Call to Duty: Dawn Halfaker’s Next Mission
By Mike Savicki
Early in the morning of June 19, 2004, U.S. Army Captain Dawn Halfaker and soldiers from her military police platoon were on a reconnaissance patrol in a convoy of four Humvees near the police station in Baquba, Iraq. Several hours later, as they turned a corner, they were hit by a barrage of small-arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades. One grenade pierced the engine of Halfaker’s vehicle and sliced off a sergeant’s arm before it burst next to her. The attack changed her life forever.
Six days later, Halfaker was a patient at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, about to lose her arm to a life-threatening infection. She also had five broken ribs, a shattered shoulder blade and burns and lacerations that required immediate surgical repair. Halfaker spent a year at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and estimates she had 20 surgeries before being discharged. She earned both a Purple Heart and Bronze Star for her service and was medically retired by the Army.
In January 2006, Chief Executive Officer F. Dawn Halfaker founded Halfaker and Associates, LLC, a dynamic consulting firm that works in the areas of security policy, physical security, and emergency management services for military bases; administrative and technical support; and training. She holds a bachelor of science degree from the United States Military Academy at West Point where she was a four-year varsity basketball letter winner. Currently she is pursuing her master of arts degree in Security Studies from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.
Dawn Halfaker has appeared on MSNBC and CNN and has been featured in The New York Times and USA Today. Her story was also profiled in James Gandolfini’s HBO documentary Alive Day Memories: Home from Iraq. She is a Board member of the Wounded Warriors Project and Paradox Sports and also volunteers her time on numerous veteran advisory committees and organizations.
Her service to our country continues.
Before a recent snowboarding trip to Colorado, Dawn Halfaker shared some of her personal and professional thoughts with Disaboom.
MS: How are your studies at Georgetown?
DH: It’s great to be working towards a goal again, especially one that is so close to what I do in my business in the security profession. It’s also nice to be back at something so academically demanding after the time it took following such a traumatic and life-changing injury. I am finding it rewarding and satisfying on so many levels.
MS: How does it feel to be a CEO of a multi-million dollar company who is under 30?
DH: It’s funny when you look at it that way, but I don’t really think of myself running a business with my age in mind. I look at it as ‘well, this is my job’ and just consider myself lucky to be able to work with a group of friends and go after the projects that we want together. It is a nice feeling to be in charge, but it’s also a lot of pressure when you consider that all your employees, as well as your clients, look to you to fulfill their employment needs.
MS: As someone who has been a leader in both the military and now the civilian world, are you finding any parallels that you think lead to success?
DH: What I am seeing is that all those leadership traits that I learned in my military training and tried to bring into my military career now have a different application. Because of the unforeseeable circumstances of war, I was not able to serve in the military for as long as I had hoped, so this is the next best thing. My company has 100 employees, so it is like being a platoon leader or company commander all over again. The leadership skills you use in the military are transferable to the civilian world because you are dealing with a group of people with differing backgrounds and values who are all trying to work toward a common goal.
MS: How do you spend your spare time?
DH: I try really hard to stay healthy, get some rest and catch up on work and school. My passion is really the outdoors. I like sports in general like tennis and running and love to stay active. I also enjoy snowboarding and going to outdoor events with other veterans so I can connect with them. Other than that, just spending time with my friends and family is so important to me.
MS: Where do you see yourself in five years?
DH: That’s a big question that so many people want to know. To me, five years is still a long time. I’d like to say I’ll have a master’s degree by then and, hopefully, a business that’s still afloat. Who knows, maybe I’ll even have a family of my own and will be teaching someone else to snowboard far away on some distant mountain.
MS: Would you comment on the changing role that women are playing in our military?
DH: There are rules, regulations and semantics, and there is reality. The reality for both men and women is that in many cases you are going to be put in positions that you might not have been trained in and asked to perform duties that might not be what you signed up for in the first place. That’s the reality of this current war. What we are seeing is that women are proving that they can do their jobs right alongside men. The enemy certainly doesn’t discriminate. Should the military open up more jobs to women? That’s a tough call and one that’s not up to me to decide. Right now it would be a huge culture and paradigm shift if that were to happen, and not just a shift in jobs. I think it remains to be seen where this will lead.
This article was originally published online at Disaboom.com in September 2007.