Who's Who of Professional Women

OCTAVIA HARRIS

Octavia Harris

A prominent figure in the field of military service, Octavia D. Harris possesses more than 30 years of professional experience in the U.S. Navy and its related government branches. Since 2022, she has excelled as the sub-committee chairperson for Employment and Integration for the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services (DACOWITS) with the U.S. Department of Defense. As a leader in the organization, Ms. Harris maintains responsibility for advising the secretary of defense, assessing military challenges and productivity by its members, participating in recruitment activities, and aiding women in the U.S. military in relation to their subspecialties in such areas as special forces, combat, submarine navigation, and piloting.

Ms. Harris initially joined the U.S. Navy in the 1980s, serving honorably for three decades before deciding to contribute to the military more extensively. She notes that her service in the military led her to continue her faithful service, as military service was ingrained in her DNA. Over the course of 13 years, between 2002 and 2015, she served as a senior adviser to the commander of Amphibious Squadron One, the human resources manager for more than 7,000 sailors and their families in assignments throughout the world.  Ms. Harris also served as the first female command master chief of the USS Pinckney (DDG 91), a guided missile destroyer, and as the first African American and first female command master chief of the Space and Naval Warfare Dominance Command, overseeing the mission and personnel management of more than 10,000 military and civilian employees.

Once Ms. Harris retired from active military service, she began her Civil Service role as a senior program manager for the Navy Medical Center in San Diego, California, leading the Comprehensive Advance Restorative Effort (CARE Program), where a multidisciplinary Medical CARE Team provided extensive health services to the most traumatically injured service men and women. She also ensured the smooth transition of these patients from the Department of Defense to the Veterans Administration Healthcare System. Prior to that role, she served as a senior project manager and team lead at Kochur Trummer LLC, a veteran-owned business supporting defense contracts and enhancing space and defense prowess globally.

Raised in a household that valued the significance of education, Ms. Harris pursued her formal education during her military service. In 2001, she received a Bachelor of Arts in behavioral sciences and health care administration from National University and thereafter earned a Master of Science in operations and health care management and safety from the University of Arkansas in 2007. Congruent to her professional path, Ms. Harris has been a member of numerous pertinent organizations, such as the Advisory Committee for Women and Children with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, where she has served since 2023, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs as the chair of the Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Women Veterans, serving the more than 2 million women who have served our nation.

Further, Ms. Harris has been exemplary in her local community, supporting The Enlisted Project and the Military Women’s Memorial Foundation. With the latter organization, she has served as one of three ambassadors for the memorial, which recognized women and their service beginning from the Revolutionary War. She is also the vice president of her homeowners association and is active in the San Antonio, Texas, community as a member of the Women Veterans of San Antonio, an organization of more than 600 members.

As a testament to her success in the military and in government, Ms. Harris has been bestowed with several accolades. In 2023, she received the Women’s Memorial Certificate of Achievement, having previously earned the Legion of Merit from President Barack Obama in 2012, and the San Diego Navy Woman of the Year Award from the Navy League of the United States in 2001. She was also honored with the Woman of the Year Award from San Diego County, California. Most recently, Ms. Harris has been selected as the 2024 recipient of the coveted Admiral Samuel L. Gravely Jr. Leadership and Service Award.

Although she has experienced a myriad of career achievements, Ms. Harris is particularly gratified by her involvement in the congressional policy changes under the Deborah Sampson Act, through which she was honored for her leadership acumen and pioneering efforts. The Deborah Sampson Act, a bill signed into law in 2022, improved programs and health care services for women veterans through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

In the forthcoming years, Ms. Harris intends to advance further in her role with DACOWITS, particularly in the realm of women’s rights and opportunities to serve in all career fields in the armed services. Ultimately, she aspires to see women become fully accepted in all areas of the military. Additionally, she aims to write a series of novels regarding military and life experiences, through which she endeavors to positively influence women and children. In her spare time, Ms. Harris enjoys reading, spending time with her family and friends, and taking walks with Frasier and Harley, her beloved Cavalier King Charles Spaniels.

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