Marisa Freese leans back in her chair and ponders my question.
“It’s a mystery,” she responds after a moment. “I’m not sure there is a secret to being a great linguist. I mean they give you this test to see if you’ll do well as a linguist. But even that’s not a guarantee. It takes hard work, dedication, attention to detail and probably a little luck.”
We are sitting at a sidewalk café in Georgetown. During our brief talk, the wind has gone from being a refreshing breeze to a full-blown nuisance. Napkins are blowing. Marisa continually is brushing her red hair out of her eyes.
I ask her what the highlight of her career has been so far and this is an answer that comes quickly.
“Finishing boot camp. I mean boot camp wasn’t physically that hard, but there were definitely times when I wondered if I had made the right decision. So when I completed it that was a big deal. And seeing my dad’s reaction when I finished boot camp, that was a huge moment.”
The waiter tops off Marisa’s iced tea and we watch the Georgetown traffic for a moment. Marisa plays with her bracelet while we talk about her time in the military and the friends she’s made. I ask her what brought her to Mission Essential.
“You go with what you know, right?” Marisa shrugs. “I had gotten more into Intelligence. I saw the Russian mission was starting to draw down. And Mission Essential gave me an opportunity to continue working in the Intelligence Community.”
Marisa’s gaze turns back to the passing cars. She seems to still be considering my Mission Essential question. After a moment, I ask her about the importance of the work being done there.
“The work is really important,” she said. “Everything we do is to protect our nation’s security. So yeah, it’s important.”
We talk a little while longer until Marisa checks her phone. She’s late for a meeting. I motion for the waiter as Marisa gets up to go. We say goodbye. But as Marisa starts to head to her car, she turns.
“You know when you asked me why I came to Mission Essential? I think it’s the same reason I went into the military. I wanted to do something with my life. Serve my country. I wanted to make a difference.”
I nod. “Do you think you’re doing that?” I ask.
“Totally,” Marisa said smiling as she turns and walks away.