Rear Admiral Kate Gregory serves as the Commander of Naval Facilities Engineering Command and as the Chief of Civil Engineers, responsible for leading Civil Engineer Corps officers, Seabees, and NAVFAC civilians in building and maintaining sustainable facilities, delivering utilities and services, and providing Navy expeditionary combat force capabilities to Navy and Marine Corps commanders wherever and whenever needed.
Why should women choose engineering professions over others?
First of all engineering is fun, and many of the games people play, the puzzles people do, the things that people enjoyed doing as kids, relate back to engineering and the sciences. It is a fun profession to not only be in, but to excel.
Second, studying engineering provides a person with logic or a discipline and a set of procedures that can be used for solving problems, no matter what field you are in. Whether you’re in a medical field, game design or construction, the engineering discipline or the engineering approach to problem solving is universally accepted as a good way to solve problems.
Third, and the thing that appeals to me the most being an engineer, is that being in construction gives you the training and the skills to do so many things in life that are useful and helpful in and outside of the military. Some of the difference naval engineers make in the world are easy to see, like building facilities for Sailors and Marines. We also do humanitarian or civic action projects like we have in Eastern Europe or Southwest Asia to provide clean water to people, or build hospitals, clinics and orphanages. These kinds of skills are unique to the construction and engineering industries and really give us the opportunities to help change the world and shape peoples’ lives that few other professions have.
Most important, I just think that having an engineering, math or science background will give you the skills to do so much in life, while you figure out your heart’s desire.
Do you have any advice for women hoping to advance as a CEC officer?
I would give the same advice to the women officers that I would give to any officer who wants to serve at more senior levels: you have to go out every day and do your best at everything you do. I think if you take that approach, you will not only reach the goals that you set yourself, you will find that doors will open for you that you never thought possible. You also will find people who want to help mentor you, some you might have not thought possible. They will be impressed by your hard work and determination, and will notice your abilities to work through challenges and achieve your goals. Have the discipline to do the best at everything you do. I want to encourage every person to try to do your best. It should be a matter of personal course in leading your life. It will help you achieve anything you want, and sometimes more than you want.
Are there any women who helped to mentor you?
A woman in particular that I would note is my mother, who was a tremendous role model and example to me in terms of self discipline and the need to be constantly educating yourself. She also taught me to always listen to the other point of view, especially when you don’t agree with it — she was great at that.
Did you have any female military mentors?
There have been legions of women in the military who have inspired me. When I first joined the military, there were senior officers who would pull me aside and help me out by showing me the right path.
When I was a junior officer, there was Lt. Cmdr. Pam Patton, who is now retired. She was an intelligence officer who was really focused and energized. I was so impressed with her and wanted to follow her example.
Also, both Vice Adm. Carol Pottenger (deputy chief of staff, capability development at NATO headquarters) and Vice Adm. Anne Rondeau (president, National Defense University), as well as some of my peers like, Major General Karen E. Dyson (director, Army Budget Office) and Rear Adm. Eleanor V. Valentin (Navy director, Military Health System Governance Implementation Planning Executive Secretariat) have been tremendous examples to me throughout my career.
I must say, however, that just watching the focus, energy and courage of junior enlisted men and women inspire me the most. They take on the biggest challenges in life; they really do. They set the example to all of us who are more senior to get on with the work we need to do. Their jobs are far harder than ours, and they get out there every day and do it.
“Honor, Purpose, Challenge: Women of the Seabees and Civil Engineer Corps” highlights the heritage, roles and contributions of today’s women of the Seabees and Civil Engineer Corps.