Extraordinary Woman – LTC Marne L. Sutten


Marne Sutten and her husband met in Germany during a military exercise and have been married for almost eight years.  They were married in Reykjavik, Iceland, in a civil service to ensure they would be stationed together upon moving back to the United States.  Their official wedding with friends and family took place at the Old Post Chapel in Arlington Cemetery.  The couple has two children, a 4-year old son and an almost 6-year old daughter.  Sutten has been in the Army for 17 years, moving nine times and serving in Iraq and overseas in Korea and Germany. She now serves as the commander of the 2nd Joint Communications Squadron of the Joint Communications Support Element. The unit, which jumps out of airplanes or helicopters, is comprised of personnel from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines.

What do you think is the secret to your family’s success?

Having a supportive husband, amazing grandparents and a relationship built on a deep mutual respect for one another is the key to our family’s success.  My husband also serves in the Army, and we are both stationed at MacDill Air Force Base.  He not only understands the sacrifice it takes to serve in the armed forces, but also serves as a sounding board and provides me invaluable advice.  Additionally, Grant and I have extremely supportive parents that help out if we are deployed or traveling.  Grant and I would not be able to continue our profession without them.

What is your biggest fear?

My biggest fear is that I don’t have enough time in my day to provide my children all that they deserve.  I remember when returning from my deployment to Iraq and I was concerned that my children would not remember me.  My daughter, who was 3 at the time, knew who I was immediately and had no reservations about giving me a big hug and kiss.  My son was a little timid initially but warmed up quickly.  The first couple of days it was difficult to hear them only ask for daddy when they got hurt or went to bed at night.  The rhythm in the household returned back to normal quickly. I have learned that it truly is not the amount of time but the quality of the time we spend with our children that matters.  Children are resilient, and it is important to balance what they want and what they need and to provide them an example of positive and involved citizenship.  I am proud of my children and would do anything for them.

What advice would you give to other women?

It is acceptable to not be perfect as both a mother and a professional all the time.  Too often, women walk away from a profession they love because they are afraid their children will not get the quality time that they need and deserve.  I believe women try so hard to be perfect at everything when, in reality, perfection is not the goal.  You can concentrate on certain aspects of your life and make compromises on others.  I like to have a clean house but struggle to keep everything clean.  Hiring someone to help clean is one of the best investments we have made.  I would rather spend the weekend playing with my children instead of mopping floors and wiping countertops.  Healthy, home-cooked meals are always the goal in our family, but I have come to understand that carry-out or pizza makes life a little less stressful.  Balancing a family and a profession takes time and dedication, but the happiness that I get from our family is worth all the hard work.

What is your proudest moment?

My proudest moment is when I followed in the footsteps of a long lineage of my family who served in the Army.  I am a third generation signal corps officer, with my grandfather serving in World War II and my father serving in Vietnam and Desert Storm.  I have also deployed overseas for my country, having served two tours in Operation Iraqi Freedom.  My husband and I both love our country and believe in the importance of serving.

What is your biggest achievement?

My biggest achievement is having such wonderful children that are kind and respectful. I feel a sense of pride when our kids say that they want to be soldiers like their mommy and daddy.  They also are proud to salute the American flag and stand at attention on base as the flag is retired at the end of the day.  The military life is a rewarding profession and I feel honored to serve with so many amazing people.

What makes you happy?

Traveling the world and moving to new cities with my husband and children is an amazing aspect of military life.  We have met so many wonderful people from all walks of life and experienced so many great areas of the United States and abroad.  Seeing my children experience new cultures and creating new family traditions make the challenge of moving worthwhile.  Our children are young, but they are extremely flexible about moving and adapting to new situations and environments.  Quality family time definitely keeps our family ties strong and we are all closer to each other for sharing the experience of moving.

How do you relax and take time for yourself?

Admittedly, finding time for me has been difficult while working and taking care of such young and active children.  My favorite time is getting up early and having a cup of coffee on our back porch.  Everything is so peaceful and it gives me time to reflect on the day and everything that has to be accomplished.  Also, I take time to exercise, run and swim.  I find exercising gives me time to think about how fortunate I am to have so much happiness and good health. 

What message would you like to give women in the area or in this community?

I love that so many people are involved in our community.  Public service and volunteerism is such an important part of what makes the city and our country great.  For example, I am amazed at how many people volunteer at my daughter’s school (Roosevelt Elementary) to make the school a better place.

What is your favorite thing to do with your kids in Tampa Bay?

We love living in such an amazing place with so many fantastic things to do.  Tampa has a festival, market or event every weekend that we can enjoy with our family and friends. The kids enjoy visiting the zoo, aquarium or children’s museum while my husband and I are amazed at all the incredible restaurants. We love Tampa so much that we have considered retiring here after our military service is over.

Who is your biggest inspiration or role model?

My husband is my biggest inspiration and makes me want to be a better and more patient person.  He has always supported me serving in the military and is an amazing father to our children.  We have both deployed several times to Iraq and he did an amazing job as a single father during my last deployment.  He made sure that I received pictures and videos of the kids to keep me from being too homesick.  He managed to balance the children and his military job with ease.