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 News Article

Army Official Credits Chance, Acceptance for Professional Success

By Amaani Lyle
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, March 26, 2015 – Fragrances of Hawaii’s yellow hibiscuses, pink cottage roses and kukui blossoms as diverse as the island’s people perhaps foretold a young woman’s journey to the mainland, where she’d find education, professional opportunities and unified strength among differences.

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Assistant Secretary of the Army for Manpower and Reserve Affairs Debra S. Wada. U.S. Army photo

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Debra S. Wada, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, told DoD News about the transition from growing up in Hawaii to working on Capitol Hill and now at the Pentagon, each experiences she said helped her understand and leverage diversity.

She described her prior position as a staff member for the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee as “fortuitous,” because she never initially sought a job there.

“I literally ran out of money and had to find a job,” Wada said. “I came to Washington to actually go to school and ended up working on Capitol Hill.”

Wada noted many people lay out blueprints for their lives that may be too stringent.

Life’s Opportunities

“You may want to get your degree … have a family, and be at certain places at certain age ranges,” Wada said. “Make sure that you’re open to things you may not have thought about.”

Wada acknowledges life’s twists and turns. “During the course of a lifetime, you may be provided opportunities that you probably never imagined even existed … and if you’re so focused on trying to achieve that timeline you set for yourself as a younger person, you may not see those opportunities in front of you.”

Still, Wada credited her mother and grandmother as anchors and mentors who helped her see the virtues of perseverance and hard work amid individual challenges.

“My mother raised three children as a single parent and my grandmother helped shaped and mold us into the individuals we are today,” said Wada, noting that any steps toward an end-state goal are successes.

And those steps, she asserts, present themselves in many forms, including as an armed services member. Wada explained that women who can’t serve in direct combat missions can still participate in missions that support combat arms -- but doors will continue to open for women in combat all the same.

She reported that the services are reviewing physical requirements to perform in Ranger positions and the Army plans to have women attend the Ranger Training Assessment Course in April.

Women in Combat

“That will help us as an institution address some of the issues that may be unique to women serving in combat arms,” Wada said. “I’m hopeful that the lessons we learn will help us integrate women into combat in a successful way.”

Wada said civilian sector and corporate realms share her philosophy of diversity for the greater good and statistics indicate organizations have proven to be more successful in overall financial performance than those that are less diverse.

“When you bring different … backgrounds, experiences and expertise,” she said, “you get a much more robust view of an issue or a problem you’re trying to tackle and oftentimes different ways of looking at solutions to those problems.”

Her personal goals during Women’s History Month are to acknowledge not only historical but current contributions of women in society.

“Thinking about the contributions we make and appreciating it in each other and in ourselves … we just do it – we show up every day, we work, we take care of kids, the house … it’s just something that has to be done.”

(Follow Amaani Lyle on Twitter: @LyleDoDNews)


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Debra S. Wada

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