Erica Fredrick-Rock when she served in the U.S. Air Force, a career she loved but left to raise her daughter. Photo courtesy of Erica Fredrick-Rock

Erica Fredrick-Rock from early on wanted to serve her country after finding value in volunteer work and community service while a teenager at Cony High School in Augusta.

When she saw the Blue Angels air show at the former Brunswick Naval Air Station after her freshman year of college, that was it.

“I thought, this is what I want to do. I think I was paying more attention to the people who were there in uniform than the show,” she said.

Fredrick-Rock enlisted in the U.S. Air Force, choosing to postpone a college degree. Two of her grandparents had served in the U.S. armed forces. And while women enlisting was not so common in 1998, Frederick-Rock said she felt called.

The Air Force core values – Integrity First, Service Before Self, and Excellence in All We Do – have served as a life guide, she said: “To this day, that’s how I make decisions.”

After enlisting, Fredrick-Rock was sent first to a base in Texas, and then to Monterey, California, to study as a linguist specialist at the Defense Language Institute, which is where she met and married Ken Fredrick-Rock.


But her dream of service was cut short when she became pregnant with her first child. A week before her daughter was born, she took an honorable discharge from the Air Force, because there was no way that she could go through basic training and care for her child. Her husband, also in basic training, couldn’t be home with the baby either. And while there was child care on the base, it remained full – even though she’d applied for a spot two months into her pregnancy.

She could leave her daughter in the care of a stranger off base or leave the Air Force. Confused and far away from her family in Maine, she chose to give the best care she could to Madison, now 22.

“It was the hardest decision I’ve ever made,’ Fredrick-Rock said.

She served for 23 months until July 2000, a week before her daughter was born. Frederick-Rock, now divorced, still struggles with the choice to this day.

“I joined the service because I wanted to explore. I wanted the adventure. And I was so good at it – the leadership, the service. I really embraced the whole thing. I had to step down from being a squad leader,” she said with tears in her eyes. “I don’t like to say I regret it, because then that’s saying I regret that my daughter was born.”

Today, 20 percent of those serving in the U.S. Air Force are women, according to a 2020 report by the Council on Foreign Relations.


Fredrick-Rock, now 44 and working in accounting for Performance Food Services in Augusta, wishes that percentage was higher.

“I have never been afraid to step out of my comfort zone. I went back to school at 33,” she said. “Was it the right decision for my family? Absolutely. But life would be so different if I stayed in (the Air Force). I think a lot of women (in the military) have to face that decision. I have never really talked about this because it’s so difficult.”

Last year, Fredrick-Rock entered the Maine Police Academy as another way to try to serve her country but an infection in her lungs and neck sent her to the hospital, where she had two surgeries and was placed in a medically induced coma.

She signed up to return to the academy in January and prepared for it, working out in the gym. She graduated in May, but the physical trauma had taken its toll and she decided for now not to pursue the stressful line of work.

“I was bound and determined to graduate. I worked really hard to get my body back in shape. But mentally and physically, I was exhausted,” she said. “I decided I want to keep my health.”

Fredrick-Rock’s birthday happens to be Nov. 11 – and every year when she celebrates it, she thinks of the call she felt to serve her country.

“I would like to see more women in the military and in law enforcement,” she said. “I think women have better peacemaking abilities. I think any branch of the military has a lot to gain by having more women in their forces.”

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