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Romany Arrowsmith Oral History

Identifier: WV 0651


  • 2018 September 19


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Biographical / Historical

Romany Christina Arrowsmith (b. 1989) of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and Sri Lanka, has served in the United States Navy and the Navy Reserves since 2009 as a Cryptologic Technician, Interpretive.

Romany Christina Arrowsmith was born 14 August 1989 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where she spent the first five years of her life, before moving with her mother and older sister to Sri Lanka in South Asia; her father, an American, stayed behind in Saudi Arabia. She attended several international schools throughout her childhood, spending the most amount of time at Colombo International School, in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Arrowsmith graduated high school in 2007 and worked for a year afterwards in order to save enough money to emigrate to the United States where her sister had already moved for college.

After arriving in the United States, Arrowsmith experienced severe culture shock and thought she had to change a lot of her identity to assimilate, such as losing her British Commonwealth accent. She began attending the same college as her sister, Fairleigh Dickinson University in Madison, New Jersey, on a partial scholarship. Although her father was a United States citizen, she didn’t have New Jersey residency, so was not afforded in-state tuition. Arrowsmith began to isolate herself as a coping mechanism to deal with her negative understanding of America and Americans. During her first semester of college, Arrowsmith began to realize she should have attended a cheaper community college and withdrew from Farleigh Dickenson.

She decided to join the military and began researching available opportunities for United States citizenship on the internet. The first search resulted in information for the United States Navy, and she was intrigued because of her desire to learn languages and love of the ocean, so Arrowsmith applied and began conversing with a recruiter. Through the recruiting process, Arrowsmith learned that her father had been a member of the U.S. Air Force, something she had not known before. In February 2009, Arrowsmith was sent to Naval Station Great Lakes, Illinois, to train as a Cryptologic Technician, Interpretive [CTI]. The experience turned out to be harder than she had anticipated, as she physically exercised harder than she ever had in her life, resulting in exhaustion and chronic dehydration, but also a feeling of pride. She specifically remembers the pride she felt wearing the uniform and dog tags, as it made her feel like she was part of something special and valued for the first time in her life. When it came time for graduation, Arrowsmith’s sister attended, which she was not expecting, as she had initially been against Arrowsmith joining the military.

After graduating from basic training in April 2009, Arrowsmith was assigned to The Defense Language Institute at The Presidio of Monterey, California, for eighteen months of training in the language of Arabic and was immediately promoted from an E-2 Seaman Apprentice, to an E-3 Seaman. After a few stressful few months when Arrowsmith was constantly studying and learning U.S. Navy protocol, she became more comfortable with the Arabic language, and felt as if she was progressing in the U.S. Navy. While at The Defense Language Institute, Arrowsmith acted as the Fitness Enhancement Program [FEP] leader, where she taught nutrition classes.

In 2010, Arrowsmith was assigned to Fort Gordon, in Augusta, Georgia, as an E-5 Petty Officer, where she began working for The National Security Agency Central Security Service [NSA/CSS] collecting data, but was quickly promoted to a manager position, a position she held for two years. She then transitioned into a training position, training other collectors and managers. Arrowsmith found the transition to Georgia from California difficult due to the very conservative nature of the area and that she witnessed racism and segregation there, but did notice how the military was valued more in Georgia than her prior location.

While at Fort Gordon, Arrowsmith was continually assigned to manager positions because the navy was always in critical need because of its ever-expanding missions, but she was eventually able to join the training team, and every three months would transition from swing shift to night shift. When it began getting close to the end of her assignment at Fort Gordon, Arrowsmith started pondering whether to re-enlist as she was tiring of the NSA and wanted to use her GI Bill to give college another try. In 2013, she decided she was not going to re-enlist, as she was beginning to become more socially active and involved with the local community. In 2014, she began taking an online Environmental Science Class at the University of California, Berkeley.

In 2015, Arrowsmith began focusing more on what she was going to do after leaving the navy, but she was also nervous about entirely disconnecting from the military. She considered switching to another naval rating but did not have that option as a Cryptologic Technician, Interpretive. Not wanting to sever her connection with the U.S. Navy completely and feeling as if she was now too dependent on the military, Arrowsmith decided to join the Navy Reserve. Before leaving, she had the opportunity to take a class offered by the military that teaches how to get along in the civilian world and perform civilian activities, such as how to conduct a job interview.

After leaving the military, Arrowsmith moved to Durham, North Carolina and began attending The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. As of September 2018, Arrowsmith was a member of the U.S. Navy Reserves and studying to be a paramedic.


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Processed by Matthew McCarthy.

Romany Arrowsmith Oral History
Matthew McCarthy
2022 August
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Part of the Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives Repository

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