Welcome to a special edition of “Who in the World of CHA?” As you know, in November we celebrate Veterans Day and honor all those who have served our nation in one of our extraordinary military branches. You may also know CHA was founded by and is largely comprised of veterans. So this month we ‘d like to take a little time to highlight one of our veterans who has been both a proud member of the United States Navy and a dedicated CHA employee for 10 years…and is one of the many reasons we have been able to accomplish all that we have.

Gretchen, Gretch, or just G, is our program manager for Manpower, Personnel, and Training Analysis and is celebrating her 10-year CHA anniversary this month. She joined the United States Navy right out of high school and spent 25½ years serving our country with distinction, retiring in 2009 as a Master Chief Petty Officer. Gretchen felt the need to do something meaningful with her life from an early age and military service is almost a family tradition, given how many generations of her family have served. Why Navy? It also goes back to that family tradition: most members of her family have been proud Navy Sailors. While a tiny piece of her may have been eager to leave home and experience the world, naval service was her passion and her calling. And she loved every minute of it, especially serving alongside all her fellow Sailors. If you ask her, she’ll tell you it was hands down one of the best decisions she’s ever made and that she’d do it all over again. Service before self runs strong in her veins.

If you do the math, you’ll realize that Gretchen started her CHA career shortly after retiring her naval uniform. We asked her which qualities or skills she gained through military service helped her most in transitioning to the civilian workforce. “I think military service really gives one a unique sense of self and how one fits in as a functional and integral part of something bigger,” she said. The attention to detail, teamwork, work ethic, loyalty, and can-do attitude necessary to be successful in the military transfer over to the civilian world as well. The ability to focus and turn in a quality product is just as essential. Gretchen has taken the skills she learned in the Navy, along with that can-do attitude, and given her all at CHA. We’re lucky to benefit from all she’s learned along the way.

Since we are commemorating Veterans Day this month, we asked Gretchen to reflect on what it means to her to be a veteran and what it means to have a day set aside to honor those who have served. Gretchen sees her military service as a privilege. “I got to be a part of something great and was able to do more in a relatively short period of time than most will do in their lifetime,” she said. She was privileged to serve with and work with some outstanding people in her naval career who saw their service in the same light. She and those with whom she served were allowed to wear the cloth of their nation and make a difference. Freedom isn’t free, Gretchen insisted, so taking a moment to honor those who sacrifice for that freedom is important.

There is a sense of camaraderie in the military. You are more than colleagues; you truly do become family. It is a unique experience that you cannot get in a civilian setting. You learn that it’s not about you, but about something bigger than you. And you are working alongside others who come to that same realization. As cliché as it sounds, military service makes you a better citizen and gives you a vast family structure that will support you for a lifetime. Gretchen has many special memories of her naval career, all centered around those she now calls family. Memories as simple as drinking coffee with her watch team, the friends she made in boot camp, hours spent training and preparing for every possibility, and even watching “Oh Brother Where Art Thou” on the flight deck during a transit through the straits of Messina. As she says, “My favorite memory is all those wonderful faces and all those wonderful people. They made everything worthwhile.”

It’s a sentiment she’s carried with her into her time at CHA. When asked about her favorite thing about CHA is she responded – characteristically – with, “The people here make the job worthwhile.” Lest you think Gretchen is a serious person, we must disclose that her favorite CHA memory is of dressing up as Pac-Man and running through the halls of CHA on Halloween. Or maybe it’s the time she dressed up as the Wicked Witch of the West and ran through the halls with her monkey. Running through the halls is kind of her thing. Though Halloween has recently passed, next time you’re in our office try to catch up with Gretchen in the hallways and ask what she dressed up as this year. Or talk to her about how she’s continued her life of service by joining a company where she can continue to make a difference and support our Sailors in their service. Either way, you’re guaranteed to have a great conversation just so long as you can run and talk!

And for all those who have served our country through military service, we at CHA salute you.