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CHIPS Articles: Women’s History Month: Commander Jillene Bushnell

Women’s History Month: Commander Jillene Bushnell
Careers with a purpose: Oceanography
By Defense Media Activity - March 17, 2016
Commander Jillene Bushnell

Q: Why did you decide to join/serve the Navy?

A: I became interested in joining the military in high school. I had wanted to fly military aircraft and thought the challenge would be amazing. Originally I had planned to apply for AOCS; while attending California Polytechnic University, Congress changed the law allowing women to fly in combat and I transferred to the Naval Academy, receiving my commission this way instead. I continue to serve in the Navy because I believe in America's freedom and rule of law, and love the comradery that comes with my career.

Q: Who have your role models or mentors been that have influenced you or helped to guide you?

A: My life has been full of role models — some people have shown me great traits to emulate, and others have shown me traits to not duplicate. My parents were my first mentors, as they taught me to be a citizen and to follow the Golden Rule; they showed me that hard work and determination go a long way in life.

My grandmother (Nana) is the person I respect the most, as she persevered through great adversity; she showed me humility, responsibility, and to never let anything stand in the way of doing the right thing. She took care of people, to include taking in foster children several times, as well as being the care-taker for her middle daughter after a car accident had left her brain damaged and quadriplegic.

Q: Please tell us a story about someone, perhaps in your family or otherwise, who has influenced you or challenged you to become more than you ever thought you might.

A: My sister, and some healthy rivalry between us, has always challenged me to be better. Unknowingly, as a younger sibling by two and a half years, I sought to keep up with her in every aspect of development. When she learned to read, I couldn't wait to do the same. When she learned her math facts, I listened to catch on. When fitness became a passion of hers, I followed suit. In true competitive spirit, I wanted to excel and exceed every milestone that she accomplished.

So, as kids we frequented a river in California called the Stanislaus. There were towering rocks over a raging river which pooled in certain places deep enough to jump from a 20 foot cliff into the icy cold river below. One day, when I was about 11 years-old, "the big kids" were jumping off and as the youngest I was dared to dive into the water instead of the traditional feet first stance. Emboldened by one-upping my sister, I dove...except I hadn't had my Navy training yet to tell me that streamlining my hands (instead of breaking the water with my fists) was the wrong approach. The headache that followed taught me a good lesson about not always having to show you are better...and I am reminded of my greatest mentor above, Nana, who laughed at me and told me that this was an exercise in humility.

Q: Please tell us which past assignments are the most memorable to you and why.

A: Perhaps it is hokey, but I have not had a "most remarkable" assignment, as every tour has been uniquely provocative, educational, exciting, difficult, and I have really enjoyed all of my time in the U.S. Navy. Naval Aviation Training was remarkable in its complexity and thoroughness. Carrier aviation, 'the boat,' the friends, the professionalism, the flying — all scream incredible.

The Naval Post Graduate School, the professors, the students, the education — all second to none. Deploying as the Staff Oceanographer with a team of top notch Aerographers, working side by side with the other great Naval Service (USMC), learning about Surface Warfare while qualifying Officer of the Deck Underway and Tactical Action Officer, and getting to take my dad on a Tiger Cruise — unbelievable that I get paid to do this.

Working on the FIFTHFLT staff, coalescing operational weather with intelligence to inform the Fleet and Task Force Commanders, partnering with coalition partners to survey (oceanographic) their territorial waters, living and travelling overseas - pinch me. Directly reporting to the Oceanographer and Navigator of the Navy, leading the direction of the new equipment being procured for the next generation of Sailors, and seeing how "the business" of the Navy works under the head Information Professional — there is no better job...until the next one!

Q: What does being a leader in the Navy mean to you?

A: The answers above show you how I derive my opinion. Leadership is in everyone. Whether you recognize that you are mentoring or being a role model, there is always someone learning from you. A good leader, in all walks of life, takes responsibility for doing the right thing even when no one is watching; is humble even when continuing to do their best; takes care of the people in their sphere of influence; learns from the people they lead and look up to; and works harder than their followers. Positional authority alone does not make you a leader; leadership is earned, practiced, and continuously seen throughout the ranks of the U.S. Navy.

Reprinted from the U.S. Navy’s All Hands Magazine:

Women's History Month banner featuring U.S. Navy Commander Jillene Bushnell
Collage of photos of U.S. Navy Commander Jillene Bushnell
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