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Col. Sharon Duffy
Col. Sharon Duffy ()

Col. Sharon Duffy describes leadership like this: “When you can get people to do things willingly that they don’t really want to do, that is a good leader,” she said.

“If you can get them to jump in on your train and everybody’s pulling the same way, that’s magic.”

Duffy, 48, has enjoyed a career that years ago seemed an unlikely choice. With degrees in education and counseling — “which has actually come in handy,” she said — she seemed set to work in a classroom.

But she joined the Army in 1981, “and when I was selected to be a transporter, my family fell off their chairs.”

Being a logistician, Duffy said, is akin to being a magician.

“What we do is kind of magic for the maneuver commanders,” she says. “If you use it, if you touch it, if you eat it, if you wear it, it came from us. [Improvised bombs] on the roads, a vehicle breaks down … it’s amazing we get as much done as we do.”

There was one frazzled point in her life years ago when the Army was offering $60,000 for people to leave.

She considered taking the offer and moving back in with her parents, which would have made her the fourth of their children to do so. Her father said “No,” Duffy said, so that was that.

It worked out. Duffy, who has jumped out of airplanes, taught at West Point and learned how to move ice around the desert battlefield, doesn’t plan to retire until 2011.

“I like the Army. It’s a lot of fun,” she said. “You know you’ve found the right profession when you don’t feel like you’re going to work.”

And now she prefers to live alone. “I love people. I just don’t want to have to live with any,” she said. “I just attach myself to families.”

Her management style has changed. She was once “really warm and fuzzy,” she said, but became less so as her expertise increased.

“Reality and experience — You know how things are going to play out,” she said. “Why go up and down a lot of hills?”

Duffy said working with Sowers and Halstead has been “serendipitous.”

“I said, ‘There’s a reason we were assigned together. This is what we’re supposed to do. I would much rather do this than push paper in Washington.’”

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Nancy is an Italy-based reporter for Stars and Stripes who writes about military health, legal and social issues. An upstate New York native who served three years in the U.S. Army before graduating from the University of Arizona, she previously worked at The Anchorage Daily News and The Seattle Times. Over her nearly 40-year journalism career she’s won several regional and national awards for her stories and was part of a newsroom-wide team at the Anchorage Daily News that was awarded the 1989 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.
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