By Aida Toro
Jennifer McIntyre can do everything a man can do. The difference is that she does it way better. From protecting our country as a member of the military, to owning businesses, McIntyre holds the fort down nicely.
“I have always had a fascination with the U.S. military,” said McIntyre. “My grandfather was in the Philippine Army, and my dad served in the U.S. Army Reserves, but I never saw them in uniform. Just in photos.”
McIntyre never really looked into the U.S. Air Force or U.S. Navy. She wasn't near those associations to witness the various branches in everyday life. She often saw the U.S. Army Soldiers Reserve and National Guard on the highways.
“I used to play tournament softball, which required a lot of travel every weekend,” she said. “When stopping for gas or at rest areas, I would see their convoys pulled over to the side or parked in the rest areas. The Soldiers in uniform piqued my interest.”
She also lived across the Hudson River from the West Point Military Academy, and had the opportunity to play several softball tournaments on their hallowed grounds.
“It was so intimidating and amazing to be at the military academy, and see history in those beautiful halls and ground,” she stated. “The cadets were so disciplined and looked so sharp in their dress uniforms.”
Even though she was fascinated by the military, McIntyre moved to Buffalo, New York to attend the University at Buffalo where she studied Business Geography (world trade type studies) and Interdisciplinary Studies focusing on the East Asian cultures. She also has a minor in Japanese Linguistics and a minor in Leadership studies.
“I originally wanted to pursue Architecture, but lost my interest by the time I hit my sophomore year. These two areas interested me more,” said McIntyre in regards to the degrees she pursued.
McIntyre first joined the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) at the University in Buffalo while in college. There weren’t any Junior ROTC’s “I met fellow cadets, and we became lifelong friends. There's a unique bond among us,” she said. “When 9/11 hit, I was watching the towers fall from my college dorm room. That year made a huge impact upon my life.”
McIntyre wanted a tougher challenge, which is why she went onto the Marine Corps OCS school during her sophomore- junior summer. Ultimately, she chose to rejoin her ROTC classmates and sign the contract committing to the U.S Army.
“Sept 11th changed my life,” she expressed. “If that never happened, I don't know where I'd be right now.”
She formally commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Army in May of 2004 and served 12 years of active duty until 2016. In 2016, she then joined the U.S. Army Reserves and was ultimately recalled to service in early 2018.
“A favorite year... would probably be the year I was in Iraq for the 2nd time with my own Soldiers as a company commander,” said McIntyre. “That was in 2009 - 2010. That's when everything we trained hard for came together to make a company work like a well-oiled machine.”
McIntyre said the year leading up to their deployment was the most challenging. There were shortages in personnel and equipment, as well as only a year to train a brand new company of young Soldiers for a deployment.
“It was overwhelming and plenty of late nights and long days,” she said. “The pressure is immense and you worry over the top about what's going to happen in a far-away land.”
She said, “In the end, it was an amazing year. I watched young men and women grow into adults quickly, take ownership and responsibility, and lead others in critical times. I was so proud of them. I don't know why it was a favorite, but I personally felt the most accomplished then.”
“I think the first challenge that defined me as a younger officer, was serving in an all-male battalion. I had to become my own person and earn the respect of men in the combat arms branches of Infantry and Armor, and the respect of my senior leadership, who were also male,” she said. “ I don't feel that I got any special treatment being the token female officer in the unit, and that's good.”
“I got yelled at, praised, challenged. Expectations were set high, and my senior leaders treated me the same as my male officer counterparts”, stated McIntyre.
This experience set the tone for the rest of McIntyre’s career. The biggest test she faced was keeping up with logistical requirements. The unit was in direct combat in the city of Baghdad. Throughout the days the troops were surging thousands of military Soldiers into Iraq. Never having been before, McIntyre felt intimidated at first by the unknown. But it was her job to sort out the logistics and prepare necessities like food, water, supplies, barriers, and contracted solutions work for the men out in the streets patrolling.
“That 15-month long challenge was incredible and heartbreaking at the same time. It made me feel that I earned my spot on the team. I could do this thing called "military officer" no matter who I was surrounded by,” she said. “Their support, to this very day, is like a family beyond bloodlines.”
“It's not just a catch phrase. It is the basis for being a leader and being a good follower,” said McIntyre in regards to treating people with respect. “It doesn't mean that you need to compromise your standards and performance to appease. It means understanding people on a human level and understanding that we all want the most basic things in life: to be treated humanely and as a person of worth. I've also learned what I'm capable of, which is a high level of professional performance, problem-solving, and strategic level planning. I've learned to be more confident in myself, in my decision-making abilities, and my capacity for responsibility at a very young age. I think this is a gift the military gives young officers.”
McIntyre also stated that one doesn’t always get the job they desire, as it is a progressive environment.
“It feels like you're going back or not getting to where you want to be, but that is life and you don't always get what you want,” she said. “You have to learn to find the good things in life and work hard, no matter what it is that you're doing.”
While she was transitioning out of the active duty into the U.S. Army Reserves, McIntyre launched Jennifer-McIntyre Photographer in 2016. She was always interested in photography and never really picked up a camera until she went to Iraq for the second time with her Soldiers.
“I documented their year-long deployment so families would have photos of their Soldiers while we were gone,” said McIntyre. “In 2016, I finally decided to try my hand at a small business, in the hopes that I would grow while also simultaneously serving in the military.”
She said she always had an interest in commercial beauty photography and portraits of people.
“I've tried a variety of genres, but the one that has me most enraptured is beautiful photography and portraiture. In photography, you have to be versatile, so I do both. I think photography has been an artistic outlet for me. It's a creative activity that exercises the other side of my brain. I spent so many years being very logical and structured. Beauty photography is also very disciplined. Lighting, posing, framing. I think when I learned how to retouch, the creativity came out. I love seeing what my makeup artists at create, and how they create beauty on an already beautiful face.”
On the portraiture side, McIntyre said that her Military Women's Project is her favorite. The project showcases military servicewomen and their stories of why they serve our nation.
“It's their words and my photos put together,” she said. “You'd be amazed at these women, and their various backgrounds and what led them to serve. We all need to leave behind a legacy, and I think military women are a huge part of our nation's modern military.”
Recently, McIntyre went to Los Angeles to create a commercial beauty portfolio. She will begin retouching photos and showing the world another facet of her work. She also desires to achieve her 20-year status in the U.S. Army.
“It's a sense of wanting to finish something I started: a sense of accomplishment,” she said. “We can't wear the uniform for the rest of our lives, so while I'm chasing the 20-year career, I want to also prepare myself for life after the military. I'd love to do my dream job of photography.”
She’d I'd like to establish herself as a photographer through reputation and launch full time into the photography business when she retire from the armed services.
McIntyre encourages women to do anything they want to do in life, such as serving in the military and owning their own business at the same time.
“ No one should discourage you and say you can only do "one" thing with your life,” she said. “Find your tribe whether it's online or in person. They’ll help keep you motivated, as well as push you to new heights. You may need to be a little inventive in how you run your business, but you can do both through a disciplined approach to the "business" and a creative approach to pushing boundaries and ideas.”
As for the military, McIntyre stated that amazing women are needed to join the ranks every day. She believes this is the only profession where women are paid equally. They are expected to serve honorably, support fellow Soldiers to their left and right, and answer the call of their nation when needed, without reserve.
“You have to find relevancy in your work and a sense of accomplishment,” said McIntyre. “When you work hard, opportunities will begin to open. You just have to be ready to seize the opportunity.”