“I Can Do This”: Meet Nicole Stafford, TFA Executive Assistant and Proud Military Spouse

Meet Nicole Stafford, TFA Executive Assistant and Proud Military Spouse

Growing up in a small town in southern Illinois, Nicole Stafford says that she never thought she would leave.  

But the opposite proved true for this integral member of the Task Force Antal team who, in addition to her full-time role at TFA, is also a military spouse and mother of three. 

“Nicole is indispensable, she has the greatest attitude and can do anything she sets her mind to.” 

Nicole has been with TFA for over a year, and in that time has worn many hats: executive assistant, volunteer manager, and even operations coordinator for a recent Front-line Emergency Medicine (FLEM) training in Ukraine. At TFA, Nicole has seized the opportunity to combine her knowledge of military life with facilitating crucial humanitarian missions in Afghanistan and Ukraine. “I will never be able to do what I do here anywhere else,” she says of her job, which she speaks of with a beaming passion. 

Growing up in a small Midwestern town, Nicole says she had an ordinary civilian childhood. The closest interaction she had with the military was the Air Force base near town. But then, one fateful night at a bar in Colorado, when Nicole was in her early twenties, she met her now-husband, Trace. “It was quick,” Nicole says, “but it felt right.” They’ve been in communication every day since then.  

The first base Nicole and her husband lived on together was Fort Carson in Colorado. She recalls those days fondly: beginning married life, exploring scenic mountains and hot springs on the weekends, and having her first son. From there, the family moved all around the country, experiencing places like Hawaii and Georgia before eventually finding home at Fort Drum in New York, where they currently reside.  

Nicole speaks passionately about life in a military family. “My kids get a whole different outlook on life than I did growing up in a small town and thinking I would never leave,” she says. “They have perspective and options.”  

But being a military spouse is not always easy. The first time her husband was deployed, before they had had children, Nicole realized that she had to build an entirely new support system, away from friends and family. “I had to take a step back and remind myself, ‘I can do this,’” Nicole recalls. She says the same is true for many military spouses, who find themselves in entirely new environments and have to reorient themselves to all aspects of life, from how to find Walmart to where the doctor’s office is.  

The best thing about living on post, Nicole says, is that “you have neighbors who get it.” It’s easy to connect because everyone is in a similar situation, with spouses who are often deployed. Neighbors become friends, and at on-post schools, kids are surrounded by peers who understand their hardships and struggles.  

It was this network of neighbors that eventually brought Nicole to TFA. After working as a stay-at-home mom for seven years, Nicole felt it was time for a change. She desired an identity in addition to being a wife and mother, and a neighbor connected Nicole to a company that helped organizations find personal assistants. It just so happened that Mark needed one, and Nicole was a perfect fit. “It was meant to be,” she says.  

Nicole was especially motivated to join because of TFA’s work in Afghanistan. Her husband was part of the U.S.’s withdrawal from the country in 2021, where he worked closely with an Afghan military interpreter. Eventually, the interpreter and his family were able to safely leave Afghanistan. He sent each soldier’s family a handmade Afghan rug, which is proudly on display in Nicole’s home to this day.  

Now, at TFA, Nicole is able to help spread awareness about families like her husband’s interpreter, helping them reach safety and freedom. She even meets monthly with AfghanEvac Coalition, an organization that helps Afghan allies reach safety. Nicole also juggles donations, social media, FLEM organization, and more. “I wear a lot of hats,” she says, “and I love them all.” One of her favorite projects was the recent FLEM training rotation in January 2024, which she played a major role in facilitating, coordinating training sessions and communicating daily with TFA’s on-the-ground team of volunteers and Special Forces veterans. In the future, her goal is to join TFA in Ukraine for a FLEM training cycle.  

For Nicole, TFA is much more than a nine-to-five. “At TFA,” she says, “I’ve become proud of the woman I am.” Beyond being a wife and mother, she has something amazing for herself: a role that fills her with passion and purpose. While her husband is deployed, she feels more engaged and less alone because she has meaningful work to look forward to. She’s glad her kids get to see her that way, and that at the end of the day, she can tell them about everything she’s accomplished. Her advice for military spouses is clear: find something for yourself, whether it’s a hobby, job, or volunteer position. Make a life of your own in addition to being a partner. 

At TFA, Nicole has found yet another team that understands the ins-and-outs of military life, a community that gets it. “I’ve found myself again here,” Nicole says, coming full circle from her early days as a military spouse. The affirmation she told herself back then couldn’t ring more true today: “I can do this.”