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Women's History Month: Explosive Ordnance Disposal Officer

Navy leaders and pioneers

"From the Revolutionary War to current conflicts, women have played a crucial role in the security of our nation and the success of the U.S. Navy. Join us as we celebrate Women's History Month by profiling women leaders and pioneers across the Navy."

Women's History Month RADM Martha Herb graphic.

Rear Admiral Martha Herb Director, Inter-American Defense College

Q: Why did you decide to join/serve the Navy?

A: After graduation from Lake Forest College, I taught school and coached a swimming team.

I worked almost 10 hours a day, coached at swimming meets on the weekend, and made just enough money to pay the bills. My mom suggested joining the military. The Navy promised "an opportunity" ... to go to OCS ... to have an adventure. But the picture of the Navy Diver on the front of a magazine in the recruiter's office was what sealed the deal. As a competitive swimmer, I figured it was the perfect job.. getting paid an outrageous amount of money to be in the water/on the water every day.

Q: Who have your role models or mentors been that influenced your helped you?

A: Across my Navy career I have met so many people that have influenced me.

Each one has impacted me in some way. The Navy recruiter was the first. After a Senior Chief in the recruiting office had been less than welcoming, I decided the Navy was not for me. The Navy recruiter, LT Bill Sullivan, called me about two weeks later and invited me to come see him. It was in his office where I saw the magazine cover of a Navy Diver and he went on to say that yes, you can be a Navy diver, if you make it through the school.

More than twenty years later, I worked for VADM Bill Sullivan at NATO in the US Delegation to the Military Committee. (Yes, the same recruiter.) When I worked in OPNAV, RADM Tony Kurta provided a superb example of leadership and strategic, critical thinking. But my husband, retired CAPT Mike Herb, provided that day to day insight. As a USNA graduate, when we married, I married his entire company (or so it seemed) and between Mike and his 14th company shipmates, I had the best mentors possible.
Three photo collage of RADM Herb (L-R) as a Navy diver in MK5 helmet; offical Navy photo; in Afghanistan

Q: Tell a story about someone, perhaps in your family or otherwise, who has influenced you or challenged you to become more than you ever thought you might be?

A: This is hands down my mom and dad.

They taught me that life wasn't about becoming more that I ever thought I might be; instead, life was about my vertical relationship with God and giving my best at everything God put before me, no matter what it was. I learned to persevere and I learned an attitude of never, never, never, never give up. Even when I failed, I knew I had to pick myself up and try again. And of course, three older brothers set the perfect conditions to persevere no matter what! I had an Aussie work for me in Afghanistan, his one parting comment to me."you just don't give up."

Q: Tell us what past assignments are the most memorable to you and why?

A: As a Navy Diving and Salvage officer, I had great assignments.

It lived Navy adventure. At NATO, I came to truly understand the civilian oversight of the military. In Afghanistan, I came to understand "in a new way" service, sacrifice and war. At OPNAV I had the opportunity to work on the Navy's 21st Century Sailor portfolio of programs. I don't think I can pick a most memorable assignment.

It is across my entire career that I was given the opportunity to work with people. Everyone had talent, capability and something to offer. And I had the opportunity to participate in serving our Nation with these people. It's the people that have made every assignment memorable.

Q: What does being a leader in the Navy mean to you?

A: It's an honor and privilege to be able to touch the lives of Sailor at a time.