NEW CUMBERLAND, Pa. –
The theme of National Women’s History Month is honoring the past, securing the future. In honor of this national celebration of trailblazing women, Defense Logistics Agency Distribution is highlighting the accomplishments of women senior leaders during the month of March. Following is an interview with DLA Distribution Barstow, California, Acting Director, Army Lt. Col. Chris Takats:
How long have you been in your current position? What other leadership positions have you been in? I arrived at DLA Distribution Barstow to serve as the acting commander Jan. 23, and I anticipate I will be here through the end of April this year. I was initially assigned and will be a planner for Distribution Future Plans upon my return to DLA Distribution headquarters in New Cumberland, Pennsylvania. Before this assignment, I served as the battalion commander for the 325th Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team with the 25th Infantry Division.
What is your leadership style? I don’t really have one leadership style. Often for me it depends on the people you are working with and what they need to be successful. Being able to understand your team and understand what drives and inspires them is so important.
What has prepared you for a position of leadership? The great thing about the Army is that we are given leadership opportunities from “Day 1.” In my first assignment, I was a platoon leader of a platoon with almost 100 soldiers. We command companies at the captain level, and battalions when we are lieutenant colonels. What has prepared me for my positions in leadership was a lot of trial and error. I made a lot of mistakes along the way. I was lucky that I had great noncommissioned officers and officers that supported me and provided amazing guidance and great examples of both good and bad leadership throughout my career.
What do you consider the most challenging aspect of your position as a leader of your organization? In my current position, because I am so new, it is learning about the organization and understanding what’s important at several levels, so I can make informed decisions. The other part is establishing meaningful relationships with my team. This last part is still a little difficult with COVID-19, but I believe critical.
Who has mentored you along the way? So many people have invested in me in big and significant ways my whole life. To name a few: my family --who have loved and supported me my entire 25-year career and have taught me the importance of values, hard work and service to others. I have a close circle of friends that constantly build me up and inspire me every day. I also had the privilege to be an aide de camp to Gen. Darren McDew when he was the commander of the U.S. Transportation Command. He and his family are amazing humans, and I was truly inspired by their professional and personal leadership examples and sincere care and concern for our Servicemembers.
What advice would you give to other women working to rise in the ranks? I would say to not focus so much on rising in the ranks. Yes, it’s important to set goals for yourself, but don’t miss the present and all the great experiences each assignment brings because you’re too busy always looking up. It will come, because of your efforts. Success isn’t always defined by your position or your job title. You can be a leader or mentor at any moment in your life, to anyone. Who did you bring with you on your way up? Are you only a consumer or are you giving back so that more people can grow and share with you in your success?
Have you ever been a first of …. ? Before I joined the military, I worked at a pharmaceutical warehouse and I was the first female forklift driver in their organization. That was pretty cool. They put my picture in the warehouse newsletter. I have not had the opportunity to be a first during my military career.
What does serving in the military mean to you? I was 19 when I first enlisted in the Army. I joined because I wanted to get away and experience life that was different than what I knew. Over the years my perspective of who I am, why I serve and its importance, has changed. So, what does it mean to me now to serve? I’m going to steal a quote from an article I read about Heather Penney. She was an F-16 pilot that was ordered to down one of the hijacked planes during 9/11, ready to give her life if it came to that. Luckily it didn’t and in this article, when asked why she would have done it, this was her response: “Why? Because there are things in this world that are more important than ourselves – freedom, the Constitution of the United States, our way of life. Mom, baseball, apple pie. These things and so many more that make us uniquely American. We belong to something greater than ourselves. As complex and diverse and discordant as it is, this thing, this idea called America binds us together in citizenship and community and brotherhood.”
I don’t think I could have said it any better. It’s a privilege to serve and I’m proud to serve with such amazing and inspiring people, every day.
Do you have anything more to share about your position as a leader, or anything specific about Women’s History Month in general? I have been blessed to have had such an amazing career and all my successes and my proudest accomplishments I owe to God. He has truly blessed me by placing amazing people in my life and giving me the privilege to lead soldiers. I don’t always get it right. I do the best I can and try to be a good human, every day. I’m grateful.