USACE manager Linda Murphy traded business suits for combat boots
March 30, 2013
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan -- What made Linda Murphy trade in a pair of designer pumps for some steel-toed boots? A passion to use her expertise to help Afghans improve their quality of life, said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Afghanistan Engineer District-South program manager.
Murphy, the Water and Infrastructure Project Management Branch chief, is a civil engineer who embodies the 2013 National Women's History Month theme: "Women Inspiring Innovation Through Imagination: Celebrating Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics."
Competition spurred Murphy from a young age; she was highly competitive in science and math. "My best friend and I were always competing in math grades and science fairs," Murphy said. Those experiences taught her that working hard, living up to promises and commitments, and giving 110% is normal for her.
So following her dream was not scary or particularly difficult.
"I liked architecture but my best friend's dad was a Purdue University engineering alumnus and he convinced many of us from our high school to go into engineering at Purdue," Murphy said.
Pursuing engineering at Purdue was a logical choice for Murphy who said she figured out in high school that she wanted to be self-sufficient. A STEM degree would help ensure that her future was wide open and she would always be employed, she reasoned.
After earning her Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., Murphy began her career as an engineer with the USACE Louisville District in Louisville, Ky., in 1983.
Working her way up through the ranks at her home district, Murphy was chief of the Civil Project Management and Programs Branch of the Louisville District when she deployed to Kandahar Airfield in January 2012.
"Now that I had gotten both my daughters off to college as fairly self-sufficient women, I decided to deploy to provide assistance to the women and men of the coalition forces and particularly to the women and men of Afghanistan," she explained. "I knew that I could contribute to the mission and grow as a person at the same time."
One year later Murphy doesn't regret that decision and opted to extend an additional nine months to manage one of the South District's most challenging programs. She leads a team of project managers who oversee construction projects that directly contribute to the improvement of Afghanistan's infrastructure. Water and electricity availability, bridges and roads, university facilities and medical clinics all fall under her leadership.
"I have never been one to back down from a challenge," she explained. "Working in Afghanistan has broadened my experiences, allowed me to do something outside my comfort zone, and given me a greater appreciation for what I have back home."
In addition to a successful career with the Corps of Engineers, four of Murphy's best female friends are also engineers at the Louisville District. Having that core group of friends made her career rewarding.
"For young women engineering probably doesn't seem like a very glamorous career, but if they are given opportunities to see engineers at work, ask questions and are encouraged to enjoy math and science more would probably show interest," Murphy explained. "I am grateful that my core group of friends shares a similar background with me. As women who are engineers we look for opportunities to mentor younger women and share our careers with them."
The important thing is to be passionate about what you want to do, said Murphy. For her, coming to Afghanistan has enabled her to continue her passion. She believes that we are all here for a common purpose, a common goal which emulates the Corps of Engineers motto -- Essayons, which means "Let Us Try."
"We are daughters, sisters, aunts, nieces, mothers, and even grandmothers -- coming together here for one cause -- to make a contribution for a better future for not only the women of Afghanistan but for everyone here," Murphy said. "And like our Corps motto states -- We will try. We will try our hardest."