To say that Chief Petty Officer Nikki Serben is balancing a busy workload is an understatement. In addition to serving as a reservist in the U.S. Navy, Serben works as a carrier for the United States Postal Service and is raising two young children.
Serben, 31, a resident of Monongahela, says her military training has prepared her to succeed in whatever she wants to do with her life.
“I’m able to balance my life by planning and communicating,” said Serben. “I’ve also learned to be flexible. Not everything goes according to plan, so you have to have a backup plan, whether you are steering a large naval craft through treacherous waters or trying a different approach to help your child excel in school.”
A 2006 graduate of Altoona Area High School, Serben joined the U.S. Navy in 2008. She decided to follow the footsteps of her father, who served in the Navy for 20 years.
“I wanted to carry on our family tradition by supporting and protecting our country,” she said. “I also wanted to see and explore new places and things.”
When Serben finished active duty in 2012, she became a Navy reservist – a team of 100,000 sailors who help to support and actively aid military missions as well as protect the American homeland. As a Navy reservist, Serben serves with Naval Operations Support Center (NOSC) Pittsburgh Amphibious Construction Battalion 2 as a qualified craftmaster and a key member of the Combat Skills Training Team.
Among her key responsibilities, Serben drives Naval craft and trains and directs personnel on all seamanship duties. She has also worked with response teams that deal with oil spills.
“You learn how to do so many new things while you are in the Navy,” said Serben, who was selected as the NOSC Sailor of the Year in 2018. “For instance, I never thought I would be driving a large boat. But through training and hard work, I have learned how to drive craft as large as 240 feet long. Every day is a new challenge and a new opportunity to grow professionally and personally.”
Serben is also enjoying a successful career in the civilian world. She currently works as a carrier for the United States Postal Service and handles mail delivery in Washington.
As part of her reservist obligations, Serben is required to spend one weekend each month at the Naval Operational Support Center in Moon Township, along with two weeks each year at the Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story in Norfolk, Va. She relies on support from her family to help care for her youngest son while she is on duty.
“My youngest son has autism and has special needs,” she said. “As a parent, I’m concerned about his well-being while I am away. But by planning ahead, I can prepare for any contingency. I rely on my communications skills to instruct my family members how to care for my son when I’m on duty.”
During her free time, Serben enjoys reading, visiting festivals and taking her children to water parks.
“I really love living in Monongahela and exploring the area,” she said. “There’s so much to do here, and it’s a great place to raise children.”
Serben noted that Veterans Day gives her an opportunity to pause and reflect about her commitment to the U.S. Navy Reserve.
“It’s a special privilege serving our country,” she said. “It also gives me a great feeling when someone comes up to me and thanks me for my service. I couldn’t have asked for a better career. I have met many great people that become a part of your life. They will be there for you, even when you haven’t seen them for years.”