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Blazing a Path to the Top

Upon reaching one of the highest ranks possible in the U.S. Navy, Northern Arizona University alumna Robin Braun has blazed a trail that many have followed. Following an illustrious career in the navy, Braun is now working in Washington, D.C. on the staff of the Chief of Naval Operations. She plays a key role on a team that that ensures the Navy maintains a global advantage in the realms of intelligence, information warfare, space systems operations, and other critical areas.

 An accomplished pilot, Braun has flown missions all over the world. She has delivered Navy SEALS for special operations, and moved sailors and supplies to destinations as diverse as Greenland’s tundra to the jungles of Malaysia. Braun explains that all of these incredible opportunities were made possible thanks to the preparation she received during her undergraduate experience.

“I’d highlight three areas from my time at NAU that gave me a solid foundation for the future,” Braun says. “First, I received a rigorous liberal arts education from great professors who took an interest in me and made me excited about learning. Second, I was involved in extracurricular activities that enabled me to learn a lot about leadership, teamwork, and follow-through. Third, I was surrounded by inspirational adult role models who were my teachers, administrators, advisors, and employers on campus.”

Taking flight

After she graduated, Braun put the lessons she learned to solid use. As the daughter of a career Navy pilot, she had a lifetime interest in aviation: after she joined the Navy in 1979, Braun became a pioneer.

“When I read that the Navy had opened flight training to women, I decided to talk with a recruiter,” Braun says. “About a year after beginning the process, I was notified I’d been selected to begin Officer Candidate School and Flight Training.”

There have been significant changes to women’s roles in the Navy during the time that Braun has served. In an environment where women were barred from service for so long, she explains that great advances have occurred during the past three decades.

“Many, many things have changed for women in the military over the past 30 years,” Braun says. “Most significant was the 1992 Defense Authorization Act that repealed the long-standing combat exclusion law for women. So, while I was not allowed to be assigned to a combat squadron as a young officer, today our female aviators are flying missions over Iraq and Afghanistan in every type of combat aircraft.”

During her distinguished career, Braun has had the opportunity to serve in a number of capacities  and partake in a multitude of experiences across the globe. One of her most memorable service experiences was being a part of the relief effort that occurred during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

“I was serving aboard the USS Iwo Jima, at the pier in New Orleans, where we provided command and control, electricity, communications, water, and meals to those assisting in the recovery effort,” Braun says. “The following year, the Navy assigned me to a job in New Orleans, so I moved to the area for a little over a year. I thoroughly enjoyed living there and helping the resilient and determined people of New Orleans rebuild their city.”

Connection to NAU

Even now, Braun remains connected to the Northern Arizona University community. She returned to Flagstaff for a special Veteran’s celebration during the 2009 Homecoming festivities. It was wonderful, Braun says, seeing many of her old friends and mentors. And, as she considers the opportunities available to today’s graduates, she advises them to take away some of the same lessons that she did.

“My advice to young people coming out of college is to dream big and stay focused on your goals,” Braun says. “Find a career field that you are passionate about. Look for mentors that can steer you in the right direction, and can help you attain your goals.”