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Women's History Month: Rear Adm. Michelle Skubic

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."

Rear Adm. Michelle Skubic is currently serving as Director, Logistics, Fleet Supply and Ordnance U.S. Pacific Fleet.
Q: Why did you decide to join/serve the Navy?

A:Easiest answer is that it's in my blood. My father, Cmdr.(ret) Thomas Coyne, was a Surface Warfare Officer and his brother, former Army Major Michael Coyne, was a West Point graduate who served in Artillery for 13 years. Every year, from 1962 to 1972, saw one or both serving in Vietnam. My father was later assigned as the 57th Commanding Officer (CO) of the USS Constitution, and the majesty and history of "Old Ironsides" and her crew left a lasting impression on me. But taking it a step further, I'd say that serendipity lent fate a hand when I met a Reserve officer one day in Huntington Beach, California a few months before I graduated college. When he mentioned his Navy service, I replied, "I'd always considered joining the Navy". Admittedly, I still reflect with curiosity on where my response came from. It seems my "hidden brain" was savvier than I realized. That brief exchange at a random fitness center was the catalyst for my exploration of a Navy career. And here we are. (Side note: "The Hidden Brain" by Shankar Vedantam is a worthy read.)

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

A: The list is long. I'm fortunate to have had many who have mentored and provided opportunities throughout my career. Former Chiefs of the Supply Corps, such as Rear Adm. (ret) Dan Stone and Rear Adm. (ret) Mark Heinrich, have been great supporters and continue to be sounding boards, as is the current Chief, Rear Adm. Jonathan Yuen. Truly, mentors and role models have spanned the gamut for me to include some standout senior enlisted leaders such as my first Leading Chief Petty Officer, MSCM Senar, during my ensign tour on USS Acadia (AD-42) and later my department LCPO on USS George H. W. Bush (CVN 77), now Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command CMDCM Jeffrey Pickering. I have also been motivated by scores of junior officers, junior enlisted, and civilians that serve our nation with dedication, humility, and honor. In fact, as I write, one of the finest civilians I know is preparing to retire. The Executive Director of Naval Supply Systems Command (NAVSUP) Mr. John Goodhart is stepping down after a superb career. His poise, level-headedness, logistics knowledge, and care for the team are unparalleled and he'll be sorely missed in our logistics community.

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: The deckplate Sailors have been the most inspiring. They always challenged me to lead beyond the mission at hand and encourage positive goal-setting like advanced education, financial security, and personal growth. With our mobile careers, rarely do we get to see those achievements from start to finish. But it makes me smile every time I cross paths with a former shipmate who shares a personal triumph...completing an ironman, finishing a degree, earning a commission, adopting a child, etc. Three years after leaving CVN 77, I was walking down the pier when a former shipmate ran up and said, without preamble, "Suppo, I earned my bachelor's degree!" She knew how proud I would be of her, and it made my day. Those moments remind me that we should embrace every opportunity to positively influence each other.

Q: Please tell us which past assignments are the most memorable to you and why.
This is a photo collage of RDML Skubic.

A: I never met a tour I didn't like, so it's difficult to single one out. As the precommissioning supply officer on USS George H. W. Bush, I was honored to lead a fearless and hardworking supply team that grew from 3 to 200 during my two-year tour. Also, meeting the former President and Mrs. Bush on three occasions was very special. In fact, I keep a picture from the ship's christening of former President Bush, 43rd Chief of the Supply Corps Rear Adm. (ret) Dan Stone, and me in my office. It reminds me of how blessed I was that Rear Adm. Stone had the confidence to assign me as CVN 77's first supply officer. On a fun personal note, as our commanding officer Capt. (ret) Kevin O'Flaherty and Richard "Spike" Pittman (the artist behind the ship's crest) were refining our crest, I was researching potential mottos. Before testing ideas on our CO, I ran a half dozen by my father. They included "Freedom Works" and "Freedom is Right", both from former President Bush's inaugural address. Dad suggested a slight change, "Freedom at Work". The CO liked it, as did the ship's namesake, and it fittingly reflects the aircraft carrier as a powerful symbol and instrument as a force for freedom.

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

A: Leading in the Navy presents the opportunity and responsibility for setting the tone. For me that tone, and what matters to me most, is a culture of hard work, respect and integrity. It also means leading authentically, taking care of our teammates, and sometimes making oneself vulnerable in doing so. When I was serving as CO of NAVSUP Fleet Logistics Center Norfolk, we started an annual sexual assault prevention and response (SAPR) awareness run. The efforts of our SAPR team in building a solid program of intervention, prevention and support for victims inspired me to share something with my Sailors that happened in my early twenties when I was the target of an assault. Late at night on a California freeway, I fell for a ploy from a nearby driver who frantically indicated a problem with my vehicle. I pulled over and ultimately found myself attacked and wrestling with a predator who had laid the trap for me, a trusting victim. Fortunately, I escaped the scene, shaken but otherwise safe. In retelling the story, it was easy to question my choices in falling for the ruse from a perfect stranger or not waiting for an exit to pull over, but I wasn't the criminal that night. Our focus on the victim should always be to provide support and understanding. While there are lessons to learn from my story with regard to personal risk management, I was not to blame, nor is any victim to blame for a criminal act. Whether related or not, shortly after sharing my experience, one of our Sailors contacted the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator for support on something from his/her past (rightly so, I was not allowed to know the Sailor's name under a restricted report). I was heartened that my shipmate had reached out for needed help. I'm grateful and inspired by the Navy's continued attention on eliminating sexual assault from our ranks and providing compassionate support for its victims. A Navy that takes care of its teammates is one that inspires me to lead.