In terms of working environments, the United States Air Force and State Farm insurance run pretty closely together, according to Cassie Thompson, who has spent many years associated with both.
“I think this job is the closest thing I’ve had to my Air Force career which was a fantastic career,” she said.
Thompson was born and raised in Camden, Maine, a beautiful little place known for tourism on its Penobscot Bay coast. “Camden is really busy in the summer but in the winter it is really dead,” she added. A very small town midway up the Maine coast, Thompson took her husband up there one summer when her two children were ready to graduate high school. The town held a parade in town for the different high schools in the area. “He was blown away by how small the graduating class was,” she remembers. “The entire parade took all of about seven minutes.”
She entered the Delayed Entry Program while still in high school. She was a competitive runner and had a scholarship to the University of Maine, but an injury derailed those plans. It was time to move on she said, and she left for basic training in the Air Force in July of 1997 soon after graduating high school.
We joked with her that graduating high school in 1997 makes her a pup still, she laughed and said she now has an employee whose mom, “is younger than me now, so I am feeling that too!”
Her MOS in the Air Force was that of a HAZMAT specialist, something that while not unheard of is a bit of a rarity for women. She then traveled extensively across the United States and across the pond for a slew of deployments.
In the eleven years that she spent on active duty, she was stationed at Mountain Home, Idaho, which said was the “most beautiful place on earth,” and additional duty stations in Korea and California before going TDY to Ali Al Salem Air Base in Kuwait, Ahmad al-Jaber Air Base, also in Kuwait, as well as in Mosul. 9/11 happened when she was stationed at Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany.
While in Mosul, she was doing some escort duty work and caught an Egyptian man in a lie. It turned out he was trying to gain intelligence on the base and was turned over the host-nation authorities.
Moving from a hotel in town to living basically on the flight line, her HAZMAT expertise was used cleaning up all of the blood off of aircraft coming into Landstuhl. For a young 23-year old, it gave her a different perspective of what life is like in the military.
But she loved deploying in the Air Force, “I absolutely loved it,” she said. “You just had the sense of being family. It was my very favorite thing in the military to deploy.”
She added, “that’s when your job really means something… that’s how I felt anyway.”
She said that she loved working in HAZMAT until she became pregnant, then the thought of getting up in the middle of the night and going out to check trucks entering the base while on-call became a bit harder. She worked with EOD members which she added “were a blast to work with… no pun intended.”
One incident that closed down the base for a short amount of time was when a box blew up when she touched it. It wasn’t a bomb but paint that was improperly packed and shipped. Laughing, she said, “the entire base was closed for a short time as I had paint all over me when it blew. It was pretty embarrassing.”
She was also the youngest instructor in the military at the Air Force’s Leadership School. Once again, the Air Force matched Thompson up with a job that she absolutely loved. “Because of my age, it kind of held me up for promotion a few times because I didn’t have enough time in grade, but it was one of the best experiences I have ever, ever, ever had,” she said.
She gives that job all the credit for her life today. “I feel that job is the only reason I am successful today.” Every six weeks, over 100 new students would come in and she would have to learn how to teach and write the curriculum. Afterward, she earned her Masters and is currently working on her Ph.D. but wants to get back to teaching, because, as she said, she loved it so much. Teaching leadership she said, “was one of the most rewarding things, I’ve ever done,” and some of her students still reach out to her today.
But after a five-year stint as an instructor, she made the tough decision to leave the Air Force. With two young children, the very thing she loved to do, which was to deploy, was now the most difficult to contemplate. “I just couldn’t leave my children at that point.” So that was the time for her and the military to part company.
But it was bittersweet, “the Air Force had given me everything,” she said. “And when I first got out, I regretted that decision for quite a long time.” At the age of 29, it was an eye-opening experience because as she puts it, she went in as a baby.
While she was in the Air Force, she was talked into getting a Health and Life License. Little did she know that it would build her next career. She was driving down the road when she saw a State Farm billboard that said: “Come in and ask me about your life insurance.” And as she says, it changed her entire life.
She pulled in and the agent there, Jeff, connected her with another State Farm agent named Chris who was opening up a new office. She immediately went to see Chris, and the two of them looked at each other “like neither one knew what we were getting into,” and they began working together. It was a perfect fit.
She left briefly to pursue her Masters and was really missing her job, but the local sales leader told her that the company would still be there. After obtaining her degree she immediately decided to go back and became a State Farm independent contract agent. ”[State Farm] is the best thing that has ever happened to me, besides the military… they are a good family,” she said.
“State Farm has taken very, very good care of me and my family,” she added.
She mentioned that the company is set up and designed exactly the way she taught leadership in the military. They value the military members because of their discipline and work ethic.