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Ashley Bigalke

Ashley Bigalke

Aviation Machinist’s Mate (AD2), U.S. Navy
Bachelor of Arts Psychology, University of San Diego
Master of Science Organizational Development and Change, Hawaii Pacific University

Even as a middle school student, Ashley always knew that she wanted to join the military and had a desire to serve. She actively participated in the LAPD based police academy magnet program both in middle and high school and saw herself as a “helper,” as she likes to call the professions of those who are willing to risk their lives for others. In addition to the innate desire to serve, Ashley was impacted by watching her legal guardians, whom she moved in with at the age of 10, serve in the Air National Guard. Throughout her time in the military, Ashley had the expectation as well as the hope that she would be challenged in ways she had not yet encountered and that she would gain internal satisfaction from helping serve her country.


Ashley served in the U.S. Navy for four years completing one 9-month deployment aboard USS George H.W. Bush in the Persian Gulf where they conducted airstrikes in Iraq against ISIS. It was while she was stationed in Norfolk as a helicopter mechanic where the physical demands of her job began to take a toll on her body. She now experiences constant knee, back, and foot pain and has been diagnosed with tinnitus due to the loud noises. Following the completion of her service, she made the decision to move across the country to San Diego in 2015, there were many times when she questioned if she made the right decision to move to a new city where she didn’t know anyone and that had a high cost of living.


Due to her age and different life experiences, Ashely struggled connecting with the student population on campus. Her life consisted of school, work, home and it wasn’t until she was granted a work-study program and began frequenting the Veterans Resource Center that she finally was able to make friends and was connected to Student Veteran Organizations like Sentinels of Freedom (SoF). She immersed herself in the college experience eventually becoming the President of the Student Veteran Organization at SDSU and participating in volunteer activities whenever possible. While completing her bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in Russian and as she transitioned to her master’s degree from Hawaii Pacific University in Organizational Development and Change, Ashely received financial support from SoF to assist with her housing costs and was provided motivational support through biannual check-ins throughout her educational journey. Ashely was introduced to a prospective mentor who works for General Dynamics Information Technology in Hawaii. This new relationship will help guide her towards achieving her career goal of working in the DoD sector and eventually as an intelligence officer.