As the daughter of a career Navy man, Megan Murray MacPherson didn’t picture herself in the Navy, but with encouragement from her mom, she applied for and was awarded a four-year Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC) scholarship to Northwestern University, majoring in journalism.
Well, it was the right fit; and in 1991, she became the third female battalion commander since the Northwestern unit was established in 1926. The 1990s was an era of concentrated changes for the military. Allowing women to serve in combat roles was being discussed, and banning service members based on sexual orientation was a debate that raged on campus.
For her part, MacPherson led the effort to end the tradition of having an “Empress Queen” crowned at the school’s annual Navy Ball. “It seemed like a relic from the past,” MacPherson said. “The idea of having me as a woman in uniform who led the midshipman battalion, ceremonially crown another female undergraduate as our queen seemed odd in the context of a military event.”
A search and rescue helicopter squadron in Pensacola, Fla., was MacPherson’s first duty station, followed by an assignment as the hazardous materials and oil spill officer at Naval Air Station Barbers Point, Hawaii. Her familiarity with the base’s cultural, historical, and natural resources led to an assignment in the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Office to provide familiarization tours to applicants for reuse of the land and facilities at the base. “Wreckage from aircraft shot down during the attack on Pearl Harbor still lay where it fell in remote areas of the base, along with heiaus or sacred Native Hawaiian temples,” MacPherson said. “It was a privilege to share these resources with people.”
Since her service, MacPherson spent ten years at PR firms in Honolulu and Florida before joining local government. She was Communications and Media Director for Sacramento County and now serves as Public Affairs and Communications Director for the City of Roseville, California.
“So much about the military has changed since the time I served,” she said. “But what I learned about leading people is the same. Despite its hierarchy, the military focus on servant leadership applies everywhere: Know your role on the team to accomplish the mission, and take care of your people.”