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Blazing a Path to the Top

Robin Braun

Rear Admiral, U.S. Navy

1977 Bachelor of Arts

Northern Arizona University alumna Robin (Rumble) Braun has accomplished more in her life than most people ever dream of. President Obama recently nominated her for promotion to Vice Admiral and Chief of the Navy Reserve. If confirmed by the Senate, Braun would be the first female leader of the 65,000 member Navy Reserve.

She's broken the gender barrier in other ways, too; she is one of only five female Naval aviators to ever reach the flag officer ranks. Currently, she works in Stuttgart, Germany, as the Deputy Director of Operations, U. S. European Command. Before that, she worked in Washington, D.C. on the staff of the Chief of Naval Operations. There, she was a key leader in ensuring that the Navy maintains a global advantage in the realms of intelligence, information warfare, space systems operations, and other critical areas.

An accomplished pilot, Braun has flown missions literally all over the world-she has delivered Navy SEALS for special operations, and moved sailors and supplies to destinations as diverse as Greenland tundras and Malaysian jungles. And according to Braun, her undergraduate experiences played in a key role in preparing her for a remarkable life.

"I'd highlight three areas from my time at NAU that gave me a solid foundation for the future," she says. "First, I received a rigorous liberal arts education from great professors who took an interest in me and made me excited about learning. Second, I was involved in extracurricular activities that enabled me to learn a lot about leadership, teamwork, and follow-through. Third, I was surrounded by inspirational adult role models who were my teachers, administrators, advisors, and employers on campus."

After she graduated, Braun put the lessons she learned to solid use. As the daughter of a career Navy pilot, she had a lifetime interest in aviation; after she joined the Navy in 1979, Braun became a pioneer.

"I already knew quite a bit about the Navy lifestyle since my dad had served for 30 years, so when I read that the Navy had opened flight training to women, I decided to talk with a recruiter," says Braun. "About a year after beginning the process, I was notified I'd been selected to begin Officer Candidate School and Flight Training."

According to Braun, there have been significant changes to women's roles in the Navy during the time that she has served. In an environment where women were barred from service for so long, Braun says that great advances have occurred during the past three decades.

"Many, many things have changed for women in the military over the past 30 years," says Braun. "Most significant were the 1992 Defense Authorization Act that repealed the long-standing combat exclusion law for women. So, while I was not allowed to be assigned to a combat squadron as a young officer, today our female aviators are flying missions over Iraq and Afghanistan in every type of combat aircraft. Women command ships, squadrons and bases, and of course the Navy recently opened the submarine community to women. The opportunities have increased significantly over the years, and it's been a privilege to watch women succeed in challenging leadership positions in our military."

During her distinguished career, Braun has had the opportunity to serve in a number of capacities. She has been around the world, with "exciting experiences too numerous to mention" in places like Hong Kong, Beijing, Paris, Sydney, and Santiago. But, she says, one of her most memorable service experiences occurred during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

"I was serving aboard the USS Iwo Jima, at the pier in New Orleans, where we provided command and control, electricity, communications, water, and meals to those assisting in the recovery effort," says Braun. "The following year, the Navy assigned me to a job in New Orleans, so I moved to the area for a little over a year. I thoroughly enjoyed living there and helping the resilient and determined people of New Orleans rebuild their city."

Even though she has gone on to great things, Braun remains connected to the NAU community. She returned to Flagstaff for a special Veteran's celebration during the 2009 Homecoming festivities. It was wonderful, Braun says, seeing many of her old friends and mentors. And, as she considers the opportunities available to today's graduates, she advises them to take away some of the same lessons that she did.

"My advice to young people coming out of college is to dream big and stay focused on your goals," Braun says. "Find a career field that you are passionate about. Look for mentors that can steer you in the right direction, and can help you attain your goals."