RALEIGH, N.C. --
Bianca Strzalkowski remembers sitting at her future husband’s kitchen table, helping him study his general orders before heading to recruit training in 1998. This would be the first step towards building her reputation as a dedicated Marine wife, mother and supporter of military families.
Ten years later, Strzalkowski was selected as the 2011 Marine Spouse of the Year. Selection for the award is based on volunteer work, education and impact on the community.
“I was up against very impressive women,” said Strzalkowski, a mother of three. “To have an honor like representing the finest branch of the military was overwhelming. There is so much I want to accomplish for families on independent duty and this will be my opportunity to do so.”
Strzalkowski has tried her best to play her role as a supportive Marine wife throughout her husband’s career in the Corps. She was a Key Volunteer Coordinator for Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 461 at Marine Corps Air Station New River, N.C., from 2002-2005. She was also a key volunteer at MCAS Yuma, Ariz., where she cooked for families in need, from those with newborn babies to families affected by a helicopter crash.
“Regardless of duty station, unit or billet that I was engaged in, my wife has always made it a point to find her gravity in family readiness,” said Gunnery Sgt. Ronald Strzalkowski, her husband and the staff noncommissioned officer of Recruiting Sub-Station Garner, N.C. “Her true passion to help others has been apparent and has always prevailed through her actions towards her fellow spouses and Marines. I truly am blessed to be married to such a wonderful woman and mother.”
When her husband was assigned to recruiting duty, which is well known for the strain it places on Marine families, Bianca faced her hardest challenge.
“The toughest part of recruiting is that you have to be the foundation and rock of your family 24/7,” said Bianca. “You can’t take leave when you are a mom and a wife. You make plans, but your husband’s job requires something different. So you have to readjust your plans, suck it up and move on.”
Strzalkowski did that and more. After a week on recruiting duty, she decided to step up and ask Sgt. Maj. Paul A. Berry, the sergeant major of Recruiting Station Raleigh, N.C., for the lead in RS Raleigh’s Family Readiness Program. Some of her responsibilities include providing feedback from unit families, arranging and publicizing moral support events, and conducting unit outreach.
“Bianca’s contributions to the RS have reached far beyond the responsibilities listed in her appointment letter,” said Berry. “She has had a positive impact on the RS mission because the Marines and family members are more informed, which has greatly increased unit morale.”
The time and effort put into RS Raleigh has also been a learning experience for Bianca and has helped prepare her for the future.
“My experience here has built my resume up so that I can apply for a paid position within the Marine Corps Family Readiness Program,” Bianca said. “I love to serve; it is rewarding in so many ways. I hope I have been able to inspire someone to continue on the work we started. Our families deserve the best, because they are the best. RS Raleigh is a model for mission success and quality of life success.”