Erika’s Story

The Early Years

I was born and raised in a working class neighborhood in Duluth, MN, to Dick and Terry Hanson, the oldest of three children.

My mom was an elementary school teacher in nearby Proctor, and taught second grade for the majority of her career. My dad was an electrician by trade, as was his father. When I was young, he worked in a steel mill. Like many in the steel industry, he lost his job during an economic downturn, but found work as a plant manager in Two Harbors and remained in that role until he retired.

When I was younger, I spent most of my summers in rural North Dakota at my grandparents’ home in Carrington. After graduating from Duluth Cathedral High School, I spent the next year as an exchange student in Liege Belgium, before returning home to attend UMD, where I received my degree in International Relations.

Married Life

After graduation, I married John Cashin. At the time we met, John was a junior enlisted sailor with the US Navy. While we were dating, he went to US Navy Dive School.

Once married, we followed the call of duty to stations in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and Whitbey Island Washington. At each location we lived in enlisted housing on base. While stationed in GTMO, I earned my Master’s Degree in Public Administration from Troy University with the military campus on base. John and I have been married 28 years.

The Kids

My two children, son Cameron and daughter Delaney, are truly military “brats” who earned their resilience from the frequent moves and exposure to cultural experiences of their youth.  

Cameron currently attends Harvard University where he studies Economics, and, having caught the military bug from his parents, has enlisted in the Navy. Delaney is a senior at Eastview High School with a goal of studying environmental engineering in college.

Military Career

While moving from base to base, I became an entry level civil servant with the US Navy, and, inspired by my husband’s service, decided I would “start my career.” I joined the US Air Force in 1996 and was commissioned as an officer in the specialty that is now called Force Support Officer, with jurisdiction over human resources, training, lodging, food service and mortuary affairs.

I attended Officer Training School at Maxwell Air Force Base (AFB) in Montgomery, Alabama, and career specialty training in Mississippi, followed by duty stations in New Mexico, Wisconsin and Texas. After three years in Texas, I applied, and was selected for a Commander job in Minneapolis. My husband and I both wanted to move back home and raise our kids in Minnesota. They transitioned into Apple Valley School District 196, and have received some of the best education in the country.

During my tenure at the 934th Airlift Wing, I represented the unit to the Federal Executive Board, and became a board officer. The FEB supports a multistate region of 21+ federal agencies with the purpose of coordinating the response to crisis and emergency management situations. In 2015, I was recognized as the top annual employee in the state by an FEB board comprised of legislative staffers.

My Work on Behalf of Female Veterans

In 2013, I was in the role of Executive Officer. I hosted a small discussion group of women based on a recently released book by Sheryl Sandberg, titled Lean In. Sheryl is the COO of Facebook, and had previously recorded a popular TED Talk on women at work. When she published the book, she also built a mechanism for women to participate in small “lean in” circles in their community to mentor each other to attain their career goals. Our circle included military women, civilian women that worked on base, and military spouses.

I was proud that our Lean In circle was the first of its kind, and started something that reached a worldwide community. It also started my partnership with the Lean In organization. Through this partnership I advised both Sheryl and the Lean In staff on a variety of issues and challenges for women in the military. I mentored new military circles as they started to grow at deployed locations, on Navy ships and the service academies, bringing them together to form a network encompassing the entire Department of Defense and all branches of the military. Under my leadership, this became the employee resource group for the largest employer in the world.

In Sept 2015, Sheryl and I met with Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, who then published a Department of Defense Directive recognizing my chapter, and encouraging all military women to participate. The goal was to recruit and retain women into higher levels of leadership throughout the military.

Our efforts expanded, and I began working with the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Center for Women Veterans (CWV) to establish a similar effort for women in our communities across the country that were no longer serving.

Through this process, I learned that women veterans experienced many more hardships after serving than male veterans, and have exponentially higher rates of suicide, homelessness, substance abuse and divorce compared to women that haven’t served.

To address this issue, I used connections developed in the DoD and VA to bring together a team to develop a transition program for women leaving the service. This program became Title 1 in the Deborah Sampson Act.

My Life after the Military

In April of 2018, I left my full-time reserve position to join Comcast NBC Universal in a corporate role, and remain a Lt Col in the Air Force Reserves. At Comcast I worked in Human Resources for Technical Operations, supporting the residential technicians that provide customer service in a multistate region.

What it all Means

For over 24 years, I’ve proudly served our country, taking the oath to defend our constitution, and founding principles. I’m asking for your vote to serve our country in this new role and to bring my work ethic, leadership skills and can-do attitude to the political field.

The Second Congressional District seat in Congress is your voice in our nation’s capital and it would be my honor to serve on your behalf.