November 11, 2023
After 9/11, Ashlea Sikon sidelined her softball scholarship at a small Junior College in Southeast Kansas to join the Army ROTC Program at Kansas State University. She would commission into the Army as an officer less than four years later in May 2006.
“Like many I served with post 9/11, the incident that day and the attack on our country compelled and motivated me to commit my life to serving in our military,” says Sikon, who joined Interlake in 2022 as Executive Assistant to President Mark W. Barker. “At the age of 22, I became one of the first female Field Artillery Officers in the United States Army as a part of the Army’s then new initiative of introducing females into combat arms branches.”
Sikon says the overall comradery, true “ride or die” friendship and candidness she experienced amongst her peers and leadership in the Army will always be a highlight for her. There is just really nothing comparable, other than what I experience in my CrossFit community,” says Sikon, who along with her husband, Lee, owns a CrossFit gym, North 41 CrossFit. “These genuine and supportive relationships are what got me through two overseas deployments, the first being a 15-month rotation to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and the second being a 9-month deployment to Kandahar, Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. It’s these bonds and relationships which made these deployments two of the best highlights during my career despite having been in war zones.”
During her deployment to Iraq, Sikon was assigned as a Female Engagement Team Leader. This team was comprised of 24 female soldiers from across her brigade that the unit brought together to fulfill a need our patrols had overseas for females to augment their patrols so that they could engage with and interrogate female Iraqi women.
After that assignment, she moved into Human Resources for the remainder of her Active Duty career until she exited Active Duty in 2013. Then she served a little more than two years in the Army National Guard assigned as the Commander of the 140th Public Affairs Detachment based out of Centennial, Colorado.
“That is where I fully ended my career before resigning my commission and fully exiting the military in 2016,” she says, adding that she had achieved the rank of CPT(P) which is Captain Promotable. “I left the military because I felt I was not ready for the next step of becoming a Major in the military. I had climbed the ranks quickly and was considered fairly young for the responsibility I was about to take on as a Major. This combined with my curiosity of what I could achieve in the civilian realm led to my decision to exit the military.”
In addition, Sikon was about to get married to her husband Lee, who was also an Active Duty servicemember, and he had two school age children at the time.
“With Lee having more time in service than myself, and me already having notions of wanting to pursue a civilian career, it only made sense for me to exit the military instead of him. Not having any kids of my own, I felt blessed to be able to become a big part of their lives” she says. The couple recently celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary in September.
Sikon says there are many skills she developed in the military that she has been able to leverage throughout her successful civilian career.
“Resiliency, ability to identify lack of organization in a process and develop/present systemic solutions to improve efficiency, ability to be comfortable with candidness with both leadership and peers, and interpersonal skills,” she says. “The military has a unique way of making even the most introverted people an extrovert.”
Supporting the military continues to be a strong passion for her and her husband. They use their gym, North 41 CrossFit, as a platform to support the Veteran community and several military/Veteran-related initiatives such as Team RWB (Red, White & Blue), Northeast Ohio for Patriotism and the Special Operations Warrior Foundation. In fact, her husband Lee is Team RWB Chapter Captain for Cleveland and Ashlea is the Community Engagement Director. Team RWB’s mission is to create opportunities for Veterans to engage with other Veteran and their local communities in events that are focused on fitness, health and mental wellness.
“Since opening our doors in summer of 2022, we have supported an initiative developed and ran by Steve Schultz (veteran CrossFitter in the Cleveland community and extreme patriot) called Hero WOD (Workout of the Day) Sundays,” she says. “Each Sunday for almost two years, Schultz has chosen special meaningful workouts developed in order to memorialize those individuals who have sacrificed their life for their country or their community, either military service members or first responders. We offer anyone to attend a workout for free in an effort to raise money for Veteran charities. So far, this effort has raised of $17,000 for Veteran charities.”