By Lt. Col Dale L. Madyun-Baskerville (Ret.)
Lt. Col Dale L. Madyun-Baskerville (Ret.) is a trailblazer who served in the U.S. Army from 1983 to 2009, and she wanted to share her story and accomplishments in honor of Women’s History Month.
It probably was from the very beginning that I knew I was destined to be a positive influence in the world. I was born and raised in North Philadelphia along with my brother by a single mother. My story is not much different than many raised in the hood except I was lucky enough to achieve my dreams through a lot of hard work and the blessing of many good people along the way. I never wanted a handout in this life, just a hand up.
I worked exceptionally hard to achieve my initial goal of getting a college education even though high school had not adequately prepared me for one. That hard work, with help from the Hahnemann Inter-Institutional Preparatory Program, led me to the College of Allied Health Professionals at the Hahnemann Medical College & Hospital of Philadelphia. Next, I would move on to continue my education at Antioch University where I received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Human Services.
Like many college students, finding ways to pay for college was always a challenge, so I joined the U.S. Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps at Drexel University and obtained a ROTC scholarship to help pay for school. As a cadet, I was introduced to the Signal Corps, the branch of the U.S. Army that acquires, operates, and maintains all command, control, communications and computer systems.
My training in mental health and human services education prepared me well for the interpersonal relationships required to be a service provider in the Army; however, it was not going to be the mainstay of my life. As the Sam Cooke song said, “Change was going to come.”
My U.S. Army active duty career started at Fort Gordon, in Augusta, Georgia, but soon led to Korea, where I managed and led the actions of a 90-person signal platoon. I returned to Georgia for advanced Signal school and training and followed with a tour in Belgium, where I commanded both a signal company and a logistics company.
I separated from the active duty Army in 1994 in Germany as a Captain but continued to serve in the U.S. Army Reserves. I remained in Germany as a defense contractor and then went on to get hired in 1996 as a civil servant, starting my career as an information technologist. Indeed, the light bulb went on in my life and I found my career calling.
I initially began my civil service duty as a network analyst and controller. In this role, I analyzed, troubleshot, and maintained important Department of Defense classified and unclassified wide area networks. In 1998, I advanced in the civil service to computer specialist and became responsible for network design, operation, and maintenance for five major exercises and seven minor ones.
It is sometimes difficult to understand the overwhelming responsibility of communications providers at a military exercise. Suffice it to say that there are only two types of people not “exercising:” cooks and communicators! The premier exercise I participated in was COMBINED ENDEAVOR, a Partnership for Peace interoperability test exercise involving 37 nations and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
For three years running, I ensured network access for over 800 international soldiers during the 15-day exercise. I played no small part in the overwhelming success of this international program, which drew plaudits from numerous military and civilian leaders across the involved nations.
As the world changed and I developed more leadership, successes, and expertise, I was assigned to real-world military operations. In 1997, I was deployed to Bosnia to assist in the design and installation of required networks. I deployed again to the Balkans in 1999, and in 2004 I deployed to Camp Bond Steel, Kosovo, and served as Operations and Security Officer for the base.
My last tour of active duty was in Doha, Qatar where I served as Network Communications Officer ensuring that communication throughout the theater of operation was up and working. I also served a short tour of duty in Baghdad, Iraq, where my teams and I were responsible for ensuring that communications throughout the theater of operation were up and working.
Throughout my military and government career, I tried to exploit my talents by assisting other government agencies in overcoming technological problems. I ensured secure communications for a large federal agency by installing a network firewall and designing and installing a secure, classified network. I sharpened and shared my skills on section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act Amendments for disabled people with other government agencies.
In 2009, I retired from the U.S. Army Reserves with 26 years of service, and in 2015, I retired from government service with 30 years of service. While I closed this chapter on my government service to our country, I opened the door to service and leadership in God’s House. In 2000, I discovered Metropolitan Community Church of Washington, D.C. and began a new journey with God. Throughout this time, I used my leadership and technical gifts to help the church’s ministries.
Years ago, as a young cadet, my military mentor Lt. Col. Barnett told me, “The most valuable assets you have as a leader are your people.” This foundational concept led me to mentor and encourage all those who I met to reach for the stars. My leadership style follows a long-time U.S. Army tradition: leadership by example. Although my leadership and mentoring had a profound effect on young soldiers during my U.S. Army career, I’ve continued to have an impact on the young government, contractor, and church volunteer information technologists working around here today.
As a female service member, I’m grateful that my dedication and commitment were recognized. In addition to many academic and civil service awards, I earned the U.S. Army Meritorious Service Medal and two U.S. Army Commendation Medals throughout my 26-year career. As a civilian information technologist, I also completed numerous certifications.
I went on to attend the National Defense Information Resource Management College, where I earned two Master Certificates in Chief Information Management and Information Assurance. In July 2002, I was awarded the Women of Color in Defense and Government Technology Award. I was among only 30 women in the nation recognized for their achievements in the field of Information Management.
Beyond my career accomplishments, I married my wife Denita in 2011, and together we love traveling and have visited over 30 countries together. I’m also a loving mother to my son Nick, and my wife also has a son, and together, we have several grandchildren.
Harold Geneen, founder of MCI Communications, said that leadership is practiced not so much in words as in attitude and in actions. It is my hope that I have demonstrated this throughout my entire life through my attitude and actions.
I’m proud to look back and know I’ve been a successful leader, and a successful person, wherever I’ve been, in whatever I’ve done. I hope to inspire those of you reading my story to never give up. Rest if you must, but don’t quit.