When Paula C. Brown was a Navy ensign in the early 1980s, her dream was to one day achieve the rank of captain.
"I always looked up to the captains I was working for and held so many of them in highest esteem, that I wanted to do that someday," she said.
Brown, 50, who was Ashland's public works director for 10 years and still calls Ashland home, has gone far beyond that dream.
The daughter of Karen Pinkham of Ashland became Rear Admiral Brown during an Oct. 2 ceremony at the Seabee Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Her parents, including her father, Robert Brown, who lives in Santa Rosa, Calif., were there to place her admiral's shoulder boards on her while her husband, Pat Flannery of Ashland, looked on.
"We're very proud," her mother said. "She has always had goals. She is such a hard-working, remarkable young lady."
Indeed, with her promotion, Brown became the first female deputy commander of the First Naval Construction Division based in Little Creek, Va. She relieved Rear Adm. Scott A. Weikert, who received his second star and is now the deputy commander for Naval Facilities Engineering Command.
What's more, Brown is just the second female in the Civil Engineer Corps to be promoted to rear admiral. She became the first female commander of a Seabee Regiment in combat when she took over the helm of the 30th Naval Construction Regiment (Forward) in Iraq, a job she held from September 2005 to March 2006.
The officer resigned her job with the city of Ashland in 2007 to spend more time with her family and continue her service in the active Naval Reserves.
"But I still come home to Ashland now and then,' she said in a telephone interview Thursday. She and her husband have a vineyard in Ashland.
"He keeps me grounded," she said.
Born in Seattle, Brown lived in Taiwan and Malaysia for seven years with her parents as a child. She credits a friend of the family who was in the Navy with her decision to join that service.
In addition to traveling frequently to Washington, D.C., her new job will include periodic trips to visit Seabee training and construction projects, she said.
"I hope to get around to see what our guys are doing," she said, adding, "We have Seabees all over the world."
She credits much of her success to her parents and her husband.
"With their support, particularly from my husband, I have been able to find the balance to continue to step up to the challenges and opportunities that have been presented," she said. "Pat has helped me to stay firm in my convictions and he has always been there after long deployments and being gone for weeks at a time."
A native of Washington, she received a bachelor of science degree in civil engineering from the University of the Pacific in Stockton, Calif. She earned a master's degree from George Washington University in 1987. She was commissioned as a civil engineer corps officer in 1982. She served on active duty in Washington. D.C., through 1986, and joined the Navy Reserves in 1988.
As a member of the Seabee community, she has served as commanding officer of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 18 and commander of the First Naval Construction Regiment. During Operation Iraqi Freedom, she mobilized as the commander of the 30th NCR (Rear) for seven months with the Pacific Seabees. Returning from her deployment, she was assigned as commanding officer of the Naval Facilities Engineering Command and was contingency officer in charge of construction. She later served as deputy chief of staff for engineering for the commander of Naval Forces Korea. She also served a six-month active duty tour as vice commander, Naval Facilities Engineering Command Pacific in 2009.
Brown has earned two Legion of Merit awards, the Bronze Star, two Meritorious Service Medals, three Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals, two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals, the Battle 'E', the Navy Unit Commendation and the Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation.
She expects to serve for another three to five years in uniform before returning to Ashland, where the couple have lived for nearly 20 years.
"It's still home," she said.
Paul Fattig is a reporter for the Mail Tribune. Reach him at 776-4496 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.