With an array of new skills, the Army sent me to back to Colorado for
assignment to US Army Space Command (ARSPACE) as the NCOIC (Non-Commissioned Officer In Charge) of the Army Space Exploitation and Demonstration Program (ASEDP).
Much of what I learned at Ft Bragg had to do with problem solving in isolation, and those skills served me well. I led a team that included civilian contractors, active duty and reserve service members, and civilian government employees.
We worked with Aerospace engineering teams to design, test, and deploy the newest space technology to Major Commands worldwide, and in support of a range of real world missions.
I worked closely with NASA’s Goddard Center in Cleveland on ACTS, NASA’s
Advanced Communications Technology Sattelite, a transportable communications terminal that could be configured for anything - telephone switchboard, telemedicine suite, remote imaging station, and every thing in between.
We also piloted three technologies we couldn’t imagine being without today - the Global Positioning Satellite system (the GPS we all rely on), the Low Earth Orbit Communication System (today’s SMS/text messaging platform), and the Hugh’s Corporation’s Direct Broadcast Satellite, today known as DirectDish and DirectTV.
During my time at Army Space Command I was promoted to SFC and attended the
Advanced Non-Commisioned Officer Course (ANCOC), the third in the series of professional leadership development trainings.
I excelled once again as was named a Distinguished Honor Graduate.
My team would frequently ‘drop in’ on real world missions with transit cases in
hand, showing battlefield commanders the wide ranging applications of space based technology. We attached with the 18th Airborne Corp, the 82nd Airborne Division, the 1st Cavalry Division, and the 4th Infantry Division among others.
Responsibility of day to day operations fell to me as the NCOIC. In order for us to be successful, it was critical that a unit’s own soldiers be able to operate our technology so I needed to recruit soldiers from their current duties and train them to become ‘SATCOM’ soldiers.
When I wasn’t in a training or deployment environment, I delivered space tech education to General Officers at the Command and General Staff College in Ft Leavenworth, and to our Senior Enlisted staff at the Sergeant Major’s Academy at Ft. Bliss, TX.
I also got to play rugby, first with a Denver’s Black Ice, and later with the
Colorado Springs She Wolves, a team I co-founded. I competed for and earned a spot on the US Combined Services Women’s Rugby team and the West Territorial team and represented my unit and the Army in National All Star Competition. During this time I became a player-coach for the Colorado Springs team, and started helping out as an assistant coach for a regional Under-23 All Star team and for the Combined Services Team.
My passion for coaching was ignited. Coaching can be a rough journey that relies as much on interpersonal skills and relationship building as on X’s and O’s. Creating a team is complex and requires patience. I didn’t have it at first - I was still a soldier. I was directive, a control freak, a disciplinarian. It didn’t work. Once again, I had a lot to learn.
After nearly 11 years in the Army and an incredible ride, the bumps and bruises
were taking a toll on me and I was itching for a change. I had done so many exciting things, and it had all moved so very fast. Did I want to do this for life, or should I try something else? I had a great resume and technical experience that was hard to come by outside of the military. GPS, networking, email, text messaging, and direct broadcast were new technologies and I knew them inside and out. The internet bubble was coming, and I was at the leading edge of it. I had all that leadership experience and a Special Operations background on top of it all. It was time for me to strike out on my own.
years and 8 months in service. Like so many before me, I simply moved laterally to the civilian side of the military-industrial complex by accepting a role at Lockheed Martin Space Systems and starting work the very next day. I worked for the same commander I had while I was at ARSPACE, and supervised the same soldiers I supervised at ARSPACE. We worked on a Satellite Telemetry project for the Air Force and my new job as a Team Leader was to manage all our user interfaces.
Back then people in that position were called ‘webmasters’, and they set up web servers, programmed the databases, and created the website. Quickly those fields diverged, and I followed a professional pathway into Information Architecture and User Experience Architecture. These fields focus on the human elements of software, information, and experience design, and has been key to developing my interpersonal skills - questioning, listening probing, exploring, facilitating.
The only problem was, I may as well have still been in the Army. The only difference was how we addressed each other. Senior NCOs became Managers and Team Leads and Jr. NCOs became Associates. Officers became Directors, Program Managers, and Project Managers. It was a great job to transition from military to civilian life. Salaries tracked nearly textbook to military rank +20%. But, It was clear to me that I’d always be on the enlisted side, and after two years I took a position at Jones International University in Denver.