Manatee Women Veterans Protect

Corrections Bureau Female Veterans The Manatee County Sheriff’s Corrections Bureau provides a safe, secure, functional and humane environment for staff and inmates. Six Corrections Bureau team members have identified themselves as female Veterans: Major Yvonne Miller, Captain Susan Jones, Sergeant Yvette Evans, Deputy LaFran Lawton, Deputy Allison Adorno and Deputy Jessica Fox-Barfield.

This rock-steady group of women demonstrate how the military can be a very different experience for everyone, although each one started out not knowing what she wanted to do in life or not knowing how to make it happen.

“We didn’t have money for college. College wasn’t talked about at home,” said Miller.

Miller’s original intention was to become a nurse, but her two part-time jobs as a Receptionist at Centerstone and a Records Clerk at a nursing home, plus trying to raise her son on her own, she could not make ends meet.

Both Miller and Evans enlisted in the Army, shortly after graduating from Southeast High School in 1987, seeing it as a way to accomplish their shared goal: “Got to get a job, get out.”

Miller’s four years of service began in Hohenfels. She then went to Fort Sam Houston (TX) where she served as a Traffic Cop.

Miller deployed to an ammo depot in Kandahar, Afghanistan, an ammo depot, where 300 of the 365 days she spent there resulted in being attacked. This included the barracks next to her being hit and an eight-hour ground attack, in which she had never received training about how to respond.

Kandahar was also where “human remains” were processed. Soldiers were instructed to lower the flags each time fellow fallen soldiers would arrive. As fallen soldiers were transported in planes sending them home, flags were sent back up. It was a regular reminder of the risk everyone stationed there took.

“The Army puts you through some stuff, but it makes you stronger,” said Miller.

Miller then served 8 years in reserves. Her son followed in her footsteps, attending New Mexico Military Institute, and is currently a reservist with 10 years of active duty behind him.

For Sergeant Evans, joining the Army was the opportunity to get free housing, benefits and money for college.

“There were few other career choices. I thought to myself the military is something I could do for the rest of my life. I didn’t really know what else to do,” said Evans.

Evans added that she was also persuaded by the commercials, such as “We do more before 9 a.m. than most people do all day.”

Evans was in the Army on active duty for 10 years in Military Police. She then transitioned to the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office in 1997 where she served simultaneous duty as a member of the Active Army Guard Reservist, for a combined service of 19 and 22 years, which included five years at MacDill Air Force Base. She was combat-deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan for two years each.

Evans’ military career also included serving as an Army Recruiter from 1999 to 2002, and sometimes she took her young daughter with her. It wasn’t long before her daughter could recite all the benefits of serving and ended up enlisting herself. She is currently stationed in Japan as an Army Human Resources Specialist.

Evans reached Rank E-7, Sergeant First Class, before retiring.

“I’m glad I did it. I achieved full retirement. It went by so fast. I really enjoyed it. I was a part of some great things, which included being stationed in Berlin at Checkpoint Charlie [crossing point between East Berlin and West Berlin] when the wall went down,” said Evans.

Deputy Fran Lawton, who graduated high school with Miller and Evans, also felt the Army was her only viable option at the time of graduation.

“I kind of knew school wasn’t for me. I didn’t really prep for school. There was no one to inspire me,” said Lawton.

Lawton’s military journey took her from basic training at Ft. Jackson, to Germany for two years, Ft. Hood for three years, including a tour in the Persian Gulf for 4 months, then back to Texas, a little time in South Korea then ending at Ft. Bragg.

Germany was one of her favorite places to be. In fact, she bumped into Evans while she was there.

Lawton was also involved in combat. It started with a drawing at Ft. Hood. She and her 49 team members were asked to put their names in a hat and the one picked would be sent to the Persian Gulf.

“I never won anything in my life and couldn’t believe it when they pulled my name,” said Lawton.

She promised her mother she’d be back, although she didn’t feel certain herself.

Captain Jones, who oversees Court Services and Intake/Release, can’t remember not wanting to join the Marine Corps, having grown up in Pinellas County, listening to stories her uncle, a Marine Corps Master Gunnery Sergeant, who was in the service for about 30 years, would tell.

Stationed in Cherry Point, NC, Jones worked as a military police officer.

“I enjoyed that it was regimented. It was the first time away from home, but it was an easy transition. You weren’t really on your own,” said Jones.

Jones married a Marine was honorably discharged after two years, returning to Pinellas County to raise her son.

During that timeframe, she took advantage of the GI Bill and went to college, then later tried a couple of different jobs in other industries, including retail, until hearing about an opportunity at Manatee Corrections in 1993.

“Corrections seemed like the right fit. It is basically ‘paramilitary,’” said Jones.

Neither Deputy Allison Adorno nor Deputy Jessica Fox-Barfield, who work in Operations, didn’t know where they were headed as young adults. Adorno was only interested in playing soccer, and Fox-Barfield found herself working at a dead-end job at Bradenton a car wash.

Adorno, who grew up in Connecticut, joined the Navy after a knee injury prevented her from joining the Marines. Her father was a Navy Veteran, and she wanted to travel. She was stationed on the USS Theodore Roosevelt CVN-71 (nuclear aircraft carrier) in Norfolk, VA.

“That’s where I grew up. It taught me to take care of myself,” said Adorno.

She cites her nine years of service for keeping her humble. Her first Christmas away, her mother did a special collection at her office. One of the items was a used eyeglasses case which Adorno was ecstatic to receive. Small enough, it was an item she could use and reuse for a long time.

“I don’t think I would have appreciated the small things had I not joined the service. You can’t help but be forced to grow up when your work environment demands nothing but the most out of someone,” said Adorno.

Fox-Barfield spent eight years active duty in the Marine Corps, which included some time overseas.

A recruiter kept showing up at the Bradenton car wash where she was working, trying to convince her to join.

“I finally caved in. I loved it, though, and would do it all over again if given the chance,” said Fox-Barfield. “I loved that it was structured. I also had the chance to meet people from all over the world.”

Fox-Barfield started out at Camp Lejeune, NC, and was an Armorer (cared for and fixed weapons), a position held by few female soldiers (Fox-Barfield was only one of the two females in her battalion with this job). Seven months of her time was spent in Iraq. She traveled to Greece, Norway and the Panama Canal.

“I also learned to appreciate things. I saw a lot of poverty,” said Fox-Barfield.

Transition to Civilian Life: Some Still March

When asked if the military helped better prepare each of the six for their career, all answered an emphatic “Yes!”

Most indicated the experience the military gave them is unmatched by anything else they have done.

“It gives you experience you just can’t get anywhere else,” said Adorno.

Evans cites her Army experience for the reason she has been able to advance in her career, having most recently moved from Operations to Classification Sergeant and that it has made her a better instructor, by maintaining the mantra of “Whatever I know, I teach.”

“I am more confident and competent. I am structured, and I don’t beat around the bush,” said Evans.

Deputy Lawton said the Army gave her a firm foundation.

“Discipline, sternness, independence (relying on yourself), learned to share, learned structure,” said Lawton.

Jones said Lawton has been one of the best deputies under her command.

“She was one of the best deputies I’ve ever had. She’s straightforward. She takes the time to know them, and they know her. Once the prisoners see that you don’t change, they respect you more,” said Jones.

Sergeant Evans adds, “Her presence commands respect. It’s in ‘us.’ Some of us still march. Our presence demands it.”

Adorno said the Navy allowed her to work with very diverse people which has been helpful since the makeup of both the people she has worked with and the inmates has been very diverse.

“How to manage people, talk to people. No way to learn in college the importance of relationships,” said Adorno.

For Fox-Barfield it is discipline, organization and learning to respect authority.

For Miller, her military skill has been attributed to her ability to not only lead successful teams but expand jail programs related to recovery POD, reentry and new licenses. Miller has moved through the ranks, serving12 years as lieutenant, 4 years as captain and as of this past February 28, she started her new role of Major where she oversees 93 employees.

Common Thread

Although Major Miller, Captain Jones, Sergeant Evans and Deputies Lawton, Adorno and Fox-Barfield took different military paths, they provide a unified front, consisting of structure, discipline and responsibility. Each serves as a representation that when you set your mind to it and persevere, you can get out of the situation you are in and improve your life.

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