after giving birth to their third child in November of 2016. Tony told her, “Baby you want to do it? Let’s kick it in high gear!” So, they began working out together.
“She was already eating right. We just had to put in the work to get her strong and military ready,” he added.
It worked. On January 14th of this year, Yolanda raised her right hand to make the oath to protect her country and defend the constitution. She crossed over from being a military spouse to becoming an airman.
She is looking forward to being a part of AFSC Security Forces.
“I will be a defender of whatever base I’m on! I’m the Po Po,” she said while laughing excitedly.
As the oldest in her group of recruits she brings maturity and perspective. The possibility of going to war is real and Yolanda’s military mindset motivated her to help bring her fellow Air Force recruits into focus.
“A lot of you are signed up for the benefits. Yes, they are great. But ultimately, we are signing up to give our lives to make sure our freedoms remain — that the way we want to live stays that way. If you don’t have that mindset, then you need to leave now. Because when the flames are hot, I don’t want to look over and my battle buddy is gone,” she said to the group.
Talks of combat and war even led some of her friends to question, “are you sure you want to go in?” She and her husband don’t back away from this topic. She says, “We have the conversation about me possibly going to war. I’m not fearful of it. I’m very aware of what’s going on and I know that me going in the military, that’s the biggest part of it. We can’t control everything. For me and my family, God is in control.”
The Tann household fully supports the new dynamic and transformation that’s taking place. Changing duty stations can be hard on some children but the Tann kids, who have always been military kids, are excited to continue their adventures.
“My kids are all about it. They keep saying when are leaving?” Yolanda said.
This role reversal is a feat they are tackling as a team. Everyone is switching gears, but it is working well for them. Tony has become Mr. Mom and is his wife’s biggest cheerleader.
“I’m excited. I dragged them around [the world]. She can drag us around now!”Read comments