Viasat veteran credits military service for a fulfilling life

Hulbert says Air Force enlistment was the best decision she ever made

Ronell Hulbert served in the U.S. Air Force for 10 years and joined Viasat in 2020.

Viasat has hundreds of military veterans in its ranks — former members of the armed forces who have the opportunity to take what they learned in the field and apply it to Viasat products and services needed by active military. As a follow-up to last week’s Veterans Day commemoration, we spoke with program manager and Air Force veteran Ronell Hulbert.

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Viasat program manager and United States Air Force veteran Ronell Hulbert has a message for young people who are uncertain about their future: Join the military.

“Do it,” she said. “If you haven’t yet determined your aspirations — or even if you’ve just started down the path to reach them — that’s the number one option I would look into.

“It was the best decision I ever made. It set me up for the rest of my life. I’ve gotten my education paid for. I have health care for life, and a lot of other benefits. In my opinion, it’s the way to go.”

Hulbert grew up in Turlock, California, an agriculture-based community in the state’s Central Valley area. She originally planned to pursue a career in nursing and began her studies at a junior college. But the classes she took didn’t resonate with her, and a cousin who had enlisted in the Marines suggested she consider the military.

With no intention of serving long term, Hulbert enlisted in the Air Force. The experience changed her in ways she could never have imagined, giving her confidence and skills, along with the opportunity to see the world.

“My plan at first was four years and I’m done,” Hulbert said. “Then I started my education in logistics, and was sent overseas.

“I decided to volunteer to be an instructor; I was shy, so that was out of my comfort zone, but I like challenges. I really succeeded at it, and now instructing and public speaking is one of my favorite things to do. Being an instructor really opened my eyes, and I was able to travel the world to teach.”

Among other courses, Hulbert taught how to handle and transport hazardous material.

During her service, she earned two associates’ degrees and finished her bachelor’s degree. She also earned a joint commendation medal, joint achievement, and Air Force commendation.

After serving 10 years, Hulbert left active duty in 2015 and is now a member of the Air Force Reserve. In 2020, she used her GI Bill benefits to complete a master’s degree in logistics and supply chain management at the University of San Diego.

Hulbert joined Viasat in 2020 as a logistics program manager, a job that lets her continue giving back to the military. She ensures the military has the products, parts and repairs it needs to operate its Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) systems.

Hulbert said Viasat’s support of the military is what convinced her she wanted to work here; it’s a goal that coincides with her own. Hulbert married an Air Force officer in 2015. He died by suicide in 2019, and Hulbert now works to help other veterans suffering from trauma and mental-health issues.

“The first time I was introduced to Viasat was through a veteran’s transition program a couple years ago,” she said. “That’s exactly the kind of thing I want to advocate for. I applied for a position shortly after taking the program.”

Hulbert has volunteered with the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), a nonprofit veterans’ empowerment organization. In March 2020, she participated in IAVA’s “Storm the Hill,” in which members lobby Congress for veterans’ policies, including programs aimed at suicide prevention.

“It was amazing, probably one of the best things I’ve ever done,” said Hulbert, who hopes to participate in a future Storm the Hill.

She also wants to help those who’ve lost spouses to suicide, and plans to someday earn certification to teach grief recovery classes.

“Those classes really made a difference for me, and I would like do the same for others,” she said.

But all that may have to wait a bit. Today, Hulbert is focused not only on her career at Viasat, but her infant son. She and her partner became parents in January, rounding out a fulfilling life she believes wouldn’t have been possible without her military experience.

“I’m learning so much with Viasat, and as a mother, and still enjoying my service in the reserves,” she said. “I’ve come a long way from the girl who lived in Turlock. I don’t know who or where I’d be if I hadn’t joined the Air Force.”