Liz Diss (McLean) has held many titles in her life — Air Force logistics officer, military spouse, entrepreneur, professional Ironman triathlete, mountaineer, talent acquisition professional — but none are as important to her as Air Force Veteran and transition specialist. This is why she recently started the all-women veterans’ initiative within Northrop Grumman called GRIT. Its mission statement is to “establish an internal network providing support, mentorship, empowerment, camaraderie and a safe place for women veterans to identify within the Northrop Grumman community.” The name itself embodies the definition of the word GRIT which is “courage and resolve; strength of character.”
Based off her experience, Liz saw a need within the transitioned military community and within the Northrop Grumman population as a whole. Her initial call-out with GRIT brought forward approximately 345 interested women veterans with 195 participating in a focus group to help define the needs. Liz has dedicated her life to military service or helping those who have served.
She graduated from the Air Force Academy in 2006 and served in the Air Force from 2006 to 2011 as a logistics readiness officer. A marathon runner since second grade, Liz was used to pushing herself physically. But in 2009, she deployed to Kuwait where she oversaw mortuary services, which helped bring 172 bodies of service member’s remains home from Afghanistan. Seeing the carnage of war first-hand stayed with her long after the deployment ended. Like many, the transition out of the military was not without its challenges, but Liz knew she wanted to help other veterans in her next career. As a triathlete and avid outdoorswoman, Liz shared her staunch discipline and structure of her training with others as a possible way to assist veterans who suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
She also started her own business to help active duty service members acclimate to the corporate world.
“I wanted to help with the transition,” said Liz. “Sometimes, people have a point in their lives where they have to redefine their purpose. Companies should understand what that means.”
Several large companies started their own veterans hiring and recruiting initiatives under Liz’s consult and guidance. Standing up these programs took time and dedication, which Liz balanced with taking care of her father, who had been diagnosed with cancer. She also continued to train for events, which often meant waking up at 3:45 a.m. to run. As strong as she may have been, over time the pressure, the stress, and the training took its toll.
“Not only was I my father’s only caretaker but I was also really alone. It was a hard time. I had so much on my mind that the only time I could come up for air was when I was working out or asleep. I was no different than those I was helping.”
Six years later, Liz’s father passed away, and she knew it was time to reset her life. But, she still felt a calling to make a difference in the lives of transitioning military members.
“My focus at the time was just being able to persevere,” said Liz. “I kept telling myself, ‘Take a deep breath. One day, you’ll be on top of things. Don’t just take up space. Help others.'”
Making a fresh start in Boulder, Colorado Liz slowly started to rebuild. She summited Switzerland’s Matterhorn (the sixth deadliest mountain in the world) with veteran friends, ultimately marrying one of the gentlemen she summited the peak with. She also took on a new role at Northrop Grumman.
As the Military Programs and Affairs lead for Aeronautics Systems, Liz continues to help veterans with their transition journeys. The Aeronautics team Liz is a part of stood up the Department of Defense (DoD) SkillBridge program, expanded Operation: IMPACT and were instrumental to Northrop Grumman’s selection as a veteran and military spouse-friendly employer.
And as the launch of GRIT shows, she’s not done yet.
“I am driven by purpose and challenge. Being stagnant or not climbing forward is not an option. Being selfish or not inspiring others is not an option.” Liz hopes this group will enable women veterans to come together to share their common experiences in and out of the military, and form a camaraderie of veterans who know what it means to have grit.
Are you ready to define possible in Colorado like Liz? Check out our career opportunities in Colorado.
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