International Women's Day Speech - Linda Murphy, BSCE '82 gave this speech in 2012 while deployed in Afghanistan

Murphy & Rife Afghanistan deployment - US Army Corps of Engineers
Linda Murphy (BSCE '82) and Veronica Rife (BSCE '82) together during their deployment with the US Army Corps of Engineers
Good afternoon, my name is Linda Murphy and I am the Chief of the Water and Infrastructure Project Management Branch with the United States Army Corps of Engineers. I graduated from Purdue University – in my mind just a few years ago – some people would probably say many years ago – I graduated with a Bachelors of Science Degree in Civil Engineering. I have worked for the Army Corps of Engineers for over 33 years, all of them with the Louisville District in Louisville, Kentucky. This is my first deployment and the reason being is that for the last 24 years my main mission has been taking care of the 2 most important women in my life – my daughters. Like any mother, I have made sure that they have had what we in America believe are the basic necessities – food, water, medical treatment and assistance, security, an education; all of which (although we do not think about it) are supplemented by a reliable power system. Now that I have gotten my daughters off to college as fairly self-sufficient women, I decided to deploy to hopefully provide some of this same type of assistance to the women and men of the coalition forces and particularly to the women and men of Afghanistan. So I forfeited my designer suits and 3-inch stiletto heels for these lovely sand-colored uniforms and these Beverly Hillbilly type of steel-toed boots. And I am very proud and honored to be here this afternoon representing the women of the United States Army Corps of Engineers.

We have many different faces.  We come from different backgrounds and different parts of the world. We have different ages and different skill sets.  Yet we are all here for a common purpose, a common goal which emulates the Corps of Engineers motto – Essayons, which means Let Us Try. 

Let Us Try - to provide the coalition forces with the engineering solutions that will enable them to perform their duties.

Let Us Try - to make this country a safer place.

Let Us Try - to make this a healthier and more sustainable place for the Afghan people to live.

We have an incredibly exciting mission here, and we are proud of the work we are doing for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and for the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.  Every woman contributes to the mission here just like every man.

The Corps of Engineers mission started here in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom back in 2001 with a 6-person Forward Engineer Support Team providing engineering, construction, planning, contracting, and real estate services.

In the fall 2002, the Corps of Engineers was asked to manage the renovation and construction of facilities for the new national army leading to the creation of a Corps district office in Kabul in 2004.

Five years after its creation, in August 2009, due to the increasing mission to provide facilities for more than 30,000 U.S. troops and sustainable development for the people of Afghanistan, the Corps of Engineers created the Transatlantic South District here on Kandahar Air Field which I am fortunate to be a part of.  We also have area and resident construction offices located throughout the areas where ISAF Regional Commands South, Southwest and West operate.

We design and construct projects in three broad categories:

  • Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) – we build new Facilities which support the national army and national police.  We also assist with the operations and maintenance (O&M) of ANSF sites and facilities which include complete operating installations, training ranges, and police headquarters compounds.

The 2nd category is:

  • Military Construction (MILCON) projects – these are Projects that support USFOR-A operations, such as airfields, cargo handling areas, utilities infrastructure, fuel systems, entry control points, warehouses and medical facilities.

The 3rd category and the one I oversee is the:

  • Afghan Sustainable Development Program – Projects such as roads, bridges, potable water supply and distribution like Dahla and Kajaki Dams, and power production throughout the southeastern part of Afghanistan – in addition we have also supplied books, equipment, and materials to universities and designed university buildings, we are providing master plans for water and waste water management in Kandahar City and we are constructing some hospital facilities.

Since our district was established in 2009 we have awarded over 315 projects at a total cost of $3.1 billion. 

Our Corps District here employs a little over 300 people with 67 (approximately 23%) being women. Our duties cover a vast range of fields including: engineering, contracting, construction oversight, human resource specialists, intelligence, operations, logistics and supply, information technology, legal counsel, internal review, public affairs, resource management, safety, and project management where I am located.

A friend of mine gave me a desk top calendar to track my days over here and it was called the “Busy Woman’s Calendar” which has inspirational sayings.  I found it fitting that the day which started this week, which also happened to be my younger daughter’s birthday, had the following quote:

“This is a good day to be grateful that we have work to do and can make a contribution”

We are daughters, sisters, aunts, nieces, mothers, and even grandmothers – coming together here for one cause – to make a contribution for a better future for not only the women of Afghanistan but for everyone here.  And like our Corps motto states – We will try.   And We will try our hardest.

Thank you for your service and again I am honored to be here with the Corps of Engineers and serving with you.  Essayons.