Vice Adm. (ret) Pottenger is a native of Chicago, Ill., and grew up in Saint Petersburg, Fla. She graduated from Purdue University in May 1977, and was commissioned as an ensign through NROTC.
One of the first women selected for sea duty, Pottenger reported aboard USS Yosemite (AD 19) as engineering division officer and completed a Mediterranean deployment. Subsequent sea tours included assignment as operations officer aboard USS Yellowstone (AD 41) and executive officer aboard USS Kiska (AE 35). Pottenger assumed command of USS Shasta (AE 33) in 1996, completing several deployments in support of commander 5th Fleet and commander 7th Fleet. She took command of USS Bridge (AOE 10) in 2001, and during an extended deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, re-supplied 10 battle groups, amphibious groups and dozens of coalition ships; receiving the Battle E and the 2002 Arleigh Burke Fleet Trophy.
Shore tours have included assignment to commander, Service Group 2 as staff communications officer; assignment to USNA as the 25th company officer; commanding officer of two Navy Operational Support Centers in Mare Island, and San Diego Calif. She also served as COMNAVSURFRESFOR deputy chief of staff for Manpower, institutionalizing manpower and personnel best practices across a force of 65,000 Reservists.
During several tours in the Pentagon, Pottenger served as executive assistant for director, Surface Warfare (OPNAV N86); executive assistant to deputy chief of naval operations (Resources, Requirements & Assessments) (OPNAV N8); executive assistant to vice chief of naval operations. Upon selection to flag rank she served as deputy chief of Navy Reserve for one year. In November 2005 Pottenger established a new Navy command, creating a type commander for over 40 combat logistics and special mission ships. She served for one year as the first commander Military Sealift Fleet Support Command. In November 2006, Pottenger became the first female admiral to command a strike group when she assumed command of Amphibious Force 7th Fleet/ESG 7 at White Beach, Okinawa, aboard USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49). In September 2008, Pottenger became the third commander, Navy Expeditionary Combat Command as a force provider of 40,000 Sailors, active and Reserve, providing unique expeditionary combat and combat support capability to combatant commanders in every theater of operations. Her final assignment was as the deputy chief of staff Capability Development at NATO Headquarters Supreme Allied Commander Transformation, Norfolk, Va.
In May 2007, Pottenger received a Doctor of Philosophy in Social Sciences Honoris Causa from Purdue University. Her personal awards include the Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit (6 awards), Meritorious Service Medal (3 awards) and Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal (2 awards).