DON'T WORRY about that swooshing sound you can occasionally hear at 5:30 a.m. in the swimming pool on the Dahlgren naval base.Ok. I'll work for GE instead. At least there you could afford to hire a nice Polish Au Pair to take raise your three kids - because with both parents working those hours, someone has too. Might as well buy the very best.
That's just the first female commander in the 89-year history of the base's Naval Surface Warfare Center doing her indoor laps.
Hitting the road from her Prince William County home at 4:15 a.m. is part of the morning drill for 47-year-old Sheila Patterson, who followed her interest in sports to the Naval Academy just two years after women were first admitted.
Despite the eye-opening schedule for Patterson, a self-described "morning person," some things in her Navy life haven't stayed strictly on schedule.
For example, there was that plan to put in seven years of service in the Navy after the academy, and then focus on raising the family. The two boys and one girl arrived ahead of schedule.
So Patterson has made a career of it, rising in May to the command of a 2,800-person center of scientists, engineers and sailors who have become, in Sen. John Warner's words, "one of the crown jewels of American defense."
Active in sports, especially swimming and crew, she avoided some of that first-year hazing by earning a seat at an athletes' table.
She's still pushing the athletic limits, including some recent golf lessons. Patterson has occasionally played in a Dahlgren "men's league"--from the men's tees.
During a recent chat in her office on the Dahlgren base, Patterson leafed through that day's to-do list, the short-term to-do list and the long-term to-do list.
Then there are those weekly menu lists at home, where Patterson cooks dinner Monday through Thursday. Friday is eat-out night with her husband, Bill, a retired naval officer who works for a contractor in Northern Virginia.
Quick with a laugh, Patterson doesn't let the lists get in the way of her people connections. She describes her management style as "participative," and is OK with important meetings running long, provided they don't waste time. Surrounded by "smart people," she invites department heads to key meetings with private-sector contractors.
The other day, Patterson's meetings stretched from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., with three half-hour breaks.
CAPT, nothing personal here. You are a great officer, administrator, and engineer, but ... Head of Surface Warfare Center? Any discussion of finding someone for the job with personal experience in Surface Warfare like PRAYING MANTIS, TLAM in ODF, OIF, OEF? Anti-piracy? You know, someone to bring the operational perspective to Surface Warfare decision making leadership - something we can, hopefully, state is sorely needed? Perhaps a different perspective to break the habits that have created many of the problems we have right now in the Fleet? Ummm, guess not.
If we could just break the Millington Diktat - there are some great CAPT coming off Major Command at Sea that would be perfect for the job - who will know the real issues in the Fleet because they have had to deal with them up front and personal. Another lost opportunity for Big Navy, methinks.
Move along. Nothing to see here. Move along. More important things to talk about,
...someone who's also making gender history...