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Women's History Month: Rear Adm. Lisa Franchetti, Rear Adm. Mary Jackson, Cmdr. Andria Slough, Lt. Cmdr. Erin Connor and Lt. j.g. Emily Lane

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."

Navy Photo

Rear Adm. Lisa Franchetti Commander, Carrier Strike Group 9

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

A: Two words: free college!

Serving in the Navy was never part of my "plan" as I headed to college in 1981 as a journalism major at Medill at Northwestern University. I wanted to be a journalist, specializing in Middle Eastern affairs. But that all changed during freshman orientation week when I stopped by the NROTC Unit's cookout and had a chance to meet some Midshipmen and salty LTs. Over hot dogs they talked about all the places they had visited AND the fact that the Navy would pay for your tuition and books.

At 17, that sounded pretty good to me. I signed up as a college program student and picked up a scholarship the following year. Over my four years in the Unit and on my summer cruises, I came to love the Navy/Marine Corps team, the people, the challenges it provided, the opportunities to travel, and the chance to make the world a better place. And 35 years after my chance exposure to the Navy, I'm still here, still enjoying the challenges, the travel, and doing my part to defend freedom and support our national interests around the world.

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

A: My Dad, Larry Franchetti, was really my first role model.

He was an engineer by training but moved into management. As a kid I remember him taking me to work and watching how he walked around the plant, talked to people, asked about their families, and made sure they had what they needed to do their jobs. He was always focused on Safety and on quality. I like to think he taught me the importance of "wandering around" and taking care of our most valuable resource: people. Navy-wise, I have been fortunate to have many inspiring Navy role models and mentors along the way, too many to mention, and I most certainly would not be here without all of them.

The first set are from my first ship, they had the biggest effect in molding the Franchetti lump of clay that arrived on their quarterdeck back in 1987. The first two were department heads: then Lt. Bobbi Spillane and then Lt. Julia Roos. To me, they were on the leading edge of women serving at sea. They were smart, capable, tactically proficient leaders and I wanted to be like them.

Also, from the same ship were the chiefs in my first division, then MMC Satriano and MMC Salvatore. They taught me what I needed to know to be a successful division officer: to lead Sailors, manage maintenance, inspect spaces, stand watch, and also to eat great Italian food in Gaeta.

The second set are folks that have mentored and encouraged me along my way, people like Capt. (ret) John Peterson, Rear Adm. (ret) Deb Loewer, Rear Adm. (ret) Joe Horn, Vice Adm. (ret) Bruce Grooms, Vice Adm. (ret) Al Myers, Vice Adm. (ret) Phil Wisecup, and Vice Adm. (ret) Tom Copeman just to name a few.

The third set: peers and colleagues who have been with me on this journey for many years, a strong network and my invaluable sounding boards.
Three photo collage of Rear. Adm. Franchetti (L-R) aboard USS Porter with her dad; with Rear Adm. Loewer; aboard Porter

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: When I came on active duty after NROTC in 1985, only 17 women officers a year went to sea, and I was not one of them.

I reported to my first assignment at Navy Region Readiness Command Region 13 as a General Unrestricted Line Officer (GURL) and into a strictly administrative assignment, first in manpower then training. This was frustrating, as I joined the Navy to go to sea and see the world. I resolved to do my four years and move on. Enter Capt. Gary Bair, my first CO, our COS, Cmdr. Craig George, and a few more salty LTs. They made up their minds that I should be a divo on a ship and they were going to figure out a way to make that happen.

They had me sign up to attend a BT/MM 6YO course at the Hot Plant at Great Lakes, so I could earn my EOOW letter and "prove" how much I wanted to become a SWO. As a journalism major, this was a daunting task, but with their encouragement and firm belief that "I could do it," I met the challenge head-on. Long story short, their plan worked and they proudly sent me off to SWOS as a Lt. j. g. They made a tremendous difference in the course my life would take, a great reminder to all of us that as leaders we can have a huge impact on the people we come in contact with, and that we need to make the time, every day, to engage.

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

A: I have loved every assignment in the Navy. To narrow it down, my first command at sea, USS Ross, is probably my most memorable tour.

There is nothing like command at sea, where you have the opportunity to build your team, plan and execute the missions assigned, and represent our country overseas. We were the only U.S. ship to participate in the 60th Anniversary of D-Day Commemoration in Normandy, and we also spent many weeks in the not-so-enjoyable Southwest Monsoon off the Horn of Africa. Through it all the team was magnificent, thanks to great leaders in the wardroom, chiefs mess and on the deckplates.

A close second is my next at-Sea Command, DESRON 21, and serving as Mission Commander for Pacific Partnership 2010 aboard USNS Mercy. Another team building opportunity, but this time with medical personnel, Seabees, NGOs, partner navies, and embassy country teams. It was a tremendous experience to work at the other end of the mission spectrum, conducting humanitarian/civic assistance work in Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Timor Leste and Papua New Guinea.

I know that my current tour as Carrier Strike Group 9 and our recent deployment around South America with USS George Washington, Carrier Air Wing Two and Destroyer Squadron 23 will rank right up at the top of the list too!
Three photo collage of Rear. Adm. Franchetti (L-R) promoted by SECNAV Mabus; CVN 73 crew photo; in flight gear

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

A: When I was in college I was a coxswain on our rowing team.

In the training phase the coxswain works out with the boat, helps build a cohesive, motivated team, loses weight, and gets mentally ready to race and win. When it's time for the race, the coxswain gets direction from the coach, studies the course and the competition, steers the boat effectively, sets the pace, makes sure the boat is rowing in unison, and motivates the boat to take some "power 10s" and win the race. To me being a leader in the Navy is a lot like being a coxswain.

Understanding the mission, translating it in a way that each member of the team can "connect their dot" to it, preparing/building/enabling the team to accomplish the mission, executing the mission, and assessing the result and learning from it, that's what leaders at all levels of the Navy do. Leaders are also responsible for creating the next generation of leaders, making the time to teach, share and mentor those coming behind us. Being a leader brings with it tremendous responsibility but also great satisfaction in a mission well done. It has been and continues to be an honor to be entrusted to lead my part of our Navy these past 31 years.