FRANKLIN, Ky. — Ashley Penn was looking for more out of life when she decided to join the U.S. Navy.

After graduating from Franklin-Simpson High School in 2005 and working in a couple of factory jobs, Penn knew factory work wasn’t her calling. She wanted to go to college, but that was out of her reach financially.

“I couldn’t afford college,” she said.

In 2008, she enlisted in the Navy and left for basic training at Naval Station Great Lakes in Illinois. She trained to be a yeoman, which she said would be like an administrative assistant in the civilian sector.

Her initial training for the job took two months. She finished at the top of her class and as a result was able to choose the location she wanted to serve. She selected Naval Support Activity Mid-South in Millington, Tennessee, to be close to home.

“While there I worked for the Navy recruiting command in the inspector general’s office,” she said.

Penn worked in Tennessee for about two years before moving to Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City, where she worked as the yeoman for the commanding officer.

She completed her active military service in Oklahoma and then became an inactive reservist for four years.

She credits the Navy with teaching her teamwork.

“That was the best decision I ever made,” Penn said of joining the military.

“Growing up in a small town you don’t realize how limited you are until you leave,” she said.

The military gave her the experience of meeting new people from different places and learning more about the world around her.

“You get to experience so much more and learn so much more,” she said. “I didn’t realize I had an accent until I left Franklin.”

While in the military, she worked on her college degrees. She earned both an associate degree and a bachelor’s degree from Columbia Southern University.

She completed her active military service in 2012 and her four-year inactive reserve duty in 2016.

“I think it taught me who I am,” she said. “I left Franklin not knowing who I really was, but I came back a completely different person.”

That person is strong and confident, she said.

When she initially left active duty, she missed her military family until she found a new work family at the Simpson County Detention Center, where she is the program director overseeing recidivism and other programs provided to inmates. The job provides her the opportunity to continue public service. She began working at the jail in 2012.

“I miss my military family, but I feel like I’ve found a home at the Simpson County Jail,” Penn said. “I love what I’m doing.”

Penn is married and the mother of two children.

She would advise other young people to join the military.

“It set me up for my future and if nothing else, it’s going to set you up for yours,” Penn said.

Information from: Daily News,