Monday, December 21, 2015

HOVER makes PopSugar's list of 14 Books--"hidden gems"-- You Might Have Missed This Year

The article reads like this:

Already finished your giant list of books to read? There are some novels even the most voracious readers may have missed. Don't worry! Our friends at BookSparks have you covered, with their list of under-the-radar books that should have gotten more love in 2015.

This year's bestsellers are obvious — The Girl On The Train, Go Set A Watchman, Luckiest Girl Alive — but what about the stories that are tucked away and totally drool-worthy? If you've burned through the bestsellers lists of 2015, check out these 14 hidden gems you might have missed this year.

Here's the link:

So thrilled!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Assumption Book Club!

What an amazing evening with the Assumption Book Club! Thank you for such a warm welcome and for your funny and insightful questions. You're a great group and I look forward to coming back!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Veterans Day book signing at Changing Hands Bookstore

Thank you to all who joined me and Amanda Goossen--managing editor of the award-winning Arcadia News--at Changing Hands Bookstore on Veterans Day. I gave a slide show presentation, signed some books, and we accepted donations on behalf of MANA House (Marines, Army, Navy, Air Force). A great night!

Arcadia News managing editor, Amanda Goossen
A tub full of donations for MANA House

Monday, November 9, 2015

Channel 3 - Your Life A to Z

I taped a small segment on Channel 3 today for the show Your Life A to Z. It's to promote HOVER and my book signing at Changing Hands Bookstore on Wed, Nov 11th, at 7pm. The show will air tomorrow, Nov 10th, at 10am.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Velma Teague Branch - Glendale Public Library author talk

Thank you to the wonderful librarians at the Velma Teague Branch of the Glendale Public Library for hosting me on Saturday. We enjoyed quite the lively discussion!

They also surprised me with a gift -- a sweet author mug! This caffeine-addicted writer will get a lot of use out of this. Thanks you!!!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

"Best of 2015" from Suspense Magazine!

Suspense Magazine selected HOVER as one of its “Best of 2015” books in the Romantic Suspense category!

All winners will be listed in the December issue, but in the meantime, they give you this awesome looking wax seal to proudly post. And yeah, I suppose I'm pretty proud. :)

What an unexpected honor!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

HOVER's very first "Top Ten" list!

I'm thrilled that HOVER has been placed on its very first "Top Ten" list! It's called Top Ten Tuesday for 2015 debut authors and it's courtesy of

You can find the accompanying 5-star review here: Here's a sample from the review:.

I found this book fascinating. Aside from the story, which itself was gripping, I learned SO much! Not only about being a female pilot in the Navy, but also about being a pilot and about the Navy itself.

All in all I loved this book. It was a thrilling, fascinating read. Sara’s a strong, inspiring protagonist and I really hope that we’ll see her on other missions sometime soon… I want more Sara in my life!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Sunrise Mountain Library - Peoria

Had a wonderful time with AZ authors, Shona Patel and Donis Casey, at Sunrise Mountain Library last night in Peoria. Thanks, guys!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Muses Fall Carnival Blog Hop!

Welcome, Fall Carnival Blog Hoppers!

I would love to offer you the chance to win a signed hardcover copy of my debut novel, HOVER. Just enter your email in the sidebar on the right to follow my blog, and you'll be entered into a random drawing for the book. Not only will you have a chance to snag a copy of HOVER, but you'll increase your chances of winning the $70 Amazon gift card being offered by the Muses Fall Carnival Blog Hop, too!

You get a little bit of everything in HOVER - sort of a mash-up of romantic suspense, women's fiction, and military thriller. It's a love story set in a U. S. Navy battle group about a female navy helicopter pilot who's unaware she's being groomed to fly a highly classified Navy SEAL mission. For the lovers of adventure romance, I think you might like this one.

The winners of the individual giveaways offered by the seven authors in this Blog Hop will be announced on November 6th. So, please return to the Muses blog [ ] to see if you’ve won. The winner of the grand prize, which is the $70 Amazon gift card, will be posted at the same time.

Next stop on the Blog Hop is Jenn Windrow! You can link to her here: And in case you missed her, Shanyn Hosier preceded me in the Hop:

Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Fountain Hills Friends of the Library

Gladys Kleski and Kathleen Butler,
Co-directors Author Series
Fountain Hills Friends of the Library
Thank you Fountain Hills Friends of the Library for hosting me on Saturday for a slide show and talk about HOVER. We had an amazing turnout, and the Q&A was especially fun. Such an engaged audience! Thank you to Gladys Kleski and Kathleen Butler, Co-directors of the Author Series, for promoting this so well. And thanks also to the Fountain Hills Library for hosting and for the technical support. Can't wait to come back!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

What a thrill to meet Kyle Mills at the Poisoned Pen!

Kyle Mills with me at The Poisoned Pen
for the new Vince Flynn novel, The Survivor
I had the immense pleasure of co-moderating an interview at the Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale with acclaimed author Kyle Mills, author of the new Vince Flynn novel, The Survivor. Mitch Rapp fans everywhere can rest easy. He's in great hands with Kyle, who did an absolutely amazing job with this novel. Can't wait for the next one!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Military Writers Society of America National Conference Banquet

Board members Maria Edwards and Valerie Ormond
I had the wonderful privilege of attending the end-of-conference banquet for the Military Writers Society of America at their national conference. What an amazingly supportive group.

I was introduced as their newest member, and they made me feel right at home and most welcome. Thank you!!!

Friday, September 25, 2015

HOVER is book of the month for the Arcadia Book Club

Wouldn't you love to know what we were talking about! 
I had an amazing book club experience with the members of the Arcadia Book Club on Thursday night. I wish there could have been a way to capture the energy in that room. Great questions, great discussion, and all led by the lovely (and expressive!) Amanda Goossen, editor of the Arcadia News.

Thank you all so much for having me!

And as a bonus, my mom and dad were there. They've lived in Arcadia for the last 49 years!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Warwick's Book Signing

I had an amazing experience at my book signing at Warwick's in La Jolla on August 31st. It was special, not only because of the warm welcome from the booksellers there, but also, it turned into a mini-reunion of sorts. Several Naval Academy classmates attended, as well as old squadron mates from when I was stationed in San Diego.

Can't wait to go back!

Thanks again, Acacia, Emily, and the rest of the Warwick's staff!


Monday, August 31, 2015

Arcadia News Book Review of HOVER and author interview

"Hover is not only a perfect summer read; it’s an absolutely perfect anytime read." 
                                                                                                        --Amanda Goossen, Arcadia News

Amanda Goossen from the Arcadia News wrote this wonderful review of HOVER and posted it along with an interview she conducted with me. You can see the article in its entirety here.

Also, I'll be speaking at the Arcadia News Book Club on Thursday, Sep 24th, at 6:30pm, at the Saguaro Library. You'll find more information on the book club meeting below.

Here's the text of the review. I haven't printed the interview portion of the article, but you can find it by clicking on the link above.

Review of HOVER by Amanda Goossen, Arcadia News

When Hover landed on my desk, I took a quick look but, honestly, as my list of summer reads grew longer, I wasn’t sure I could fit another into the pile. With so many fascinating summer-themed novels positioned to fill my time on the beach and the pool, a novel set on a naval carrier didn’t seem destined for my suitcase.

Author Anne A. Wilson, however, is from Arcadia. And as many of us who live here know, Arcadians support one another. And so, the emails began to arrive. 

As Hover hit its publishing date, I received an email from Anne’s publisher, letting me know that the author was from the area. A week later I received an email from someone who knew Anne. Not long after, two people sent me a message saying they had read the book and I had to include it in my book club coverage. After I took a look at Anne’s bio, my thoughts on reading her book began to change. 

Anne Hotis was born and bred in Arcadia. She attended Kaibab Elementary (now known as Arcadia Neighborhood Learning Center), went to Ingleside Middle School and Arcadia High, where she graduated in 1984. Anne’s parents still live in the Arcadia home where she grew up, 49 years later.

This Arcadia local went to college at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in ocean engineering in 1989.

“When you graduate, you are commissioned as an officer in the Navy, or the marine corps, if that’s what you select,” said Anne. “I then went to U.S. Navy Flight School in Pensacola, Florida and received my wings in February 1991.”

Anne was stationed in San Diego at Naval Air Station North Island, which is located on Coronado Island, from 1991-1995. She then spent her shore tour at Naval Air Station Fallon in Nevada and was a search and rescue pilot there from 1995-1998. While in Nevada, Anne flew search and rescue with the H-1 Huey helicopter and is credited with 31 lives saved. The Naval Helicopter Association named Anne and her crew Helicopter Aircrew of the Year (non-embarked) for 1997 for rescuing 13 people in the 100-year flood that affected the area surrounding Reno and Yosemite.

Today, Anne lives in Fountain Hills with her husband, Bill, and two 13-year-old sons, Adam and Isaac. Bill and Anne own a triathlon coaching company called Camelback Coaching, where they have trained residents for over 12 years.

Once I learned the facts on this woman – who sounded more like superwoman than a local author – I was intrigued. So on one particularly scorching afternoon, I placed myself upon my pool raft, opened the pages of Hover, and was absolutely mesmerized.

I assumed I was about to enter a world of military jargon and intensity. While those elements are present, the pages are filled with enthralling action and endearing relationships. Anne brings her knowledge and experience to the story with exquisite ease, painting a picture of military life, while developing fully formed characters that possess vulnerability along with toughness.

Hover is not only a perfect summer read; it’s an absolutely perfect anytime read.

Protagonist Sara Denning has spent her military career achieving success as a naval helicopter pilot. But in the meantime, she has lost all sense of herself. When she suddenly becomes part of a secret mission, led by the biggest and brightest personalities of her career, Sara must face the intensity of the mission as well as the fears that plague her life.

And within it all there is also a pretty spectacular love story.

I’m not ashamed to say that at first glance I was wrong. Anne is without a doubt an author to keep your eye on…and she’s from Arcadia!

On September 24, the Arcadia News Book Club is honored to have Anne join our group for a night of in-depth discussion. This is a night not to be missed. Join us at 6:30 p.m. at the Saguaro Library for refreshments, great friends and a raffle (tickets are $5) benefiting the charity Don’t be a Chump, Check for a Lump! To attend, please email

HOVER East Coast Book Tour Highlights!

My editor, Kristin Sevick, and I at R. J. Julia Booksellers
My time spent on the East Coast to promote HOVER was amazing in so many ways.

I started with a talk and signing at R. J. Julia Booksellers in Madison, CT, where I had the privilege of being introduced by my very own editor, Kristin Sevick! I can't tell you how special that made the event for me.

The historic Flatiron Building -
Home of Tor/Forge and other
Macmillan imprints

I also spent a day touring the offices of my publisher, Tor/Forge, in the historic Flatiron Building. I learned that most of the building is occupied by Macmillan Publishing and its imprints. And the building itself? It's, well, flat.

During my tour, I had the distinct pleasure to meet Mr. Tom Doherty, the head of Tor/Forge. You might not know this, but Tor is the most successful science fiction and fantasy publisher in the world. The Forge side--where I'm published--encompasses the other genres, like women's fiction, thriller, crime fiction, etc.

View from Tom Doherty's office window - Broadway
on the left, 5th Avenue on the right

Mr. Doherty's office sits right on the spine of the Flatiron Building, about 12 or 13 stories up. This is his view of Broadway (on the left) and 5th Avenue. Pretty cool.

View from Patty Garcia's office - a loooooong way down!

Building codes were different way back when, I guess, because you can open the window completely in Patty Garcia's (Tor/Forge Director of Publicity) office. I leaned over, stuck the camera out the window and aimed down.

Emily Mullen, me, Kristin Sevick

I also met my publicist, Emily Mullen, in person for the first time. This is a photo of Emily, Kristin, and I in front of the Flatiron Building (the building is behind Bess Cozby, who was taking the photo). Next time, Bess, we'll make sure you're in the picture, too! Nice to have the Empire State Building as a backdrop.

Kristin and I editing on the beach!

The highlight of the day, believe it or not, was the commute between Madison and NYC. I had the rare experience of doing "live edits" with Kristin. We sat on the train, Kristin had her computer on her lap, and we walked through my entire manuscript (the one scheduled for release this next summer). Even though we had a three-hour train ride one way and a three-hour train ride back, we still weren't finished. So we found a spot on the beach in Madison and finished the edits there. Unbelievable experience.

Signing books at the U. S. Naval Academy
in the Midshipman Store during
Parents' Weekend

I spent a commuting day driving to Annapolis and then did a signing at the U. S. Naval Academy Midshipmen Store on Saturday, August 15th.  That was a surreal experience, to be sure. It was Parents' Weekend and I saw many of my 89 classmates, who were their for their children (Class of 2019). Crazy.

Fountain Bookstore owner, Kelly Justice

I finished my tour in Richmond, VA, at Fountain Bookstore. This is a photo of the owner, Kelly Justice, and me. Kelly has been a professional independent bookseller since 1989, the same year I graduated from Navy. Great karma! Oh, and Kelly's name is just too cool not to use as a character name in one of my future novels.

My touring partner, Laura Seidelman!

And finally, my touring partner and navigator for this trip was my super cool mother-in-law, Laura Seidelman. Thank you, Laura!

Overall, I couldn't have asked for a better tour experience. I met so many great people, while re-connecting with old friends. It's my hope that I'll be able to return next year!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Friday, June 5, 2015

A Debut Book Launch Night to Remember

The debut launch night for HOVER on June 2nd exceeded my expectations in every way. I need to give a huge thank-you right off the bat to Barbara Peters and the Poisoned Pen bookstore for opening their doors for me. What a fantastic venue!

The support from friends and family was overwhelming. As you can see, we had a full house. And as a bonus, we sold out of books, too!

Below, I've included several photos from a most memorable evening!

This was the entryway table as you walked into the store.

I enjoyed a fun and lively interview with Barbara Peters, owner of the Poisoned Pen, and John Charles. This was a Livestream event, so my friends and family from out of town could watch as it happened--a convenience for them, but for me, a way to archive a cherished event. Like having your wedding videotaped or something. Here's the link:

After the interview and a question and answer period, it was time to sign books!

It was also an opportunity to take photos with those who helped me along the way on this publishing journey. These are four of my cousins and my aunt, first readers of the manuscript, long before it was titled HOVER.

My mom and dad, brother, and two sisters were also on hand--first readers of the manuscript all. My baby sister, second from right, completed a time consuming and ridiculously thorough editing of my manuscript prior to submission. It definitely pays to have a whip smart attorney in the family!

This whip smart attorney is also a talented baker and provided a fantastic spread for the evening. We've all told her, I don't know how many times, that she's in the wrong business. Catering, Karla. Catering.

And last, but certainly not least, my husband and two children, who have supported me from day one in this whole writing endeavor.

Thanks again to all of you who took time out of your evening to stop by the Poisoned Pen to help me celebrate and also to those who sent your good wishes from afar. You made this a night I will never forget.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Barbara Peters of the Poisoned Pen Reviews HOVER

The official book launch for HOVER will happen at the Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale, on Tuesday, June 2nd, at 7pm. It will also be Livestreamed.
You can watch it here:

Barbara Peters, owner of the Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale, AZ
The owner, Barbara Peters, has an impressive resume. She founded The Poisoned Pen in 1989, and with her husband, Robert Rosenwald, she founded the Poisoned Pen Press in 1997, where she is Editor in chief. Barbara has won the Raven and Quill Awards from the Mystery Writers of America (and been nominated for an Edgar for Best Biographical Work) and is a Bouchercon Fan Guest of Honor and Lifetime Achievement honoree.

Anyway, here's what she has to say about HOVER (and yes, my jaw dropped to the floor when I read it):

Wilson is a metro Phoenix author publishing her debut novel,
Hover (Forge $24.99). I read it in one sitting. I've never previously considered 

What it's like to fly helicopters
What it might be like to be a woman serving in the US Navy as an Academy graduate, and also as a pilot
What it's like to live at sea, to be deployed on missions, what kind of training and skill sets are involved.

And honestly, did I care? And the answer is, Wilson not only made me care, but kept me so riveted I didn't put the book down until turning the last page.
It helps there's a magnetic Lieutenant whose behavior is unpredictable (so, romance)
That Lieutenant Sara Denning's superiors run the gamut from bastard to supportive to indifferent
That another pilot, her BFF, is both a bestie and sometimes jealous
And that Sara is carrying around some tragic baggage (the stuff of women's fiction)
All this afloat in the Pacific, at port in Hong Kong, and moving to the Gulf where the US Vice President may well be the target of a hostile operation (a thriller).

So, no labels here. Join us to learn more from Wilson who writes (some of) what she knows, and in a cracking good voice. Plus you will able to drop "buttonhook" into the conversation with authority.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Women Who Inspire: Interview with Kristin (Reynolds) Goodrich

For those of you new to my blog, I periodically post interviews with my Naval Academy classmates under the heading, Women Who Inspire. My novels feature a strong female protagonist, so I like to offer examples of the real deal.

Kristin Goodrich is like so many of my other interviewees--women who are exceedingly modest, who've done amazing things, and yet, wonder why I'm asking them for an interview, insisting their experiences were nothing out of the ordinary. Typical . . .

Kristin (Reynolds) Goodrich graduated with a Bachelor of Science in History and a minor in Spanish from the U. S. Naval Academy. She reported to Naval Station Panama Canal  to serve in a Public Affairs Officer’s billet, which included supporting Operation Just Cause. Following her tour in Panama, she reported to Fleet Activities Okinawa, Japan, where she served as training officer, and then port services officer/officer in charge of White Beach. Her final tour brought her back to the U. S. Naval Academy to work in the Admissions Department.  Kristin has served as a Blue and Gold Officer  for the last twenty-one years. She currently lives in Colorado with her husband (a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel) and three children.

AW: You have a fascinating story that starts well before you arrived at the Naval Academy. Tell me about growing up and where you lived.

KG: My parents met and married in Japan. My dad was an international insurance broker and my mom had moved there as an adult dependent to her dad who worked for Westinghouse. I like to joke that I was “made in Japan,” however, I was born in Sao Paulo, Brazil. We lived there for two years before returning to Japan for eight years, where we stayed until I was in fourth grade. After Japan, I spent a year and a half in New Jersey, then moved to Bogota, Colombia for four years, where I learned to speak fluent Spanish, and then returned to New Jersey in tenth grade. I also spent a summer in high school as an exchange student in Sweden.

AW: What an interesting upbringing! So why the Naval Academy?

KG: That’s a good question! [laughs] I think I was visiting with my high school guidance counselor, when the Blue and Gold Officer walked in. At the time—this was tenth grade—I was really struggling with fitting in. I was an American, but I’d never really lived in the States, so I didn’t know the culture, the TV shows, the music. Anyhow, I didn’t think I’d get in.

AW: Once there, it looks like you continued with language. Probably no surprise, huh?

KG: Yes, I majored in history and minored in Spanish. But I finished all the requirements for Spanish after our second year, so then I moved to French.

AW: And then you studied in France after graduation, right?

KG: I did. I applied through the Cox Fund, which supports language study abroad. They treated it like temporary duty en route to my first duty station. I was in a university class with about twenty students—all from different countries—and we would practice speaking the language, talking about non-traditional things, like women’s rights, things like that. It was a fantastic experience.

AW: Tell me about Panama. Did you pick to go there specifically or was it a luck-of-the-draw assignment?

KG: I chose Panama specifically. On service selection night, I selected General Unrestricted Line, and they had these index cards with every assignment that was available within that specialty. I wanted to go back to a place where I had grown up, to see it as an adult, and also have an opportunity to use my Spanish. Panama borders Colombia, so it was as close as I could get.

AW: When you arrived, Panama was in a state of unrest, to put it mildly. What was happening there at the time?

Operation Just Cause - Panama

KG: General Manuel Noriega was becoming a dictator. He had lost the general election in the spring, but refused to honor the results. His Panamanian Defense Force [PDF] assaulted the winning presidential candidate. It was just getting tense outside the gates—Noriega thumbing his nose at America, basically.

AW: Is that when Operation Just Cause happened?

KG: Actually, no. I arrived in Panama in August of ’89, and spent the next two months just getting settled, learning my duties as a junior officer, qualifying for watch officer for the naval station, things like that. Then, in early October, I had to leave to go back to the states to attend a ten-week course on becoming a public affairs officer [PAO]. The day after I left Panama to attend the course, there was an unsuccessful coup attempt, which tried to remove Noriega from office. And then things began to escalate between U. S. Forces and the PDF.

AW: Were you in touch with the naval station when you were gone? Who was handling your PAO duties while you were in school? If things were escalating, it seems that would be pretty important.

KG: I managed the office remotely, as I was going through school, so I was able to keep up with things. Which actually leads me to a funny story. I knew through my contact with the command in Panama that our PMLs [Personal Movement Limitations] had changed and we now had to wear cammies, not khakis or whites. Back then, the navy didn’t have cammies as part of the sea bag, so I went to the Navy Annex [since demolished - 2013] to buy some, but they were out of green shirts. So I shared my dilemma with a navy commander at the Navy Annex. He made a call, then told me to follow him. We marched over to the Office of the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps! [The Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps is selected by the Commandant of the Marine Corps to serve as his adviser, and as the preeminent and highest ranking enlisted Marine, he is treated with a protocol equivalency of a three-star general officer].

AW: The Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps?

KG: Yes! So we walk into his office, and the navy commander I’m with says, “Sergeant Major, the ensign is going back to Panama this weekend and needs a green t-shirt.” The Sergeant Major then turns to one of his desk clerks and says, “Marine, take off your shirt!” And he took it off. Like right there! And I thanked him and everything and now I’m holding this damp, warm, green t-shirt.

AW: The guy is just standing there shirtless?

KG: Yeah. It was crazy. But I’m not going to argue with the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps!

AW: Smart move.

KG: And, to make a long story short, I also ended up getting five green t-shirts from our classmate Julia Meade, so it all worked out. [Julia just retired from active duty with the rank of colonel. You can read her interview here.]

AW: Okay, you have your cammies. Then what?

Flying over Colon, Panama
KG: I graduated from PAO School on December 14th. The next day, the Panamanian General Assembly, which was controlled by Noriega, declared that Panama was at war with the United States. Two days later I flew back—arrived on a Sunday—and then on Wednesday, I was standing watch as the duty officer for the naval station. I awoke to the sound of helicopters and learned that Operation Just Cause was underway.

AW: Uh, no pressure . . . 

KG: No kidding. The Senior Watch Officer told me, “Well, Kristin, if you can handle this, you can handle anything,” and he walked away. I remember thinking, “What if I can’t handle this?”

AW: I’d say! What then?

KG: Well, I just did what I was trained to do. I managed the duties of the watch officer, and eventually, a Marine Corps Chief Warrant Officer PAO showed up. His name was Charlie Rowe and he was a godsend. He’d been in Beirut when the Marine barracks were bombed and he was also in Grenada. I was so grateful for his guidance.

AW: How long was the conflict—Operation Just Cause—and what did you do during this time?

KG: It lasted for about six weeks, and I’d have to say, that even though I’d just graduated from PAO training, nearly all of it went out the window. The idea of having embedded journalists had sort of been shelved after World War II. And, as you know, there had been an adversarial relationship between the military and journalists since Vietnam. So when Operation Just Cause happened, we did something completely different than had been done in recent years, which was to take members of the media out to where the action was happening, or as close as we could. I drove a white van with “U. S. Navy” stenciled on both sides—not exactly camouflage!—and Charlie rode shotgun with his pistol out, and then we had a Marine that hung out the side door with a machine gun. We would pull into the Southern Command media center and tell the media guys what we were going to do for the day, and then we would leave once the van was full.

AW: Were you actually close to where people were firing? And what did the journalists think?

KG: Yes, we were pretty close. Once, we were right there when a Marine fired a LAW [Light Anti-tank Weapon] rocket launcher, and it knocked the hubcaps and the rear-view mirror from the van, which was parked two blocks away!

AW: Whoa! So were there many women stationed at Naval Station Panama Canal?

(L-R) Deni (Leadham) Johnson '90, Laura (Bush) Barsland '89,
Kristin, Lynn (Jones) Johnson '89

KG: I had two roommates—both lieutenants—and there were about five enlisted women. I think the naval station maybe had two hundred personnel total.

AW: Did you ever have any trouble because you were a woman, either in Panama, or elsewhere?

KG: I think the single most profound event that was negative for me happened on First Class Cruise [At that time, Naval Academy midshipman were assigned to ships during the summers that preceded their second and fourth years].  I was sent to an AFS—a Fast Combat Stores ship—with a crew of over 400, and this class of ship had just opened up to women. I was supposed to have had a roommate, but ended up being the only woman on board. There were two other midshipmen with me, one from the Academy and one NROTC, and we were called in to meet with the Executive Officer. He told me that we was going to put me in engineering because it was the worst place for a female and that I would set the tone for the women that would follow me. And I thought, “Oh, boy.” And then, when we were walking out of his office, he said to our backs, “And by the way, I’m a ’79 grad.”

AW: For our readers, the class of ’79 at the Academy was the last group to graduate without any women in their class.
KG: Yeah, so that did not bode well. And then that day, I sat alone in the wardroom, and no one would talk to me, which really wasn’t a shock, because no one’s going to win by befriending me. The next day, I woke up and someone had bored holes in my stateroom bulkhead at eye level.

AW: So this is not starting well.

KG: No, not really. Then I was told I was going to be the division officer for “B” Division—the guys in charge of the boilers—because their normal division officer had to go to alcohol rehab. So I go down to the engineering officer’s spaces, and there are Playboy pin-ups everywhere, and I go meet with the chief. And that was an . . . uncomfortable exchange. Finally, I left, and I headed to the boiler room. I knew next to nothing about boilers. And to this day, I’m not sure how I knew to ask the right question—maybe divine intervention?—but I asked those twenty-five guys in “B” Division to teach me what they knew. I carried no arrogance. I didn’t do the ring knocker thing. I just asked them to help me learn. And the coolest thing happened. Those twenty-five guys totally took me under their wing. I had zero support from above, but here were these sailors who stuck up for me and taught me everything. I was surprised when I got back to school for the academic year and my company officer announced at morning quarters that the captain of the ship had designated me as a junior engineering officer  of the watch. The real thing, too. Not a token title.

AW: That is an awesome story. And a great lesson for junior officers.

KG: Absolutely. And really, just a good life lesson, in general. Be humble. If you don’t know, ask. And people will respect you for it.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Women Who Inspire: Interview with Julia (Smith) Meade

My Naval Academy classmates rock! Their stories are wonderfully varied and always impressive. You'll see it again here with Julia Meade, a very recently retired U. S. Marine Corps Colonel.

Colonel Julia Meade, U. S. Army War College graduation
Julia (Smith) Meade graduated with a Bachelor of Science in General Engineering and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the U. S. Marine Corps. Her Military Occupational Specialty was Motor Transport, and during her career, Julia deployed to Okinawa, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Korea, Turkey, Spain, Croatia, and the Philippines. She also completed two tours at The Basic School in Quantico, VA, once as an instructor, and again as a lieutenant colonel serving as the operations officer. Julia retired with the rank of colonel (O-6) after 23 years of active duty service and lives with her husband and daughter in a very tiny town in Tennessee.

AW: You have such an amazing story, Julia, but with these interviews, I always have to start with why you went to the Naval Academy.

JM: When I was in fourth grade, my family drove from Connecticut to Florida to go to Walt Disney World. We stopped in Annapolis on the way to spend the night—we needed a reprieve because it was July and we had no air conditioning in the car—and decided to tour around a bit while there. We visited the Naval Academy and I knew it immediately. I said, “Dad, I want to go here.” This was 1975 and women weren’t even allowed to attend yet. But at the time, my dad said he thought it would be great. And then, I applied in high school.

AW: What about the Marine Corps? Did you always know you wanted to be a Marine?

JM: No. But when I was a plebe in 27th company, Gunny [Gunnery Sergeant] Frank’s office was right across the hall. My upperclassmen always sent me there to do pro reports and the more I learned about the Marine Corps, the more I realized, this is it.

AW: There weren’t many of our female classmates who service selected Marine Corps, right?

JM: There were just four of us. Susan Seaman, who’s still in. She’s a colonel now. And Maria Long, who you’ve already interviewed. And Duska Pearson.

AW: And I suspect that played out a lot throughout your career—moving around with just a small number of women.

JM: Yes. I was a motor transportation officer and was primarily stationed on the east coast and in Okinawa. I served mostly in operational billets and was almost always the only female everywhere I went. My two "out of the fleet" billets were both at The Basic School in Quantico, as the only female instructor for the majority of my tour when I was a captain, and as the first non-combat arms—and female—operations officer when I was a lieutenant colonel.

AW: How were you received at your commands as the only female?

JM: For the most part, I never really had any issues. Checking in to any unit was the hardest part. There was always that moment of, “Ooh, wait, you’re a girl.” But after they worked with me, it became a non-issue.

AW: You just retired as a colonel after twenty-three years of active duty service. Did you ever think you would stay in that long?

Julia with husband, Jeff
JM: Actually, I made the decision to leave the service in 1999 to help my dad take care of my mother, who was battling lung cancer. So I moved to New Jersey and taught middle school and then high school math, ran a program for at-risk kids, and coached softball. Unfortunately, my mom didn't make it, but on the good side, I ended up getting married while I was there.

AW: So when did you go back in?

JM: After 9/11 happened, I knew I had to do something more than teach ninth grade Algebra One. Having been born in New York City, I have a lot of family who are first responders or who worked at WTC or right nearby, and the attack on the World Trade Center was very personal to me. So I called the reserves and they said they could definitely use me. By 2002, I was back in the Marine Corps and serving at Camp Lejeune.

AW: Were you in the reserves then or were you active duty?

JM: I was in the reserves for only about three drill weekends, but the unit was just horrible. I ran into a guy at Camp Lejeune, whom I knew when I was on active duty, and he said he needed a motor transport officer, so I went back on active duty.

AW: And then you had your daughter, right?

JM: Yes, I was stationed in Camp Lejeune, and she was born in 2004. She was born fifteen weeks premature, weighing only one pound, three ounces.

AW: One pound, three ounces! 

JM: Yeah. I was diagnosed with preeclampsia and had to have an emergency C-section. They medevaced me to Portsmouth Naval Hospital near Norfolk. My daughter was put on a ventilator and every day it was touch and go. We couldn’t hold her because if the ventilator moved, it might damage her throat. She was in the NICU [Neonatal Intensive Care Unit] for four and a half months. There were twenty-four isolettes in the unit and ours was the smallest baby that lived that summer. It scared the crap out of us. Shook us to the core. It was also very humbling to get emails from Marines who were preparing for Fallujah saying they were praying for us.

AW: I would say so! How did the Marine Corps handle this? You were on active duty, you were deploying . . . 

JM: The Marine Corps really took care of my family and transferred us to Norfolk, when Kelsey was in the NICU. My husband retired and took care of her, so that I could deploy and do the things the Marine Corps needed me to do. Kelsey was on oxygen and monitors until she was a year old. She was developmentally delayed in almost every way, and I had to deploy my first time to Afghanistan when she was only 18 months old. When I left, she was not walking or talking, and when I got back, she was doing both. Deploying is a whole lot harder when you have kids!

AW: Without question. And how is Kelsey doing now?

JM: Great. She’s eleven now and just ran her first 5K. Because she had so many problems with her lungs developing early on, the doctors said she would probably have cerebral palsy, her lungs would be weak, she’d tire easily, and certainly never be able to run something like a marathon. I’m happy to report that she’s training for her second 5K now!

AW: So awesome. Now, I want to go back to The Basic School in Quantico. This is where every Marine Corps officer must go to begin their training. You were there on three different occasions. Once as a student, once as an instructor, when you were a captain, and once as the operations officer, when you were a lieutenant colonel. What changes did you see with regard to women at Quantico?

JM:  Very little of the curriculum has actually changed since we were lieutenants. Everyone learns the basics—to shoot, move, and communicate, and to become a leader of Marines. When I was a student, they segregated the women into a separate platoon, which was awful. When I returned as a captain, they had just begun integrating women into every platoon, which was a huge leap forward, once we worked through some initial challenges. Now you have male lieutenants growing up with female lieutenants and it makes all the difference. And you should see the female lieutenants in the Marine Corps now. They’re Superwomen!

AW: Well, the junior officers now have some great role models like you! Speaking of that, did you ever have a female Marine Corps officer that was senior to you in a command?

JM: No, never.

AW: So you’re making your way through the Marine Corps, charting new waters, so to speak, gaining a lot of people’s respect along the way, and then you’re deploying to places like Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait. How was your time in Saudi Arabia, for example? How were you treated there?

JM: We were in Jubail for Desert Storm and I was a motor transport officer. I had Marines spread out over a 200-square-mile area, so I would drive out to them. I got pulled over a couple of times by the local police.

AW: You mean because you were a woman?

JM: Yeah. I was in a uniform. I carried a weapon. But they would pull me over because they couldn’t understand why I was driving. It was ridiculous. And what I found humorous was that the police that pulled me over had no pistols. They didn’t even wear shoes.

AW: I find it interesting, by the way, that you were a motor transport officer. I mean, through your whole career, you were so operational. Like not moving through the Marine Corps in administrative positions.

JM: Yeah, Motor T was not a glamorous MOS [Military Occupational Specialty]. I spent my whole career there and I only saw one master gunnery sergeant mechanic who was a female. Women just don’t gravitate to that specialty. And for example, I was a motor transport officer for an artillery regiment, which was completely unheard of. Division was just off-limits for females, at that time. But we went to the field all the time, and a lot of hard work earned their respect. The regimental chaplain nicknamed me the “Iron Maiden.” I think that was a compliment!

AW: What about all the women-in-combat-units debate. For example, should women be artillery officers? What do you say to that?

JM:  People are wringing their hands over this. As long as you don’t change the physical standards for the job—they should be gender neutral—then women, and the unit, will be fine. I’m glad they didn’t change the standards for the infantry officer course. If no female makes it through, fine. But eventually, there will be one who’ll make it through, and she’ll be well-qualified and will do fine.

AW: So you’re retired now—just recently, in fact. How did you decide it was time?

JM: In 2014, when my daughter turned ten, we realized I hadn’t lived under the same roof with my family for five of her ten years, so we knew it was time to retire. Since she was born, I had deployed to Afghanistan twice. I had had a one-year tour in Okinawa. And when I was stateside, I was a geo-bachelor and had to commute to see her. We had to move to the Norfolk area so she could be near the hospitals she needed. So when I was stationed in Cherry Point, for example, I wasn’t living with my husband or daughter then, either.

AW: That had to be so ridiculously challenging. I know you mentioned earlier about deploying to Afghanistan when Kelsey was only 18 months old. What did you have to do there?

Julia's second tour in Afghanistan. She was the Plans Chief in
the CJ-35 section, and the military liaison to the Presidential
Protective Service (Former President Karzai's Secret Service). 
This photo was taken on a convoy en route to Jalalabad
from Kabul to get ready for a Presidential visit.
JM: I was in Kabul as the deputy logistics officer (Deputy CJ-4) for Combined Forces Command-Afghanistan (CFC-A). Basically, we were doing the planning for turning over the logistics for the mission to NATO. To ISAF [International Security Assistance Force—the NATO-led security mission in Afghanistan]. But that was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. To leave my daughter then.

AW: Must have been a nice homecoming.

JM: It was. I was so afraid she wouldn’t know me when I got home, but my husband was fantastic. We took a family picture before I left and he gave it to her to carry with her every day. He taught her that the woman in the picture was mom, so it was pretty amazing to come back and have her walking and talking and also recognizing me.

AW: How is it now? I’m sure you spend a lot of time together now that you’re retired.

JM: Yes, I get to do all the normal things now that I’ve missed for so long. Girl Scouts, making dinner, packing lunches, homework. It’s great.

AW: Where did you retire and are you working?

JM: We moved to a tiny little town in Tennessee, not a single traffic light. I'm not working right now, as I’m trying to decide what I want to be when I grow up! I’m doing some volunteer work and deciding if I want to go back to school. We bought a small 21-acre farm, so there is plenty to keep me busy in the meantime!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

A Woman Working in a Man’s World: 10 Lessons I Learned in the U. S. Navy

USS Flint (AE-32), WESTPAC '94
I spent much of my navy career in the extreme minority—as the only woman in a helicopter squadron, as one of two women on a ship with a crew of five hundred, as one of four women in a battle group numbering seven thousand.
I was in a unique situation, sure, but I learned some valuable things about how to integrate into a male dominated work environment, things that have also served me well since—while working in corporate America, as a small business owner, as a parent.
Do I have it wired? No, I don’t presume to have this figured out. If you’re a woman stepping into a work environment that happens to be dominated by men, you can thrive with a variety of approaches. But you can hinder your progress in just as many ways. Hopefully, I can help you avoid some of those pitfalls by offering the benefit of my experiences.

So here you go, ten lessons I learned in the U. S. Navy, advice for women in a male dominated work environment.

1. Be competent. Know your job. Do your job. 

2. Be physically active. It shows in how you carry yourself. How you address a division. How you sit in a meeting. Your posture as you lecture in front of hundreds. If you feel strong physically, you’ll harbor a quiet confidence that others will sense. And it goes without saying that not only is physical activity good for your health, but it also jostles a muddy brain, allowing for clearer thinking. By the way, this doesn’t mean you need to become an ultra-marathoner. You can garden, walk, do yoga, swim. It can be anything. Just do something.

3. Be yourself. Be genuine. You can spot a fake façade a mile away. No need for the tough guy act. And don’t try to be “one of the boys.” I’ve seen this backfire far too many times. Please, just don’t.

4. You’re always on duty, even when you’re off duty. Should you let yourself go, doin’ the wild thing, at the company’s annual holiday party? I would beg you not to. A man can get away with it. A woman can’t. It’s not fair, but that’s how it is. Mind your alcohol. Mind your manners.

5. Pick your battles. Be reasonable. Think big picture.

6. Be kind. I think women confuse this with being seen as soft or not tough enough. I disagree. In fact, kindness can be disarming. A smile, a compliment, a question as to the health of a co-worker’s spouse. These are often unexpected, but mostly appreciated and remembered. As long as you can back it up with competency, you’re good.

7. Support the sisterhood. Nothing is so disturbing as a woman stepping over another for her own gain. Come on, girls. We have to have each other’s backs.

8. Mind your tongue. That is, don’t gossip. It erodes trust. It’s catty. It’s rude. You know the rule. If you can’t say something nice . . . 

9. Sleep on it. Avoid the rash decision. A night of sleep will do wonders for clarity in thinking, allowing for an unemotional, objective look at your choices. Having said this, sometimes, an instant decision is required. An engine fails in your aircraft and you have to react now. In cases like this, I refer to point number one. If you’re competent—trained, prepared—you’ll make the correct decision. However, most of the time, you have some breathing room, so use it.

10. Above all else, the Golden Rule. Treat others as you would have them treat you.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Women Who Inspire: Interview with Adrienne (Hegman) Brandicourt

Next up in the Women Who Inspire series, Adrienne Brandicourt! Adrienne is one of my Naval Academy classmates who flies in the stratosphere academically, but at the same time, is as down to earth and sweet as you please. . . .

Adrienne (Hegman) Brandicourt graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science and a minor in German. She reported to Headquarters US European Command (EUCOM) Data Services Center (J6) in Stuttgart, Germany, where she did computer systems design for the EUCOM Intelligence Support System development branch. Following her service in Germany, she reported to Naval Ocean Processing Facility, in Dam Neck, VA, where she served as SURTASS (Surveillance Towed Array Sensor System) watch officer, legal officer, and admin officer. Adrienne lives with her husband, Harry (also USNA class of 89) in Cincinnati, Ohio. She has four children—Benjamin, Annie, Isabelle, and Elliott.

AW: There are so many things I want to ask you, but I’ll start with the basics. Why the Naval Academy?

AB: My parents took us to Washington, D.C., when I was around twelve or thirteen, and we also visited the Academy on that trip. I absolutely fell in love with it. I liked the water, the sailboats, the YP’s, and the Yard.

AW: What did your parents think about your decision?

AB: My parents were thrilled when I told them I wanted to go the Naval Academy. But many other people thought differently, and I often heard, “You can’t do that.” “Why do you want to do that?” “You’re not an athlete.” At that point in time, many people I knew questioned the role of women in the military. I suppose that pushed me to want to do it even more, but really, it came down to the fact that I just loved the Academy. I had applied to four other schools, but the Academy was my first choice all the way through.

AW: Did you have any idea what you wanted to do in the navy before you got to the Naval Academy?

AB: I thought I wanted to be on a ship. Of course, at eighteen, I didn’t really know what that meant. But I was game for it. I thought it was fantastic to know I was going to go to school for four years and then I’d have a job waiting for me right afterwards.

AW: When did that idea change, do you think? About pursuing surface warfare after graduation?

AB: It changed first class year, when I studied abroad in Germany. I did a semester at the German Military University [Bundeswehr Universität] in Munich, and it was an amazing experience. So on service selection night, there was a billet available for computer systems design, which was my major, and the job was located in Germany. I really wanted to go back, so I took it.

AW: I never knew you studied abroad! What an amazing opportunity! So what was this like? Was the university comparable to the Naval Academy? Do they have service academies like we do? Did you have to do everything in German?

AB: Yes, everything was in German. And the idea of service academies is the same, but it’s executed differently in Germany. They have two military universities—one in Hamburg and one in Munich—and all five branches (army, navy, air force, support and medical) of the Germany military are represented at each place. It was a lot more relaxed than the Naval Academy was. We wore civilian clothes most of the semester. I think they wore uniforms maybe twice a year.

AW: No uniforms? I can’t even imagine! When you had to wear a uniform, what did you wear?

AB: Well, this is an interesting story. We had just one formation while I was there. It included marching to a given location, listening to a speech and marching back. And at the time, there were no women in the German military—

AW: Wait, wait, wait. Come back. There were no women in the German military?

AB: Not at the time, no. But I think, ultimately, this was one of the reasons I was able to study abroad here. No one had ever done it before, but because I was a woman, it worked out. The Germans were trying to figure out how to integrate women into their military, and this would be a temporary, very small, trial project, which wouldn’t attract loads of attention.

AW: So you were the only woman there?

AB: I was—in the classrooms, that is. But we had women all around, because the guys’ girlfriends were able to visit whenever they wanted, and in many cases, lived there with them.

AW: Seriously? Their girlfriends could live with them? That’s quite a bit different from the deal we have over here.

AB: Yeah, no kidding. It was like going to a regular university. It was open. No curfew. The dorms were beautiful and you got a huge room to yourself—

AW: A room to yourself? Seriously? I can’t even. . . .

AB: [Laughs] I know! There were about sixteen rooms to a building and they all centered around a big kitchen and living area. Oh, and there weren’t women’s bathrooms or showers. Everyone shared and it wasn’t a big deal at all.

AW: Wow. So different. How were you treated, then? And how many men attended at the time you were there, do you think?

AB: It was pretty small. I think there was a student population of about 2,500. I got along well with everyone—you have to remember I was grouped in classes with nerdy computer science people—who were all really, really nice. And—you’ll love this—my German computer science buddies all loved to swim! I always thought of you—yes, you—when I was there, because we’d go to the pool in the evenings and swim and swim and swim!

AW: Okay, so that’s excellent. Any other memories that stand out from that time?

AB: One thing that was really cool was that I got to work on a research project called PROMETHEUS, which at the time, was the largest research and development project ever in the field of driverless cars. I worked on it with my research adviser, a professor at the school, named Ernst Dickmanns. At the time, I didn’t realize how lucky I was to be working with him, as he was a pioneer of driverless cars in the 1980s.

AW: Wow. So cool. But before I go off on another tangent, I want to go back to the story you were going to tell me earlier about the uniform and marching to formation.

AB: Oh, yes. We had an O-3 [the equivalent of an army captain] in charge of my military exchange program. I showed up for the march to formation in my SDBs [Service Dress Blue], and I wore pants, because we were going to be marching. The O-3 said no, absolutely not. They were not going to have me in pants. They wanted everyone to know they had a female exchange student, so I needed to wear a skirt and heels. I argued and eventually, we compromised. Yes, I would wear the skirt, but not the heels. First of all, you don’t march in a skirt, but no way do you do it in heels!

AW: I’m glad you stood your ground on that one! So let me skip back to where this whole conversation about Germany started—to your service selection to EUCOM in Stuttgart. What was your job and how did you find your experience there as a whole?

AB: EUCOM was a joint command—army, navy, air force, marine corps—and a high ranking command. There were plenty of women filling various roles, but not many junior officers, male or female. I was lucky to speak German, and was able to keep in touch with my friends from the Bundeswehr Universität in Munich. I worked with a team of Air Force personnel designing the collections management portion of a new computer system for the Intelligence Directorate.

AW: Were the systems you designed in operation by the time you left?

AB: Actually, the technology was changing so fast, that it was probably out of date as we were working on it. As we were writing code, we were constantly considering switching to other platforms and/or languages. They were still working on it when I left, and I don’t know when they went operational.

AW: Let’s see . . . . Switching gears completely. You married one of our classmates, Harry Brandicourt. Did you meet in school? And when did you start dating?

AB: We met the summer of youngster cruise, but didn’t really start dating until we were in Germany. Although, actually, I guess we were dating by service selection night, because he selected nuc surface [Surface Warfare Officer (nuclear)], but arranged TAD orders in Germany first before beginning his training, so he could be near me. After he returned to the states, we dated long distance. We got married when I had about six months left in that tour.

AW: And were you able to get co-located after that?

AB: Yes. We were able to arrange it so that we were both in Virginia Beach. This was definitely a compromise for both of us, because career-wise, what we each really wanted was in California. But it would have meant one of us living in Los Angeles and the other in San Diego. It just wasn’t worth it to us to live that far apart, even though technically, it would be considered co-location. Ultimately, I’m so happy I prioritized us being together over the job.

AW: Even though it wasn’t your first choice in jobs, your next assignment does sound interesting. Where did you work and what did this involve?

AB: I was at the Naval Ocean Processing Facility Dam Neck, VA, and it was an IUSS [Integrated Underseas Surveillance System] Command, with both SOSUS [Sound Surveillance System ] and SURTASS [Surveillance Towed Array Sensor System ] watch floors and facilities.

AW: Looking for submarines, then.

AB: Yes. We would receive, read, and interpret data and brief the commanding officer at least once per day. Plus, we’d coordinate with the SURTASS ships to put their arrays in the best possible location to identify and track a given submarine.

AW: I know we just scratched the surface of what you did in the navy, but I’ll try to wrap up the interview this way. You have four kids now. Have any of them entertained the idea of going to the Naval Academy?

AB: My two oldest? Definitely not. One wants to be a high school teacher, and the other, a social worker. The third said, “If nobody in this house is going to make money, I had better!”

AW: That is hilarious!

AB:  My youngest, though, occasionally talks about going to the Naval Academy. We’ll just have to see. It’s tough at only eighteen to know what you want to do. You think you know what you want to do, but you may or may not. I tell my kids that it’s cool to have an idea what to do, but it’s also good to realize it could change. And that’s totally okay.

AW: If you had to do it all over again—going to the Naval Academy—would you?

AB: I would absolutely do it again. I thought the school experience was wonderful. I learned so much I wouldn’t have learned anywhere else. All of my company-mates were great. People ask me now if it was difficult, and I say, no, it was fantastic. I grew up a lot faster than I think I would have otherwise, which I appreciate. It taught me a lot about determination and fortitude, and also how to do things I wasn’t good at. That was a hard lesson, but a good one. So yes. I’d definitely do it all again.