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Senior executive says farewell

REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. - U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command's Deputy to the Commander Julie Schumacher will say farewell to the command during a ceremony Oct. 25, 2016 at the Von Braun III auditorium at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama. (U.S. Army photo by Carrie E. David)

REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. - U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command's Deputy to the Commander Julie Schumacher will say farewell to the command during a ceremony Oct. 25, 2016 at the Von Braun III auditorium at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama. (U.S. Army photo by Carrie E. David)

REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. --
Next week, U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command will say farewell to the first woman to serve as the command’s deputy to the commander.

After a nearly 20-year career in government service, Julie Schumacher, Deputy to the Commander of USASMDC/ARSTRAT, is departing the organization and federal service during a ceremony Oct. 25.

As the senior civilian in the command, Schumacher provides leadership for space and missile defense capability development, acquisition, cybersecurity and resource management. She previously served as the director of SMDC’s Technical Center where she managed the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Test Site at the U.S. Army Garrison-Kwajalein Atoll, and research and development projects such as high energy lasers, small satellites and hypersonics. Her first Senior Executive Service position was deputy director for Test at the Missile Defense Agency where she led planning and execution of the Ballistic Missile Defense test program.

Government service was not the career she had planned, but it became a calling she could not ignore.

“I was a school teacher right out of college but I was drawn to national defense work,” Schumacher said. “After I went back to school to get an engineering degree at UAH, I was working for a defense contractor and had the opportunity to go to work for the government, in the program office that I was supporting at the time, the (Program Executive Office for Air and Missile Defense) Arrow Project Office. I enjoyed working as a contractor, but I wanted to be more on the front end of decisions. While each side has its own benefits, the government offered the type of leadership opportunities and training that I wanted at that time.”

As she answered the calling to support national defense, the example of selfless service to the nation her parents provided was a model on which she would pattern her career.

“My dad was an Army Korean War veteran,” Schumacher said. “He came home and went to work as a machinist in a lab here on the Arsenal – in particular working on the Pershing missile. He then left government service to farm, first cotton and then dairy, with his father.

“My mom worked for the Army Ballistic Missile Agency and then became a charter employee of NASA Marshall Space Flight Center where she supported the German rocket team, and stayed there for 36 years,” she added. “I saw my mom balance work and family and learned a lot from her. She is my biggest fan.”

With a strong family support system, particularly from her husband, Dan, as they raised their two children, she was able to achieve leadership positions at all levels of her profession.

Schumacher said she has fond memories from her government career, many revolving around flight testing and working interoperability between U.S. and Israeli missile defense systems. She also remembers when she got a call while in Israel asking her to step up and be the program manager for US-Israel Cooperative Programs at the Missile Defense Agency.

“This was my first big leadership position. I felt honored, excited but scared all at the same time, because I wasn’t a ‘program manager,’ I was an ‘engineer.’ But my leaders pushed me to get out of my comfort zone,” Schumacher said. “As it turns out, the decision to accept that position set me on the path I’ve been on the last nine years and led to being selected for the Senior Executive Service. I’ve shared this story with people I mentor to stress that broadening and stretch assignments are important steps in professional development.”

She said she is grateful to those who helped her along the way, and she is often asked to share her own advice to those aspiring to be in leadership positions.

“My advice is to lead where you are, even if you are not in an official leadership position,” Schumacher said. “Volunteer to lead projects and teams. This experience will help you be more competitive as new leadership positions become available. Always do your best work to demonstrate your technical competence. Work in different organizations, take on challenging assignments and seek out the advice of mentors.”

Schumacher said that coming from the acquisition community she enjoyed getting an operational perspective from SMDC and working around Soldiers.

“I’ve come to appreciate Army-specific challenges and will always consider the service and operational perspective in whatever I do in the future,” she said. “SMDC is such a complex and diverse command and plays a critical role not only in the Army, but across the Department of Defense. I will continue to be an ambassador for SMDC/ARSTRAT and help the community understand the mission and its strategic relevance.”

Although she hasn’t decided what the next adventure will be, Schumacher said she still wants to serve and will likely end up back in the defense community in the future.

“After taking a short break, I will do some consulting while I decide on my long-term plan. I’m looking forward to spending more time with family and taking some trips, especially before my son leaves for college next fall.

I’ve enjoyed my government career and will miss many things - people most of all. I never accomplished anything alone. Everything was part of a team with incredibly talented and dedicated people. I’m proud of what we accomplished together and am grateful for the friendships I’ll carry with me.”

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