Fort Detrick, Md. (Aug. 12, 2022) – Col. Norman Waters, director of the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Development Activity’s (USAMMDA’s) Force Health Protection Directorate at Fort Detrick, has always had an affinity for the military lifestyle. Originally from Altoona, Pennsylvania, Waters attended the Scotland School for Veteran’s Children, an exclusive boarding school for the children of veterans.
“I grew up in that military environment, and I liked the structured discipline the military provided,” he said. “More importantly, I liked the focus on teamwork and always having a battle buddy.”
According to Waters, his love and admiration for the military motivated him to make it a career.
“Colonel Waters should be focusing on his retirement actions and clearing out his desk, instead, he’s still coordinating and working the Investigational New Drug process, collaborating with stakeholders and helping Warfighters,” said Col. James “Andy” Nuce, the USAMMDA commander. “If I have to sum up Col. Waters in only a few words, he’s dedicated, humble, cordial and easy to work with --- and he loves the Army.”
Waters counts 31 years of total service. He was commissioned in 1991 from Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Then he sought an advanced degree program to earn his Ph.D. After serving in the reserves he became an Active- duty Soldier in 1997.
“Before going to university, I thought my major would be ROTC training, but that wasn’t the case,” he said. “I’m an avid outdoorsman. I decided to major in biology.”
It took one class to change in his major and career trajectory, he said.
“I took a genetics class, and molecular biology really fascinated me. I found things like DNA and RNA very interesting,” he said. “I decided to switch majors to be more focused on microbiology, genetics, and molecular biology.”
As a Soldier-Scientist, Waters has dedicated his Army career to fighting infectious diseases. Although, he initially wanted to lead troops into combat.
“I was very gung-ho, I wanted to be an infantry officer,” he said. “During my first year of college and in the reserves, I was in an infantry unit.”
His first Military Occupational Specialty was combat engineer. His recruiter described the unit as “infantrymen with shovels.” Private Norman Waters enlisted during May 1989.
After earning an ROTC scholarship from the Army to complete his education, Waters was commissioned and as a cadet a visitor talked about the Army’s Medical Service Corps.
He said, that moment changed his life.
“That’s when I first learned that the Army had Soldier-scientists, and that I could be one.”
Waters said he decided to fight enemies in the laboratory as opposed to the battlefield.
“I was so excited to learn that I could be a scientist and an Army officer,” he said. I was amazed.” So, I decided that if I am going to be a great scientist and oversee research, I needed a Ph.D.”
After completing a bachelor’s degree in biology and earning his commission as a Second Lieutenant in 1992, Waters enrolled in a doctorate program at Drexel University.
He finished the program in 1997, earning a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Microbiology and Immunology. During March of 1997, he was promoted to Captain and assigned to the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR) as chief of malaria protein chemistry in the Division of Experimental Therapeutics.
At the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR), Waters marked the beginning of his career as a researching infectious diseases, particularly malaria.
At WRAIR, Waters led research to characterize malaria drug resistance profiles and antimalarial natural product discovery, while also coordinating research and antimalarial product development efforts between the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Australian Defense Force (ADF). He has managed human clinical studies for the safety and efficacy of novel antimalarial drugs and vaccines, and participated in malaria eradication efforts in Southeast Asia and the South Pacific. Additionally, he’s helped to train the next generation of soldier-scientists by serving as an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry and Life Sciences at the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York.
“Collectively, I’ve enjoyed the overseas assignments the most,” he said. “I was fortunate enough to serve in Africa (Kenya specifically), three years with the ADF in Brisbane, Australia and three years in Southeast Asia in Bangkok, Thailand.”
“Those positions are special, and they can be more competitive to get, because the Army has such a small footprint there. I fight the deadliest infectious diseases, most of which aren’t found in the United States.”
Waters said, he is grateful for his experiences, the travel and the exposure his family has had as they have traveled with him in the Army.
“I am a U.S. Army Microbiologist, and behind me are some excellent officers,” he said. “I would be lying if I said there wasn’t some stress and apprehension after 31 years of service, I am nervous about leaving it, but I am excited to see what the civilian world has to offer.”
At the same time Waters is leaving the Army, one of his children is entering it.
“My daughter was just commissioned as a Second Lieutenant, and she is at her first assignment with the 82nd Airborne at Fort Bragg,” he said. “It’s honorable that the military tradition in my family is continuing, especially with a unit like the 82nd Airborne.”
Waters said, his son is a high school senior who is also considering a career in the Army.
No doubt, Waters has come a long way since the military boarding school. His expertise in infectious diseases may be sorely missed once he retires later this year, however, he leaves behind a legacy that continues for years to come. Waters retired today, after 31 years of service.