Weapons Division employee honored for 40 years of service
By DESIREE JONES, China Lake Public Affairs
Four days before Christmas 1990, Sharon Goad found herself flexing, once again, to military life. Holiday plans were canceled as her husband, Steve, packed up to deploy aboard USS America in support of Desert Storm.
The interruption was not new. Before Goad was a Navy wife, she was the daughter of a Navy jet mechanic who moved her every other year until eighth grade.
She knew what it was to leave on short notice and start over on military bases in California, Florida, Rhode Island, Texas and Virginia.
Moving as a kid was tough, she said, but harder as an adult, constantly re-establishing her home, her job and herself.
That winter of 1990, Goad worked at Commander Naval Base Norfolk as a computer and information technology specialist. It was a job she really loved, a treat after nearly 20 years of taking whatever government jobs were available to a military spouse.
She worked at the world’s most populous naval station at an interesting time in technology development. Computers were networking and more capable, Internet service providers were opening doors to the World Wide Web and satellites made it possible for Goad and her co-workers to watch Operation Desert Storm happen live on CNN.
Watching war news every night caused Goad to flash back to her teenage years. “It was not a good time to be in high school because of Vietnam,” she said. “Our classmates would go and not come back.”
To fight worry about Steve, she worked.
Her IT department was assembling a 12-member team to network data flow between the base, the local airport and the hospital. It was crucial for all three to have access to the same data collected on anticipated war dead and wounded. “They were expecting 25,000 casualties,” she said.
A supervisor asked Goad, “Are you sure you want to be on this team? Because your husband could come back in one of those body bags.”
Goad said yes, she could do it. “Some people refused. We all had military spouses. I thought it was my duty to do it, to help out.”
So her team established the database, made it accessible and trained staffers how to use it. By the end of Desert Storm, nearly 2,000 casualties were catalogued in the system.
When Goad heard people comment about the casualty total being less than predicted, she remembered what Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf said.
“That’s when we had Stormin’ Norman, remember him? He kept saying that if you are related to one of those 2,000 soldiers, the number matters.”
The next year Steve got orders to China Lake, and the couple left Virginia for California. At least this time Goad knew what to expect. She had been to China Lake five years earlier, arriving at night because Steve didn’t want her to see how isolated it was. “I think I cried for the first month I was here,” she said. “But then I grew to like it.”
Goad’s second visit here would last more than 20 years, eased along by a supportive husband and interest in her IT work.
She started back as a computer specialist helping the Survivability Division of the Systems Engineering Department and the 4.1 staff. “They had the Macintosh SEs. Remember those little, dinky screens? And even those were networked with Apple Talk. It was so fun to watch the whole evolution of networking happen in computers.”
Goad was seven years into this job when Navy Secretary Richard Danzig directed the Department of Navy’s chief information officer to integrate all Navy and Marine Corps networks. The result would be the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet (NMCI).
Goad wasn’t sure how a project of this magnitude could work, and that’s exactly what she told her boss, Brad Royer, then the associate department head of Systems Engineering.
“She was very vocal and passionate about it,” Royer said. “So when they asked me to put someone on NMCI, I told Sharon, ‘This is your lucky day. You can make an impact on this if you have tough skin.’ And boy, did she have tough skin. She took a lot of flak over it for a long time. But she hung right in there and did a great job. To me, Sharon was worth her weight in gold.”
The Navy says NMCI is now the largest intranet in the world. The system interconnects more than 700,000 active military and civilians at more than 620 locations in the continental U.S., Hawaii and Japan.
“I still don’t like everything about it,” Goad said, pointing to the monitor on her desk. “I like the standardization, but I don’t like how hard it is to get anything uploaded.”
Goad doesn’t consider herself an impatient person, just flexible.
“I’m always trying to find workarounds or other options,” she said. “I don’t like to be told ‘No.’ We are here for the fleet, and they don’t want to hear all these excuses about why we can’t get it done.”
The fleet is personal to Goad, like family. It’s a network that includes her dad, who spent 20 years in the Navy and would have spent more if his father hadn’t come down with cancer; and her husband, who deployed 12 times in 23 years of service.
“I’m surprised I didn’t join the Navy,” Goad said, explaining her choices as a high school senior. “My parents didn’t have much money, so it was either off to the military, community college or get a job.” Since she was undecided, her parents made her take the civil service exam. She passed and was immediately hired. So she started work as a clerk typist and took college courses at night.
That was 40 years ago. Goad is eligible to retire but wants to keep working.
Part of her role now is information assurance officer for 4.8’s support equipment group, a critical but unpopular job according to site lead Bret Jacobson.“She’s dead serious about protecting classified and sensitive information but she’s also a facilitator for getting work done while still in compliance with security regulations,” he said.
“We have a lot of young people in our building who aren’t fully up to speed on all of the requirements for locks, SIPRnet rooms and policies. Sometimes I’ll hear Sharon advise people when they mess up and see the frowns on their faces as they walk away from her.
“What those people don’t see is Sharon coming into my office afterward and telling me how talented and wonderful they are. She’ll smile and say, ‘If I can help keep so-and-so out of trouble, they’ll be doing great things for the Navy for a long time.’ I get to see what most people don’t, that Sharon really has a huge heart and cares greatly about her teammates.”
Along with helping 4.8, Goad also serves as the security coordinator for the Avionics Department, directed by Dr. Ron Smiley, who says he feels fortunate to have her on his team.
“Sharon is one of those people whose dedication to her responsibilities and approach to getting things done is a model for all of us to emulate,” he said.
Leadership and learning are common topics at Smiley’s department meetings and he often asks staffers to share their “nuggets of wisdom” with the group. For Goad, the gold in her career has always been a positive attitude, adaptability, gratitude and patriotism.
“You really are working for a cause,” she said. “Most of us could go out and make more money elsewhere, but we’re kind of sacrificing to work for the Navy and, to me, that’s a privilege. Not everybody gets to do this.”Story First Published: 2013-07-31