Jan. 4, 2018 —
Luann McNaney - Retired Office Manager and Receptionist for Admiral Michael Rogers, the Director of the NSA
Nearly forty years ago, a high school student boarded a yellow school bus to a location in Linthicum, Maryland to take a battery of tests to determine if she was qualified to work at one of the country's most prestigious intelligence agencies. And after rounds of interviews and polygraphs, Luann McNaney was offered a position to join a cadre of intelligence professionals at the National Security Agency (NSA). At that moment, Luann knew she found her career but what she didn't know was that she would climb the ladder of success to retire as the Office Manager and Receptionist for Admiral Michael Rogers, the Director of the NSA.
As Luann reflects on her 36 ½ years at the NSA, she remembers nights early in her career when she worked in the basement of the Operations building on a 24 hour watchfloor. "My coworkers and I would venture up to the C-Suite floor just to see if the toilet paper was softer - it wasn't." These late night jaunts served as hints to where her career would take her 25 years later. What started as a rotational shift to help support General Keith Alexander's office turned into a decade of service demanding steady thirteen hour days, weekend work, and deep networks that extended across the globe.
Luann, or "Red" as one of Admiral Rogers's military aides nicknamed her because like the character in Shawshank Redemption she can acquire even the most obscure requests for colleagues in need, assumed her current role in 2007 serving two Four Star Directors during critical times such as the institution of U.S. Cyber Command and the operation that resulted in the killing of Usama Bin Laden. In fact, Luann spent May 2, 2011 hand carrying envelope after envelope to General A (as he is known throughout the Agency) without knowledge of what was transpiring. It wasn't until she was at home that night watching the news that she realized she had done her part to support the operation that resulted in the killing of one of the world's most notorious terrorists. As she thinks back to that day she says, "I feel that I did my part. That I served."
So what was it like for Luann to serve two Four Star General Officers? "It was a privilege and easily the best job I ever had, even though the job wasn't easy." Luann's days consisted of a revolving door of visitors that ranged from Agency subject matter experts to the Secretary of Defense. Her role demanded she be polished and poised to remain calm and collected so that everything kept moving at the pace required of a Director's staff. Luann was the light in the darkest of times for the team she supported when in 2013 NSA suffered a power outage that required she coordinate General Alexander's demanding schedule... literally in the dark.
And despite supporting terrorist takedowns and major power outages, Luann managed to raise two sons and be the first in her family to earn her Bachelor's degree. She remembers sitting at baseball games cheering on her boys while working on research papers. "I think it's where my boys get their strong work ethic. I know I inherited it from my dad," Luann commented. Her boys are an even higher sense of pride for her, especially as a mom who raised two police officers-- the eldest, Corporal Sean McNaney, even shares in his mom's sense of duty as a police officer at NSA. Luann will surely tear up as she is presented her retirement flag that was flown over the agency she so proudly served by her son and his wife, Sgt. Jaclyn McNaney, also a police officer at NSA.
So, you have to ask, was the sacrifice worth it? When asked, Luann responded without hesitation, "Absolutely. I remember when Admiral Rogers invited me to visit our wounded warriors. He knew that is a passion of mine and what I hope to do after I retire. Walking around and seeing the impact of someone like him taking his time to visit the women and men that sacrificed so much meant the world to them and to me." In fact, Admiral Rogers even attended the funeral of Luann's mother Shirley. "It meant so much to me. I know my mom felt honored as well."
Luann is one of those hidden figures that enables NSA to accomplish its mission. She dedicated her life to protecting this nation and at end of the day she says it was the people that motivated her. Her parting advice, "Treat everyone the same- whether they are custodians or Three Star Generals because all of them are putting their hearts into this." Thank you Luann for putting your heart into this.