"I was able to achieve my childhood dream," Sarah Rhoads said, thinking back to age 7 when she sat dazzled in the audience at an air show and realized she wanted to be a fighter pilot. She stayed focused on that goal, joined the U.S. Navy and became one of the first F/A-18F pilots assigned to the world-famous Black Aces squadron.
"I can remember coming back from my first mission," she said. "Everything that I'd worked for, and the vision I'd set as a child, had come full circle."
Over the course of her 12-year military career, Rhoads landed on four different aircraft carriers and flew 37 missions over Iraq. "I was challenged every day, and I was able to be filled with a sense of purpose," she said. "It was a really tough decision to finish active-duty service."
Learning about opportunities in the civilian world, she found Amazon matched especially well with what she wanted from her next challenge. "I wanted to continue working with large teams, as I did in the Navy," she said. "I wanted to be doing something where I'd be out there contributing each and every day in a way that I was still getting my hands dirty and still making a difference."
Rhoads is one of the 17,500 veterans and military spouses currently working at Amazon. The company plans to hire 10,000 more by 2021.
Rhoads joined Amazon in 2011 as an operations manager at a fulfillment center in Lexington, Kentucky. She's worked in a variety of roles since then, and now leads Amazon's air cargo team. In October of 2017, her team at Prime Air helped facilitate the delivery of roughly 200,000 pounds of relief supplies to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, in the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Amazon and Amazon customers donated more than $8 million in cash and product to disaster relief efforts.
"It's a good feeling knowing I had a small part in helping in the lives of people who had experienced devastation," said Rhoads. "More so, I was proud of my team and all the teams that worked together to make that happen. It's about leveraging what we have as a large company in order to help others."