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CHIPS Articles: Women's History Month: Commander Erin Acosta

Women's History Month: Commander Erin Acosta
Careers with a purpose: Oceanography
By Defense Media Activity - March 15, 2016
Commander Erin Acosta

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

A: I joined to serve my country, help pay for college, and see the world.

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

A: I have many mentors and role models that have influenced me or served as valuable touch stones in my life. When I showed up to my first ship, my Chief, BMC Randy Arthur, had been in the Navy longer than I had been alive!

I wouldn't be the officer I am today if it weren't for his patience, mentorship, training, and advice on how to be a leader and how to take care of my Sailors. My Commanding Officer of the ship, now RDML C. [Cynthia] Thebaud, serves as one of my role models exemplifying strength, perseverance, and how to be the very best you can be at every job, wherever the Navy takes you.

VADM N. [Nora] Tyson was my Strike Group Commander. She taught me how to lead with humility and truth, the importance of treating others with respect and decency, and the importance of finding work-life balance. I had the pleasure of serving with and for RADM D. [DeWolfe] Miller twice. He taught me the importance of vision and guidance, of empowering our people, of providing proper resources to accomplish the mission, and of the power of positivity and high energy. Serving as RADM J. White's Executive Assistant, he showed me subtle and not so subtle nuances of Command and of how to be a Commander.

One of my mentors, CAPT A. J. Reiss, embodies servant leadership. Most importantly, the Sailors I've come across throughout my career have an energy and creativity that not only keeps this organization going and accomplishes the mission, but inspires me every day to be a better leader.

I've also found role models in places I never would have thought. While volunteering at a U.S. Embassy-sponsored English Discussion Group in Djibouti, I met an orphaned young Somali teenager who asked if I spoke a second language. When I answered "no" with the explanation that learning a secondary language is hard for me, he responded by saying the only thing "hard" is my mind; that anything is achievable with hard work, discipline, and dedication. Simply put — humbling.

I sponsor a young Ugandan boy through a Christian organization and was blessed to actually meet him. He showed me what it is like to find joy and fulfillment in life without material "things." He has so little yet has so much wealth.

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 mom and dad. They have and continue to encourage me every day of my life. They were always there for me growing up, cheerleading at my many activities, dusting me off if I fell (or failed), and encouraging me to look bigger, be bigger. You can't succeed if you don't even try! Set high goals and work towards them! Mom filled me with all the dreams of the world.

Dad showed me the value of hard work and a little elbow grease.

Not a person, but the United States Naval Academy certainly developed me morally, mentally, and physically to levels I never thought a young girl from Pennsylvania could achieve. Growing up, I was the preverbal "big fish in a little sea." From Plebe Summer Induction Day forward, no longer true.

I was "average," if not slightly below. I reached a crossroads at the end of freshman year. I was struggling with my grades, struggling with professional naval knowledge, struggling with finding success in Division I athletics, struggling with myself. I could have quit. It was almost easier to. Instead I decided to set goals and look forward, to use USNA's resources, to find help and mentors, and to work hard to reach and achieve each and every goal by graduation. I never thought I would excel to the levels I did given the appropriate amount of resource availability, push, support, opportunities, and caliber of peers and role models.

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

A: I've enjoyed every assignment in the Navy and I've had fun. As a SWO I learned what the Navy truly is and what leading Sailors is truly about.

Following September 11th, 2001, I experienced the Navy's and our nation's global reach and power projection ashore. In Rota Spain, my first tour as an Oceanography Officer, I learned the science and product support I now lead today.

Graduate School provided theory behind my science and promoted problem solving. As an Associate Fellow on the CNO's Strategic Studies Group, I learned to think differently, to challenge assumptions, to broaden my perspective. Djibouti (CTF-HOA) showed me a different world, introduced me to Africa and its wonders, and was the first time I was on my own as a leader, empowered to make recommendations directly to the operational commander and to lead my small team of forecasters.

As part of the Carrier Strike Group TWO staff, I got to go to sea again! While attached to CSG2, my father would tell you that my deployment to Haiti following the January 2010 earthquake changed me. The decimation certainly had a lasting impact on me, but the local population's resilience was more powerful. The exposure to "Big Navy" during my time as a Requirements Officer and Executive Assistant at the Pentagon is unmatched and matured me as a naval professional. Commander Command, my awesome Sailors, and my mission are all beyond compare.

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

A: Servant leadership. Vision and guidance. Competence. Experience. Decision-making. It means providing the necessary resources and knowledge base to and for my Sailors for mission accomplishment and to achieve professional and personal success. It also now means growth to me. As a Commanding Officer, I have never been more challenged or placed out of my comfort zone quite so frequently. That's a good thing. I lead and I am being led as well. An individual can never stop learning and growing!

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

Cmdr. Erin Acosta
Cmdr. Erin Acosta

Collage of photos of Cmdr. Erin Acosta
Collage of photos of Cmdr. Erin Acosta
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