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Matice Wright's Story: Taking Responsibility for American Soldiers and Sailors

As part of the Celebrating Black History Month series, Matice Wright, Principal Director for Industrial Policy at the Department of Defense, shares the lessons about responsibility she learned from her days as a Navy pilot.

Ed. Note: This post is part of the Celebrating Black History Month series, which highlights African Americans from across the Administration whose work contributes to the President's goals for winning the future.

I grew up in Annapolis, Maryland about 2 miles from the main gate of the United States Naval Academy. My parents taught me at a very young age to be responsible for my actions. They taught me that in order to pursue the big things that I wanted in life, I needed to work hard and be responsible for the little things that I wanted in life. Needless to say when I arrived at the Naval Academy for plebe summer, the values that my parents emphasized about responsibility were greatly reinforced every single day in both the big things and the little things that made up the curriculum at the Naval Academy. 

I attended the Naval Academy because I wanted to serve my country and I dreamed of flying airplanes.  I earned my wings and I am recognized as the Navy's first African American female Naval Flight Officer. I stand on the shoulders of many African Americans that donned a uniform and flew before me like General Chappie James and Vice Admiral Walt Davis. In my aircraft, I was responsible for a significant part of the overall mission. I worked hard to carry out my responsibilities because in that environment not being responsible for ones actions could easily result in the death of a friend or millions of dollars of damaged flight equipment.

After leaving active duty, I entered the private sector where my responsibilities quickly shifted from aircraft missions to providing very specific needs for my clients. I earned an MBA from Johns Hopkins University to assist with my transition from the military. As a business woman, my responsibilities were essential to ensuring that the sailors and soldiers that would receive my company's products and services understood how to effectively use those products and services. I worked hard to pay attention to the small things to ensure that the big things that my clients needed would be properly delivered.

Currently I serve as the Principal Director in the Office of Industrial Policy. Before accepting this appointment at the Department of Defense, I served as a White House Fellow and I also earned an MPA from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. The many responsibilities required to fulfill both of those dreams were tremendous. But fulfilling those dreams have prepared me well to assume the duties that I am responsible for now. I do not under estimate my current responsibilities. I have to ensure that the sailors and soldiers that defend our great nation every minute of every day are able to depend on the companies that make up the defense industrial base. And those companies assume a tremendous responsibility to meet the war fighters needs.

During the State of the Union address, the President stated that "America has been the story of ordinary people who dare to dream. That's how we win the future."  I am an ordinary person that dared to dream. I believe in ordinary people and the Defense Department has been and continues to be a wonderful place to fulfill ones dreams. My dreams have led me to accept numerous responsibilities that have allowed me to serve my country in amazing ways. As the Principal Director of Industrial Policy, I am honored to serve both my active duty colleagues while simultaneously working with private companies that make up the defense industrial base.

My parents taught me a long time ago to be responsible for the small things today to ensure that I can continue to do big things tomorrow. To win in the future is something that we all must be responsible for. And today at the Department of Defense under Secretary Gates' leadership, I continue to dream as I proudly work with my colleagues to accept these great responsibilities.

Matice Wright is the Principal Director for Industrial Policy at the Department of Defense.