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Women's History Month: Engineering Corps

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."

This is a 860px graphic of Rear Admiral Brown.

Rear Admiral Paula C. Brown is currently serving as Deputy Commander, Naval Facilities Engineering Command and Deputy Chief of Civil Engineers.

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

A: Growing up overseas in Taiwan and Malaysia heavily influenced my awareness and pride in being an American and appreciating the freedoms we so often take for granted.

Through my childhood friends and their families, I saw that my personal values were also held by those serving the Navy. Even though my own family was not in the military, it always felt good to stand tall respecting our National Anthem, and the Navy continues to evoked that pride. I joined the Navy to be independent, to realize a dream and overcome challenges. I continue to serve to give back and to pay it forward.

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

A: My parents have always encouraged and expected both me and my brother to do well at whatever we did. They gave us encouragement and support in all of our endeavors.

During a college internship, my first real boss when I was just 18 years old was a woman; Dolores Taylor, one of the first engineering hydrologists in California. She never "mothered" me, but was always there to patiently explain the "whys" of our work and the value in performing well, delivering correct information/analysis and doing a consistently good or great job. She always supported my curiosity and courage to do and learn more. I admired her grace, her strength to excel and hold strong with her convictions.

Barbara Bush was one of the first people that gave me credit for not only doing my job, but being a woman; "they finally sent the right man for the job," was her response when I was an Ensign and showed up to help explain a facilities question she had on the renovations we were doing at the Vice President's residence (1983-4). Again, a woman with deep convictions, grace, poise and stubbornness that inspired me to excel.

Mostly I look for people that take calculated risks and make difficult decisions with dignity and confidence; General Colin Powell comes to mind. I also look for smart people that are my juniors as they bring an incredible amount of energy and enthusiasm to direct our future.
This is a photo collage of Rear Admiral Brown.

Q: Please tell us 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.

A: My family has had a motto: "If it was easy, everyone would do it..." As we all know, it is not easy and most don't do it!

Both of my parents have been supportive in every way imaginable, but they would have also supported a decision to leave the Navy. The one person that has not let me waiver and has always pushed me to do more is my husband. Without a doubt, my husband has not let me take the easy out. He demands the best from me and demands (without demanding) that I continue to grow and develop in order to help others do the same. He challenges me to do the right thing in spite of time and travel demands, and the strains on family and civilian careers. He encouraged me to take the hard jobs, "because they need you to succeed and do the right things."

Q: Please tell us which past assignments are the most memorable to you and why.

A: One of the very challenging and demanding jobs was being an Executive Officer in a Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB 18 - Fort Lewis Washington). It was 1993, the first year women were allowed to serve in battalions. As such, I had never had any experience with battalion leadership. We had our share of issues, but at the end of my 2 year tour, when the Chief's mess came to me and said they"...would serve anywhere with me," and "...would go to war with me," I felt I had met the challenge. Being XO is not easy, but I learned from my mistakes and from the errors of others, and I learned how to encourage and influence others to work with me.

Serving in Iraq (2005-06 as 30NCR Commander, Fallujah) was challenging as I was responsible for decisions that placed others at risk. Not only did the staff members of regiment pull together as a team, they did so professionally, respectfully and diligently in support of the 4 subordinate units to meet a very challenging and high risk mission. Our team was a combined active and reserve staff that had not worked together and began with a few rough starts, yet though collaboration and focus we pulled together into an effective well managed headquarters.

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

A: I have never shied away from the tough jobs and always tried my best to succeed with help from many people. Being a leader started with doing the hard or unpopular work with peers and juniors to demonstrate combined strength and collaboration to meet the mission tasking.

Today, being a leader means listening to all of the information and deciphering wisdom to make decisions that will move a community or organization forward. It means making the tough call verses the easy call for the good of the whole. It means supporting the quiet person when they have the right idea even if it is not popular. It means standing up for the integrity of the organization and continuing to look forward, not back. It means giving back to all who have served and being proud every day of those that work for the greater good.