Lessons From The First Female Pilot TOPGUN Graduate

In honor of Veterans and Remembrance Day (November 11), Parsons’ employee resource group for military veterans, spouses, family members, and allies hosted a conversation with CMDR Rebecca Calder, who was the first woman pilot to graduate from the U.S. Navy Fighter Weapons School (TOPGUN) in 2004.

From Pilot to Ph.D.: Soaring to New Heights

Rebecca has held many titles over the course of her life and career. She’s a former athlete who played basketball at the United States Naval Academy and F/A-18 Hornet pilot, where she’s served in multiple squadrons and flew missions in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and Southern Watch in 2002 and in support of Iraqi Freedom in 2008. She transitioned to the U.S. Navy Reserves in 2011, where she still serves today. She is a wife and military spouse, mother of two, scholar where she’s currently a Ph.D. student earning her doctorate in Organizational Leadership at Regent University, and a public speaker delivering keynote and motivational speeches on various topics, including Women in Leadership, Veterans in the Workplace, and Resilience.

Parsons employees had the privilege of hearing Rebecca’s story firsthand and how her combat and military experience has shaped her life and her philosophy on resiliency, authentic leadership, parenting, and service.  

Session Takeaways

There were so many takeaways from this session! Here are a few that resonated:

  1. The value of connection. When we share our stories and impossible moments, we make each other stronger. 
  2. Mindset is critical. We all face hard things, and Rebecca discussed the importance of resilience and psychological capital by using the acronym HERO: Hope, Efficacy, Resilience, and Optimism.
  3. Acknowledge the cost of resiliency. As we persevere through challenges, we need to give ourselves some grace and find ways to recharge. 
  4. Lead with authenticity. Rebecca describes this as knowing what we’re good at, knowing how we can motivate and influence people, and identifying our own weak spots and being able to accept those. 

Rebecca said during the conversation, “One of the mantras that I live by is ‘I can do hard things’ and I think that idea has really helped me with all my successes. Because in those successes have included epic failures and massive injuries but I didn’t quit, I didn’t give up, I kept going.” One of the many powerful and motivating statements that I left with that day, and it continues to permeate into my day-to-day. Success has a lot to do with your mindset, perseverance, overcoming obstacles, and strength. We can all do hard things if we want it bad enough and have a goal in mind.

To our veterans―and their families―thank you for your service!

Also, a special thank you to our colleagues who organized this event. Events hosted by our employee resource groups are open to our global workforce, providing a forum for connection and growth.

Check Out Our Conversation

To hear more from our conversation with Rebecca, please visit our LinkedIn.

Be the first to receive updates about Parsons news, events, and innovations. Subscribe Today!

Back to top
facebook-pixel linkedin-pixel linkedin pixel focused image