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CHIPS Articles: Interview with Rear Adm. Wendi B. Carpenter

Interview with Rear Adm. Wendi B. Carpenter
Commander, Navy Warfare Development Command
By CHIPS Magazine - April-June 2011
Rear Adm. Carpenter received her commission through Aviation Officer Candidate School, Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla., in 1977 and was designated a naval aviator in July 1979. When the admiral went into the woman's pilot program, it was only a few years old; she was the 31st woman designated. Graduating at the top of her class, she was assigned as the Navy’s first Selectively Retained Graduate Instructor Pilot (SERGRAD) in the T-44 aircraft at VT-31, Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, Texas.

Carpenter left active duty and accepted a Reserve commission in February 1985. Remaining highly active in the operational Reserve force, she has accepted numerous recalls to active duty. Carpenter has held a total of five commands at the rank of commander, captain and flag, in the areas of logistics, training and aviation in fleet, joint and coalition operations, giving her a unique warfighting perspective. She has also completed numerous fleet and shore staff assignments.

Carpenter's most recent recall to active duty is her current assignment. In June 2008, she assumed command of Navy Warfare Development Command where she and her team work to deliver capability for Navy, joint and coalition forces through concept generation and development, doctrine, modeling and simulation, and experimentation.

Throughout her career, Carpenter accumulated 3,500 military flight hours. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in psychology and a master's degree in international relations.

CHIPS: The last time we talked was in August 2008, the day after your promotion and in the middle of the NWDC's move to Norfolk from Newport, R.I. Your lab, the Navy Center for Advanced Modeling and Simulation, is amazing. What makes NCAMS unique?

Carpenter: Virtually everything. Have you ever seen anything like it? The network architecture, technology and distributed nature of what we can do, as well as the incredible team, give us the ability to do Fleet Synthetic Training (FST), wargaming simulation and exercise support on behalf of our fleets. It is a unique capability resident only at NWDC. The technical ability of the engineers and the innovative team we have here is something truly special.

CHIPS: With the closure of Joint Forces Command, will NWDC take on the experimentation and modeling and simulation that Joint Forces Command performs? Will your mission expand?

Carpenter: It would be premature to talk about that as plans are just now being openly discussed and finalized, and we do not know what if anything may directly affect our NWDC team. But irrespective of JFCOM, NWDC's role continues to expand because of our ability in many areas, like doctrinal analysis for fleet and coalition operations, the NCAMS' tactical/operational ability, its command and control linkages, and our value for recommending options across the span of operations. Use of NCTE (Navy Continuous Training Environment) has increased by 75 percent in the last five years. The original intent and vision for NCTE has been long since eclipsed. There remains amazing potential.

CHIPS: I read about your participation in a panel discussion at Notre Dame in February on SouthBendTribune.com where women in combat were discussed. One of the panel members said that technology has leveled the playing field for women where physical strength might have once been a determining factor in what women could do. Now technology can compensate for any physical limitations.

Carpenter: Well, yes it has helped in many ways, but I think it is not the only reason. For example, I was recommended (by the operations officer and others in key roles in the squadron) to be a flight instructor, but I was told that I was too small. That was merely an excuse used by the commander because he was reluctant to break the paradigm. I was only the second women in that squadron, and I flew EC-130s.

When I pointed out that research and tests had shown there were 250-pound former college linebackers who couldn’t fly the airplane if the hydraulics failed (called 'boost out') — he really could not object anymore. That fact won the day, and I was allowed to be an instructor. I tell people: size doesn’t matter except in a very few specific instances; you have to fly with finesse and also use your head. Any mastery of tactical application can be achieved by anyone with the basic intelligence and drive.

When you think about diversity, recruiting women is a smart way to do business. The diminishing pool of eligible recruits for military service, due to education, fitness and other factors, makes bringing in and retaining more women a strategic business imperative. By excluding women you would eliminate 50 percent of the potential pool. We can excel in the area of the tactical applications of our profession — gender does not matter in that area; nor does it matter at the operational or strategic level. And women should be included broadly across the different communities, not just for numbers, but for the difference in thought and the way we approach decisions. You generally get a better decision by including a more diverse team.

CHIPS: Have you met Capt. Sara Joyner, the first woman carrier air wing commander, who will go to CAG-3 as the deputy CAG starting this summer?

Carpenter: Yes, she is a strong leader with a great reputation. Another tremendous leader is Rear Adm. Nora Tyson, currently in command of Carrier Strike Group Two, and the first female commander of a U.S. Navy carrier strike group.[Military] women have made a tremendous difference in Afghanistan and understanding cultural differences. Gender simulation training is being developed for many institutions to have a better understanding of culture and gender issues.

I think, very often women have a much better sense of gender and cultural differences. There is evidence to support the idea that a big part of enhancing regional security is through empowering women through education and other opportunities, such as business ownership.

CHIPS: When you visit developing countries where women don't have the same opportunities as women in the United States, what are their reactions? Are they intimidated or impressed?

Carpenter: I wouldn't say they are intimidated. I think they are very interested in how things are in this country, and the opportunities that we have. They are happy for us, but desire the same sort of freedoms. Sometimes, I don’t think we fully appreciate women’s roles in these countries. We have often been naive to the roles women play in their society and their perspective.

[For example] because of the civil wars in a number of the countries on the African continent, women stepped up to the leadership role in the home and also in areas outside the home. They have held the fabric of their societies together. Yet, they are also often the targets of warfare and terror. But they do not want to be seen as victims. They want to be helped and supported in their efforts to have a better life.

I belong to a group, Women in Aviation, International (www.wai.org/), which was established to encourage women in aviation career fields. I have belonged for about five years; probably more than 75 percent of the members are civilian.

Many of the members are men because they work to open doors for women. There are chapters in other countries as well. I was invited to speak at the opening of a chapter in South Africa by a former Navy associate and longtime friend, Trish Beckman. The CNO was very supportive of my visit there and encouraged me to take a mix of folks with me to make the visit as supportive, and the engagement as rich as possible.

We went to a number of sites to share with high-schoolers and other groups. I am in close and continued contact withmany of the women I met at the conference. We have become good friends. Facebook is our method of choice. They ask for advice and support, and they give it back. They appreciate our support, a helping hand, but not taking over. We are sisters in aviation.

The exciting thing is how these engagements and relationships spread through networking to bring other positive influence and effect. From the Facebook postings and interactions with the Southern African WAI Chapter, emerged a challenge from me to one of the folks I mentor — 1st Lt. [Chrystina] Short, United States Air Force. While deployed to Iraq over the past seven months she laid the foundation for and achieved the milestone founding a WAI Iraqi chapter, Horizon East, which opened in January 2011.

These events are a springboard for mentoring and more things that the CNO believes are important outreaches for the U.S. Navy. These organizations, like the U.S. Institute of Peace and Women in Aviation, can be powerful forces for good. CNO is scheduled to speak as the keynote at this year’s WAI conference [Feb. 24-26, 2011 in Reno, Nev.]. [Joint Chief] Adm. Mike Mullen has made visits too. He understands their importance and encourages them.

US Air Force 1st Lt. Chrystina ShortU.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Chrystina Short of 777th Expeditionary Aircraft Squadron, C-130 pilot and Horizon East president, poses in front of a C-130 at Joint Base Balad, Iraq, Jan. 8, 2011. Horizon East, the Iraq chapter of the nonprofit organization Women in Aviation, International, was started by women pilots deployed here. It works to inspire and educate Iraqi women for success in aviation careers. USAF photo.

Horizon East has worked with the U.S. State Department, Department of Transportation, Iraqi Ministry of Transportation, Iraqi and U.S. military, aviation corporations and the Iraqi Civil Aviation Authority, as well as the general public, to promote aviation opportunities for Iraqi women.

Kathryn Vernon, Department of Transportation, and U.S. Ambassador to Burkina Faso Jeanine Jackson were tremendously encouraging in the launch of Horizon East, Short said. "Rear Adm. [Wendi B.] Carpenter was instrumental in the effort with her inspiration, mentorship and constant support. She deserves a lot of the credit for making it possible," Short said in an e-mail to CHIPS Feb. 7, 2011.

It is a fitting tribute to the Centennial of Naval Aviation (CoNA), which honors the 100th anniversary of Naval Aviation, to recognize the men and women who pioneered diversity opportunities in aviation and furthered the field of aviation, as well as to recognize new frontiers and trailblazers.

CoNA underscores the commitment to sustaining a Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard that wins wars, protects the home front and enables peace. Naval Air Forces are strong because of the support of its service members, their families and the American public. The celebration of Naval Aviation honors America and assures America and its allies that their security is guaranteed by a strong Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard team.

For more information about the Centennial of Naval Aviation and events in celebration of CoNA, go to www.public.navy.mil/airfor/centennial/.



CHIPS: Do you want to share anything else about NCAMS?

Carpenter: This is an incredible facility. I kid around and say I want to move my office into the main area here because I love technology and the Star Wars sort of feel. My daughter, Rachel, who knows her mom is a 'geek wanna-be,' calls it the 'central command room.' It does look like something out of Star Wars or Battlestar Galactica, doesn’t it? We have an incredible team with technical know-how and vision; everyone was so diligent to make it right. It represents amazing capabilities for the Navy — a capability that exists because of the brainpower, hard work, devotion and loyalty of the team.

I really admire the technical ability of the engineers here. The director Todd Morgan and deputy director Darrel Morben have immense technical ability, but are outstanding leaders and visionaries, and know how to capture the strengths of the team. I am awed by this incredible and phenomenal facility and the team's ability. I am just privileged they let me hang out with them. I did make a few changes to the facility (it is the interior designer in me). NCAMS is among the finest weapons systems available to the Navy – truly a 'system of systems' with its full potential yet to be realized. The brainpower and energy demonstrated here every day are a marvel to me.

We held an Innovation Summit a few weeks ago with 160 people in attendance. [These events] will do much across the Navy to increase the ability to innovate even further. And this is the place (NWDC) where I think there is the real nexus for this work to be integrated and fully developed on behalf of the Navy and the nation.

For more information about Navy Warfare Development Command, go to http://www.navy.mil/local/nwdc/ or contact the public affairs office at (757) 341-4258.

TAGS: Workforce
Rear Adm. Wendi B. Carpenter
Rear Adm. Wendi B. Carpenter

(Feb. 4, 2011) NORFOLK, Va. Navy Warfare Development Command's Navy Center for Advanced Modeling and Simulation. NCAMS is a 10,000 square-foot, state-of-the-art modeling and simulation facility completed in June 2010. It supports fleet training, readiness, exercise support and wargaming, as well as Navy concept generation and experimentation, with high-fidelity simulation. The NCAMS synthetic battlespace is a behaviorally accurate, dynamic environmental model used by the Navy, joint forces and coalition partners. Photos by Holly Quick/SPAWARSYSCEN Atlantic.
(Feb. 4, 2011) NORFOLK, Va. Navy Warfare Development Command's Navy Center for Advanced Modeling and Simulation.

NCAMS is a 10,000 square-foot, state-of-the-art modeling and simulation facility completed in June 2010. It supports fleet training, readiness, exercise support and wargaming, as well as Navy concept generation and experimentation, with high-fidelity simulation. The NCAMS synthetic battlespace is a behaviorally accurate, dynamic environmental model used by the Navy, joint forces and coalition partners. Photos by Holly Quick/SPAWARSYSCEN Atlantic.
NCAMS is a 10,000 square-foot, state-of-the-art modeling and simulation facility completed in June 2010. It supports fleet training, readiness, exercise support and wargaming, as well as Navy concept generation and experimentation, with high-fidelity simulation. The NCAMS synthetic battlespace is a behaviorally accurate, dynamic environmental model used by the Navy, joint forces and coalition partners. Photos by Holly Quick/SPAWARSYSCEN Atlantic.

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