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Meet a 3D modeler who served as a helicopter mechanic, plus details on how the Call of Duty Endowment helps place women vets in the workforce.
On June 12, 1948, President Harry S. Truman signed the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act into law, enabling women to serve as permanent, regular members of the armed forces in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force.
To celebrate the sacrifice and talent of women vets around the country, we spoke to Katie Sabin of Raven Software, about her experience in the military and as an artist. We also spoke with Dan Goldenberg of the Call of Duty Endowment about the importance of supporting women vets during their transition back to civilian life.
Senior Artist, Raven Software, Activision Publishing
“You learn so much about yourself in the military...to own up to stuff and take the initiative.”
Before starting her career as a 3D artist and modeler on the Call of Duty franchise, Katie Sabin served in the US Army as a Black Hawk helicopter mechanic. As a crew chief, her duties included maintenance and repairs as well as additional responsibilities like meeting flight hour requirements, being proficient in helicopter gunnery, performing sling loads, passenger transport, and night-vision goggle (NVG) operations. Her in-depth knowledge of helicopter systems and mechanics prove especially useful when creating equipment and vehicles that fit into the Call of Duty universe.
She knew she wanted to make games from a young age, but at the time there wasn’t much in terms of game education. After a year at college, she decided to join the military, starting off as a medical supply specialist. When she eventually became a Black Hawk helicopter mechanic, she fell in love with the work.
“They’re not even supposed to fly, which makes them even more amazing,” she says. “They’re constantly trying to pull themselves apart with rattling and shaking and vibration, so the fact that they’re so nimble and strong and fast and still hold together…I fell in love with it.”
In 2007, Sabin was deployed to Kosovo for a year and a half. Upon returning, she had access to the Post-9/11 GI Bill, helping vets pay for school. Her creative gears started turning, and she saw an opportunity to pursue her dream of working in the games industry.
“I made the tough decision not to re-up when my enlistment ran out. I went to a school down in Texas.” She adds, “I was in my mid-30s, so I didn’t want to be wasting a lot of time. I needed to get the ball rolling and really focus in.”
Following an intensive two-year program, Sabin started applying to game studios, including most of the Activision studios. Raven Software got back to her, largely due to the effort she put into making early connections through attending International Game Developers Assocation (IGDA) meetings, getting in touch with people at the studio, and scheduling a tour.
She was brought on as an intern before being hired full-time and has been there ever since. Her mechanical knowledge has lent a personal touch to the 3D modeling she works on. An example of this situational awareness is the effort to add wear on helicoptors and ground vehicles where soldiers tend to place their feet a lot.
“One of the coolest non-aircraft models I worked on was the orbital drop package in Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. It kind of looks like a spaceship with fuel dumps and lots of detailed parts, pieces, and panels,” she says. “So that was huge, applying knowledge to something not totally related.”
Though her passion for art and creativity eventually pulled her away from the military, she looks back at her service fondly, emphasizing the skills that helped lay a strong personal foundation. A large part of that comes down to taking the initiative and communicating effectively.
“Whatever your MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) was, the soft skills that every soldier learns are amazing skills that I think are undervalued.”
Executive Director, Call of Duty Endowment
“A military that supports a democracy has to look like that democracy.”
The Call of Duty Endowment’s mission statement is clear, to identify and fund the most efficient and effective organizations that get unemployed veterans back to work in high-quality jobs. Dan Goldenberg cites that 10% of the veteran population are women, and it’s the fastest growing segment of that population, too.
“Some people might not realize that women can now serve in every part of the military,” he says. “As long as they meet the standards, the trend lines are pushing toward women representing a progressively bigger part of the military.”
When considering the increasing role of women in the military, Goldenberg wanted to ensure that grantees for the Call of Duty Endowment were keeping pace with the representation of women. Two of the Endowment’s grantees, Still Serving Veterans led by former Major General Paulette Risher and Hire Heroes USA, were leading in this space, so Goldenberg reached out to discover the secret to their success.
“We asked them to talk amongst themselves and distill what they were doing that was making them so successful with women veterans, and then teach it to our other grantees. It’s one of the ways that the Endowment adds value,” he adds.
Hire Heroes USA went on to create women veteran empowerment workshops, consisting of typically three service members to one instructor in intensive workshops focused on creating vision statements, resumes, interview practice, and other aids in transitioning to the civilian workforce. They’ve gone on to conduct over 20 of these workshops.
Quarter after quarter the number of women vets placed in jobs increased, hitting a major milestone in 2020 where 21% of the vets placed into jobs through the Endowment were women, double that of the national women veteran population.
There’s still more work to do, but the Endowment is proud of the progress they’ve made.
Here are a few testimonials from Women Veterans who represent this progress:
We’d like to thank all women service members and veterans on this Women Veterans Day. If you or anyone you know is a veteran looking to work in the games industry, see our recently published A Veteran’s Guide to Activision Blizzard, featuring Katie Sabin, as well as other veterans at the company.
Thanks for reading.