This month we celebrate the service of our female Veterans with stories from our co-workers who also served in the military. Anne Prenzler learned valuable lessons while she served in the United States Army. Respect is one of the lessons that she has carried with her throughout her life. #sheisaveteran
Bill Krieger: Hello everyone, and welcome to “Me You Us,” a well?being podcast. It’s another well?being Wednesday here at Consumers Energy. I’m your host Bill Krieger. Today my guest is Anne Prenzler. She is a Senior Administrative Specialist here at Consumers Energy.
Anne, if you’d introduce yourself, we’ll get the conversation started.
Anne Prenzler: Hi, I’m Anne Prenzler.
Bill: As we said, you are a senior administrative specialist. Could you tell us a little bit about what that means? How do you make a living because many of our listeners may not know what you do?
Anne: I work for community affairs, and there are 22 people in my department. I’m the only admin for the department, so I report to the executive director, Josh Burgett. Then I also support the entire team.
Bill: With my interaction with any of our administrative specialists here at Consumers, you guys are the lifeblood of the company. You make things happen. I’ve realized quickly if I have a question, or maybe need to set up a meeting, you can make that happen very quickly.
Anne: Yes, definitely.
Bill: How did you get interested in this type of…? Is this what you’ve done since you’ve been here at Consumers?
Anne: I’ve had a few different jobs. We had a record center here in Saginaw when I first started, and that’s where I worked. I was part?time for about a year. Also, I helped in the mailroom, and then for, I believe, five or six years, I ran the copy center here in Saginaw.
Bill: Lots of things that aren’t here anymore.
Anne: Right, not here anymore.
Bill: I remember when I started here in Lansing, we had huge files just full of all kinds of paper records and all that stuff and it had to be maintained.
Anne: It was all paper at that time. It was interesting.
Bill: People relied on that too. If they went to grab something on a file, it needed to be in the right place and it needed to be the right information.
Anne: We pulled bills for the billing department and call center quite frequently.
Bill: Anyone that might complain about having to look up a billing history on a computer, you might want to talk to Anne about how we used to do it.
Bill: Before you came to Consumers Energy, though, you were in the United States Army.
Anne: I was. I did three years regular Army. Then as soon as I got out, I joined the Michigan National Guard. I did that for four years.
Bill: What did you do when you were on active duty in the Army?
Anne: I was a medic. I was stationed to a MASH unit. I was at Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, Georgia. It was home of the First Ranger Battalion. Most of the time, we were Ranger support.
Bill: What interested you or drove you to join the military?
Anne: I was a Catholic school girl. The oldest of four kids and sheltered. We did family trips, but I never really got out of my little bubble that I lived in. I took some classes when I graduated. I just wasn’t feeling it at the time.
A recruiter had called me. I said, “Well, I’m not sure that I’m interested, but I’ll think about it and call you.” I did. I called him. We met a few times. It just really intrigued me. My father’s family, he has five brothers that were in military service and served in wars, actually. Then my uncle on my mom’s side was in the Air Force.
Bill: No stranger to the military.
Bill: How did your parents react to that?
Anne: My dad, very proud. My mom, it was harder for her. She was scared for me, nervous for me. They were both very proud.
Bill: Good. I used to be a recruiter myself for the Navy. I know sometimes parents can get a little upset when their children decide to join the military. It’s good to see that they were very supportive of you. What was it like for you joining the Army and becoming a medic?
This is going to be airing in the month of November. We’re really highlighting women who served in the military. I’m just wondering how your experience might have been different from my experience.
Anne: When I joined, it was the late ’80s. Things were a lot different then. Women were not in combat. There were certain jobs that we would qualify for. It was a different process.
When I tested, the field medic is one of the things that showed up high on my test. I thought that, that sounded like a good job for me because I’ve always liked taking care of people. I’m the oldest of four kids and bossy.
Anne: It wasn’t impulsive, but it almost felt like it. I just felt like it was something that I really wanted to do, experience new things.
Bill: [inaudible 6:06] you say it felt impulsive. I’ve noticed that when you decide to join the military, things move really quickly.
Anne: They do.
Bill: You test. You get your physical. Then you get your date. Then you go. There’s no time to stop and think. Even though it felt impulsive, it sounds like it was the right decision for you at the time. What was it like going through basic training?
I had joined the military in 1984. Everything was still segregated men and women. In fact, I didn’t see any female sailors until I got pretty well advanced in my tactical training. How was that for you?
Anne: I was at Fort Jackson. It was segregated as well. This was for basic training. There were males on the post, but they were in separate areas. We were in old World War II barracks at the time. Basic was, you could say, a big challenge for me. The most I ever did as far as physical training was cheerleading. It was not in sports or anything like that.
That was a big challenge for me. Once I conquered that, I felt like I could do anything. [laughs]
Bill: It is interesting. I know going into basic training, your body will do lots of things that your mind doesn’t think necessarily you can do until you actually do them.
Anne: Mind over matter is the biggest thing. You really have to train your mind to be more positive and look at things differently.
Bill: I got to ask this question, too. Let me go back a little bit. You talked about Fort Jackson. I spent 10 years in the Navy, but 11 years in the Army National Guard. I did a lot of Army training. It seems like the Army decided, “We’re going to find the worst piece of land that we can find and we’re going to put some sort of trading facility there.”
It doesn’t matter if it’s Fort Jackson or Fort Leonard Wood. I could just go on, and on, and on. I think the nicest place I ever went was Fort Lewis in Washington. That was beautiful. Was that your experience as well?
Bill: Every time you go to a Navy base or an Army base, you’re thinking, “What the heck?”
Anne: Fort Jackson was one of those posts. When I finished my AIT, my job training, I was originally stationed in Fort Stewart in Georgia. It’s in the middle of swamps. You drive 20 minutes through swamps just to get to the post. That’s exactly how that was, too.
I was lucky to be transferred from there to Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, Georgia, which was nice. One of the nicer.
Bill: Yes. Good. Talking about AIT, is that advanced individual training, I think is what that…I can ever remember. Something to do with training.
Anne: Yes. It’s your job training, basically.
Bill: How was that?
Anne: I loved that. I was at another good place, Fort Sam Houston, right in the middle of San Antonio, Texas. That was a great place to be.
Bill: At that point, had they integrated males or females into the training?
Bill: After going through basic training and being with females for that whole period of time, what was it like training with men?
Anne: At my training, it was fine. We were all friends. The barracks, of course, were segregated. The first time I experienced anything that was different than what I was used to was when we started training a little bit with the Special Forces. They treated women a little bit differently. They weren’t disrespectful.
That was the first time I noticed anything different.
Bill: It’s a different group of people. [laughs]
Anne: It is a different group of people. For a long time, a lot of them didn’t feel that women had a place in the military. I know a lot of countries, women weren’t in the military for a long time, either. Like I said, it wasn’t anything disrespectful.
Bill: It was just a sign of the times, right?
Bill: You went on to your training. You got your duty station. You said it when you graduated from basic training, how you felt on top of the world. You did all these things that you had no idea you could do.
What do you think that did for you? If you could look back at yourself entering basic training and where you’re at today, what do you think that that experience did for you?
Anne: I was pretty shy. Like I said, I was sheltered. When you’re in the military, shy, there’s no place for it. You’re living with people that they’re not your family, but they become your family. You have to come out of your shell if you want to do well. I really did. My self?esteem took a big leap. It helped a lot.
Bill: You talk about how the people you’re with become family. I think unless you’re in the military, that’s a difficult concept to understand. I know there are a lot of people I still keep in contact with. Even people from basic training that we might not talk, but we follow each other on social media and communicate that way.
Do you find that you still have some friends from that time?
Anne: Absolutely. It’s funny because Facebook reunited me with a lot of people that I was friends with when I was in the Army.
That’s been cool, because we’ve followed each other. I have one friend, who he’s from South Carolina, Hot River. Good old Southern boy. I was going through some struggles a couple of years ago. He started checking in with me every other day or once a week. Still, to this day, he does that. That’s cool.
Bill: That’s something we’ve talked a lot about on this podcast, is reaching out and talking to people. Jeff Shingler makes it a point to talk with someone each day that he hasn’t talked to in a while to check in with them. It’s so important.
I do find that my military friends, we do that with each other quite a bit. Every once in a while, I’ll get this phone call out of the blue from someone I haven’t talked to in years.
When you talk to your friend, does it seem like you pick up where you left off, like time never passed?
Anne: Definitely. That’s the difference between they’re your military family. They’re not just your friend.
Bill: Yes. I completely agree. I think I found that when I came to Consumers Energy as well. We don’t go into combat together, but we do a lot of things that are dangerous here. We have to take care of one another. You left the Army.
Did you immediately join the National Guard, then?
Anne: I did, yes. I signed up before I separated from the service. Then when I got home, it was almost immediate. Yes.
Bill: Was there a reason behind that?
Anne: I felt I went through all of that training. Even though I didn’t want to go into the medical field, I enjoyed being a medic. I felt like I wanted to still do something with the military.
Of course, the GI Bill. I took classes when I got out.
Bill: You get out. You join the Michigan National Guard. We talked a little bit prior to the podcast here. That you were thinking, “Oh, I’m just going to collect some unemployment. Figure out what I want to do.” Then what happened?
Anne: I signed up with the…It was the unemployment office at the time. Thinking that I’m going to write unemployment and figure things out. Take some classes. I got the call. I didn’t know it was Consumers Energy. They called and they said, “There’s a good company. They’re hiring entry?level positions. We thought it would be a good fit for you.”
Then I found out it was Consumers Energy. I thought, “Well, I think I better look into this.”
Bill: What attracted you to Consumers Energy? They called you, but you could have said no and continued on.
Anne: I grew up not far from the Saginaw Service Center. I felt this company’s been here for a long time. Thinking about my future. I thought it was something I shouldn’t turn down.
Bill: Like you, I had known about Consumers Energy my whole life. It was Consumers Power at the time. We’ve had some changes ourselves. What year did you start here, then?
Bill: All right. A few years before I got here. I don’t get to interview a lot of people that have more time here than I do.
Bill: This is nice.
Anne: Yes. I’ll have 32 years in November.
Bill: How’s that feel?
Anne: Weird. When I started, I felt so young. [laughs] Now I’m one of the old ones.
Bill: Do you find yourself saying and doing things that you used to giggle at other people saying when you got here?
I remember working with some folks who had had some time here at Consumers Energy. They were in their 30, or 32, 33 years. Sometimes they would say and do things. I would chuckle, like, “Really?” Now, I find myself doing and saying some of those things.
Anne: Not so much. People ask me for advice. I don’t feel like I sound that way, but maybe I do.
Bill: Go find someone who’s brand new to the company and ask them, “Do I sound like this?” Maybe we’ll find out. Yes, you’ve been here for quite a while. As we were talking earlier, too, I know that you have children. How did your life unfold once you got here?
Anne: I was married in 1992. It was seven years before we had children. I struggled with having children naturally. We ended up adopting. By the time we decided to do this, I wanted to do it…I didn’t want it to be a long, drawn?out process, because trying to get pregnant and all of that was a long, drawn?out process.
We hired a lawyer, just trying to do it in the safest way possible for us. The lawyer that we went to specialized in foreign adoptions, but Russia really appealed to us for some reason.
I think it was because when you adopted from Russia at the time, you actually went to court while you were there, you had an interpreter, you were in front of a judge. When the judge granted that you were the parents, then that was it. You were the parents.
Here, the process is a lot more drawn?out, so that’s what appealed to me.
Bill: You adopted two children?
Anne: We adopted twins. They are now 24.
Bill: It must have been kind of exciting to see them come here. How old were they when you adopted them?
Anne: They were two, but they were from a very poor orphanage. To put it into perspective, they weighed 16 pounds each. They didn’t walk or crawl. They understood some Russian but didn’t speak.
It was amazing. They absorbed so much in a short amount of time. It was pretty amazing to watch them learn and develop their personalities. We always thought my son would be the more outgoing one. It was the exact opposite.
Bill: Kids will surprise you like that.
Bill: What do they do today?
Anne: My son is a driver for FedEx. He’s been full?time there for three years. He was part?time for a year. He loves it. Both my kids are outgoing people. They like people, so it’s a good job for him.
My daughter works for Morley Company. She works in their call center right now.
Bill: Morley Company, that’s not the Morley candy people, is it?
Bill: I always get this confused.
Anne: Right. I believe that they are related, but the company’s not run by Morley’s any longer. It’s now in the Furlong family. My daughter works for the Blue Cross Blue Shield program. They call people or people call them about their medications and things like that. They also administer the lemon law for GM and do other programs for GM.
She actually just put in for a different job. We will see. It’s not in the call centers.
Bill: Maybe by the time this airs, we’ll know more. It sounds like they both found things that work really well for them and work well for their personalities.
Anne: Yes. I’m thankful that they like what they’re doing and that they have benefits and full?time jobs. At 24, that’s pretty good.
Bill: That is. Especially with the way things are going today, benefits are a big deal. I know that.
Bill: I always wanted to make sure that my kids understood the importance of that. In fact, my daughter got her first teaching job out of college and is learning all about the wonderful world of being on your own. [laughs]
Bill: Exciting times.
Anne: That’s very exciting.
Bill: Yes. Anyone who might not know the power of the training that you get in the military. I was a computer technician in the Navy. I was military police in the Army. Our training tends to follow us. Anne, you don’t know that I’m going to mention this, but I’m going to. If you want me to take it out, I certainly can.
A few years ago, we were sitting in this very room that we’re sitting in now. I was, anyway. I started having a medical issue. Not knowing that Anne had been a medic in the military. She was the person sitting out in the front. I went out and said, “Hey, there’s something wrong. I think I’m having a migraine headache, but I can’t see anything.”
Anne was very calm. Gave me some Tylenol. Then drove me to the hospital, waited there for me, and drove me back here to pick up my car. Now, reflecting on everything you said, your calmness, the way you talked to me, the way you treated me, to me, that seems like it was all things that came back as part of all that training that you had had.
I want you and everyone listening to know how much I appreciate how well you treated me. Also, it’s a lesson in the things that we learn at a young age in the military really can’t carry through our entire lives.
Anne: It absolutely does. I’ve always had a strong sense of not just responsibility, but compassion. That my medical training in the army really cemented that in me.
The other thing that it did was when you mentioned that I was calm, it taught me that you need to remain calm in certain situations, because things will happen that you don’t necessarily know how to deal with it. If you stay calm, and everything comes to you.
Yes. I knew from looking at you, there was something wrong. That’s why I said, “I think we need to go to the hospital.”
Bill: It all worked out. I’m sitting here today. [laughs]
Bill: I wanted the audience to know and to also understand that. 32 years here at Consumers Energy and your time spent in the military, I think you’ve probably learned a few things over your life.
We’re coming to the end of the podcast. Before we go, I’m wondering if there’s anything that you would like the audience to take away from our conversation today.
Anne: The one thing that the military taught me that has carried me through my entire life since is the value of respect. You don’t know what people are dealing with. It takes just as much energy to be nice and respectful to people as it does to be grumpy or mean.
I think that it’s a lot easier to choose to be positive and encouraging, but most of all, respectful.
Bill: I appreciate that. I really like the value of respect. I haven’t heard that term before, but I’m sure I’ll be using it as I go forward. I always learn something from these conversations.
Thanks again for taking time out of your day to sit down and talk with me and the audience. I’m sure that they’re going to take quite a bit away from this. I look forward to maybe doing this again soon.
Anne: Thank you so much. ?