An Employee Spotlight on COL Debra Daniels, ECBC Military Deputy, Army Soldier, and artist.
Who or what inspired you to have a career in the military?
My father was in the Army, so I was raised with that sense of pride and service. I received a scholarship through an Army ROTC program and intended to serve for a few years – but here I am in my 26th year, still with the same sense of pride and service that I had at the beginning of my career.
What is your role as Military Deputy to the ECBC Director?
As the Military Deputy, one of my main duties is to articulate how the Center supports the Warfighter to sustain, survive and win in the CBRNE world. It is important to translate the Soldiers’ needs and communicate those to the engineers and scientists as they develop the products and solutions that prepare Soldiers for CBRNE missions.
How do you stay connected to the Warfighters?
By communicating to the Army what ECBC does for the Soldier – and that the Center does is more than just protective masks! It includes filters, decon kits and other equipment that the Soldier might not need to reach for every day in the field, but by explaining the breadth and depth of expertise of the scientists and engineers who work here to ensure the Soldiers understand that when they do need to reach for protective equipment, they can do so with confidence that they are protected.
What attracted you to this position?
On my last deployment to Afghanistan, I was looking for a position in the Washington, D.C. area when I returned. This position was on the list of possible assignment. While reviewing the assignment list, since I had never heard of ECBC, I discussed this position with peers and even subordinates and received words of caution and concern based on ECBC’s mission. I took this as an opportunity to work in a new area and also as a good sign that there must be very effective personnel with the safety protocols in place based on the mission; and of course, I found this to be true since my arrival. The strong emphasis on safety has helped the Center maintain the nation’s trust as it handles such hazardous and deadly materiel.
Do you have any advice for young women who are early in their careers?
Don’t listen to the naysayers – follow your passion and be sure to research and understand what it takes to succeed in that career field. Seek out a mentor whose career you admire and ask them how they became successful.
What has been the most challenging part of being a female in a male-dominated field?
I sometimes find that people can be more challenging than the Army’s mission; I thrive when people discourage me. I am proud to say that the Army provides the same standards for both male and female Soldiers with clear standards expected in each career field. The criteria for promotion in the Army are based on your skill, overall manner of performance and needs of the Army. I have succeeded not based on gender but on training, and performance that led to positions of increasing responsibility (and discouragement). In my first assignment, I was a Platoon Leader in the 18th Engineer Brigade in Germany; I was in charge of a 40-person platoon that was all male. I was one of several female officers assigned to the unit for the first time, making it a time of great change for the Corps of Engineers. My Platoon Sergeant, SFC Jeffery Kiper, was emphatic that I was thoroughly trained to be a platoon leader and knew everything about the Soldiers, the engineer equipment, our construction mission and the Army; he ensured that I was trained and expected me to be the best platoon leader in the battalion, regardless of my gender, and I was. He was aware of the challenges facing me, but focused on overcoming gender and race distractions by training and preparing me to ensure I was competent, confident and capable to handle any challenge.
What are your hobbies outside of work?
I have many “relaxation” hobbies – I love to draw and paint, and I’m also an avid amateur photographer. I also enjoy traveling and reading novels, especially detective mysteries.