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News | March 27, 2019

The Women Who Keep NSA Running

By Natalie Pittore, NSA/CSS Public Affairs Officer NSA

Women of NSA, from left to right: Tammy Creighton, Kathleen Harris, Kristie Coulbourn, Carol Stylc, Judith Bonucci, Patricia Reese, and Dawn Witchey.
NSA Photographer
Women of NSA, from left to right: Tammy Creighton, Kathleen Harris, Kristie Coulbourn, Carol Stylc, Judith Bonucci, Patricia Reese, and Dawn Witchey.
Photo By: Noelle Adams
VIRIN: 190327-D-IM742-1001
There is a common saying in the Department of Defense, “logistics wins wars.” And the National Security Agency is bringing a fresh perspective to that critical component: Women. Kathy Harris, Carol Stylc, Judy Bonucci, Kristie Coulbourn, Tammy Creighton, Dawn Witchey, and Pat Reese are moving in on what has traditionally been a male-dominated field and, as Chief of Logistics, Kathy Harris puts it, “we are making sure people have what they need to do their job.” What would a day look like if Logistics did not give you what you needed to do your job? It would look a little something like: no transportation, no mail, no classified waste disposal, no fitness centers, no desktop delivery, and possibly the worst of all - no food! 

Logistics personnel are often the unsung heroes, even though the work may not be visible to all, we depend on their efforts in order to accomplish NSA’s two core missions of foreign signals intelligence and cybersecurity. So what exactly does it take to run the NSA from a logistics perspective? Here are just a few examples:

  • Oversight of the use and safety of 20,000 parking spots and 14 shuttle bus routes that service more than 50 locations just in the Washington D.C. area 
  • Securing, packing, and shipping of classified and sensitive cargo to locations all over the world This includes producing and implementing tamper-resistant mechanisms to alert to potential intrusions into our shipments - a key component to supply chain risk management
  • Tracking of more than 600,000 accountable equipment assets worldwide
  • Screening, processing, and delivery of mail - a key part of keeping the workforce safe
  • Management of employee official travel, morale activities, and cafeterias - even down to the vending machines

If these missions weren’t critical enough, Logistics also oversees another essential mission - the distribution of TA-50 gear which is the equipment that keeps deployed personnel safe in warzones. Logistics is there from the start until the end, or as Ms. Harris says, “from acquire to retire.”

Throughout the logistics life-cycle, these women dominate in what is predominately a male-led field. Thanks to support from pioneering women and the male leadership that acknowledges the value of diversity - women like Kathy, Carol, Judy, Kristie, Tammy, Dawn, and Pat are bursting through the glass ceiling to shape this field -- and they keep breaking boundaries! Kristie Coulbourn just accomplished another feat by becoming the first female Deputy Chief of Material Management which is the division that is responsible for everything from the transportation of NSA equipment and materials to the destruction of end-of-life equipment and documents. We’ll actually let you in on a little secret… …some of your everyday household necessities such as toilet paper or paper towels may have been a highly classified document in a previous life.

So how did these women do it? “We weren’t afraid to apply for the hard jobs,” says Ms. Judy Bonucci.  In a field where according to the National Center for Education Statistics, less than a third of degrees in Logistics, Materials, and Supply Chain Management are awarded to women, Ms. Stylc emphasizes that women have to be their own advocate. Sometimes this means you have to be twice as vocal, twice as tough, and twice as compassionate, which is a trait the workforce and customers are experiencing during Logistics engagements thanks to the inclusion of women in the leadership structure. Some women constantly feel threatened by being labeled negatively if they are assertive, while men are often labeled as strong leaders… and how do these women react to this: Just Be You. If you don’t fight for your position, you lose your voice and that voice is bringing passion and compassion to the mission. 

On top of “kicking it at work,” as Pat Reese’s children describe it, all of these women are leaders at home. Tammy Creighton, Chief of Employee Morale and Welfare Services describes life as having “two full-time jobs. Thanks to the flexibility and tools the agency provides our employees, you can do both.” So for the women out there that may be intimidated by the logistics field, take the advice of our female leaders, take a chance, and tell yourself, “I can do that.”