By Nancy Jones-Bonbrest, PEO C3TSeptember 6, 2013
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (September 6, 2013) -- When N. Lee S. Price joined the Army in 1975 it was rare to see a woman in management in private industry, let alone in the military.
As she retires from the service 38 years later, Price departs as a two-star general who delivered troops lifesaving capabilities and paved the way for hundreds of subordinates -- male and female, in and out of uniform -- to succeed.
"I joined the Army because I wanted to be part of the ground team charged with defending America's freedom," Price said. "The experience has far exceeded my expectations. The big surprise for me was what an impact that we can have on helping others achieve their dreams."
In retiring and relinquishing leadership of the Program Executive Office for Command, Control and Communications-Tactical (PEO C3T) during a Sept. 4 ceremony held at Aberdeen Proving Ground (APG), Price closed a tenure marked by integrity, sound judgment and a shared vision.
"Credibility is about leading by example and always raising the bar," said Price, who passed the organization's charter to the new PEO, Brig. Gen. Daniel P. Hughes. "My experience has taught me that the best leaders are constantly looking for ways to improve themselves as well as their teammates. Though it is bittersweet to leave, I am so very proud of what we have accomplished at PEO C3T."
Price enlisted as a private first class in the Alabama National Guard, then was commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1977 and entered active duty in 1981. She became a two-star general in 2012. Along the way she broke barriers for women in leadership and left a lasting legacy of delivering groundbreaking technologies to U.S. forces.
Price became the first woman in the Army Acquisition Corps to be nominated to the rank of Brigadier General and was the first woman selected to be a general officer while serving in a special operations unit.
"General Price leaves a remarkable legacy of positive influence on people, processes, and communications capabilities for our Soldiers," said the ceremony's host, the Honorable Heidi Shyu, Army Acquisition Executive and Assistant Secretary of the Army, Acquisition, Logistics and Technology. "Her achievements are significant and lasting."
PEO C3T develops and delivers tactical communications networks, radios, computer hardware and software and a variety of other communications systems to the Army. These systems empower commanders and Soldiers to make faster, better informed decisions and stay connected across vast, challenging terrain. As PEO C3T, Price oversaw critical upgrades to the tactical network, the Army's top modernization priority, delivering communications capabilities to Soldiers in Iraq, Afghanistan and South Korea.
Price assumed leadership of PEO C3T in 2009, when the organization was in the early stages of a major Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) move to APG. Without hesitation, she planted her flag among the temporary buildings at APG, and during the next two years oversaw the relocation of 1,476 personnel positions and tens of thousands of pieces of equipment from Fort Monmouth, N.J., Fort Belvoir, Va., and Huntsville, Ala., to APG, while maintaining seamless support to the Warfighter.
"We deliver equipment to every unit as they prepare for deployment and provide 24/7 support to theater," said Price, during a recent interview. "During BRAC we were able to continue that support uninterrupted. At the end of the day, those units never realized we had moved. So that, to me, was really touching."
In the first year of Price's tenure, PEO C3T won the David Packard Award for Acquisition Excellence, the highest acquisition award given by the Department of Defense.
A signature achievement during Price's work at PEO C3T, which earned the organization the award, was partnering with PEO Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors (IEW&S) to deliver coalition communications to Afghanistan. Their solution, fielded in 2010, enabled the 45-nation alliance in Operation Enduring Freedom to effectively communicate, establish situational awareness, share information and operate on a common security enclave.
Price addressed that challenge the way she did many others throughout her career -- gathering information, building a team and encouraging them to innovate with the resources available to meet Soldiers' needs.
"She is very respected in the acquisition community for her ability to listen to the facts, ask the right questions and make a decision," said William Sverapa, former Deputy PEO C3T. "You know what she wants and there is no question."
Retired Lt. Col. Mike Devine, who worked with Price while she served as Project Manager, Defense Communications and Army Transmission Systems (PM DCATS), said Price was also the kind of senior leader who went the extra mile to counsel him and invest in his personal as well as professional success.
"Her concern for people's well-being fosters a great deal of loyalty," he said. "She can look back on her career and know that she made a difference, not just for the Army as institution but for the individuals, too."
Price's early assignments included company command of the 232nd Signal Company, where she oversaw 270 personnel across 19 sites providing 24/7 communications. Price deployed early in the first Gulf War and worked as part of a team that installed email servers across Saudi Arabia. She later served at the Defense Information Systems Agency and established the first strategic communications office for the Army Chief Information Officer/G6.
During her tenure as PM DCATS, Price led an effort to build a $300 million commercial communications network in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait. Her team designed, procured and installed commercial communications that connected the Green Zone to all of the major forward operating bases in Iraq. She also fielded the first-ever dedicated communications system for combat service support troops through linking satellite terminals with a wireless local area network. This technology was later used to help restore logistics communications to New Orleans, La., in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
For her efforts as PM DCATS, she received the 2004 Army Acquisition Excellence Project Manager of the Year Award -- becoming the first woman to earn that recognition.
Following her PM experience, Price became the Deputy Acquisition Executive for the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), where she was responsible for providing more than $3 billion per year of specialized equipment for service-wide national and theater Special Operators.
The daughter of Homewood, Ala. resident Phyllis Sherk and the late Maurice D. Sherk, Price's affinity for teamwork first surfaced while playing team sports as a child and has remained part of her lifelong philosophy. Upon retirement, Price plans to return to the Birmingham, Ala. area and spend more time with her family and friends. She plans to remain active in both the local and Army communities mentoring minorities and women.
"It has always been about the team," Price said. "I can tell you that every general officer has this in common: It's not about us, it's about what we can do in our current position, the lives we can touch and how we enrich Soldiers' lives so they can go on to greater service."