Breaking the Doubt Barrier
The historic and evocative scene at the Capitol marked Deborah
Hall-Greene's life in microcosm: a fulfilling but daunting task
with lots of potential for failure.
Unless you were raised to believe, as she was, that failure is
not an option.
On March 29, 2007, more than 300 of the surviving Tuskegee Airmen
and family members of other airmen received the Congressional Gold
Medal—a momentous tribute to the group of pioneering aviators
who helped shoot down both Adolf Hitler and Jim Crow. In a sense,
Hall-Greene was being honored, too. She serves as protocol officer
for the Tuskegee Airmen, and the ceremony capped an effort, lasting
over a year and a half, to gain the Congressional Gold Medal for
"We need people who will step up and make sure that we are given
our respect," says Dr. Roscoe Brown, the former commander of the
Tuskegee Airmen's 100th Fighter Squadron, which flew 68 combat missions.
"Deborah believes in what we did and believes that our story ought
to be told."
The Herculean effort was fraught with logistical hurdles: accommodating
President Bush's request to present the medal; working with the
White House to schedule the event; contacting as many of the surviving
airmen and their families as possible (including Brown, to whom
Bush presented the medal); hustling from a full workday at MITRE
to Capitol Hill for late-night committee meetings with congressional
staffers; and, finally, finding places for the overflow crowd to
sit during the ceremony.
"It was a madhouse scramble," Hall-Greene recalls. "I would come
home, and there would be no fewer than 50 emails from committee
members, messages from the White House, the Senate, the House, or
sponsors. It was a labor of love."
In true Tuskegee Airmen fashion, she has modeled her life on breaking
down barriers. She became one of the first African-Americans to
serve as a full-time consultant at Lockheed Martin's main office.
She also helped form the National Brotherhood of Skiers, as a founding
member of the Capitol Ski Club, to encourage greater minority participation
in skiing. Those milestones and others reflect the values Hall-Greene
learned from her close-knit family and her mentor, retired Col.
Bill DeShields, the man who introduced her to the Tuskegee Airmen.
"When she's determined to do something, she's going to do it,"
DeShields says. "And she'll do it well—not only for herself,
but for other people also."
Eighty in Eight Weeks
Hall-Greene is human resources manager for one of MITRE's federally
funded research and development centers, the Center for Enterprise
Modernization (CEM), based in MITRE's McLean, Virginia, location.
As a member of CEM's Business Partners division, which serves as
a conduit to MITRE's Corporate HR Department, she ensures the center's
hiring and staffing needs are met. CEM employee rolls have increased
290 percent over four years, and the need for still more employees
remains high—so much so that last year, she and her team were
presented with a mind-boggling challenge: hire 80 new employees
in just eight weeks.
They achieved their goal, and hired seven more for good measure.
How did they do it? "By being very creative," Hall-Greene says.
"I like looking at things from all angles, and then just going to
Her philosophy is to take MITRE and its assets to potential hires,
rather than waiting for them to come to us. One tactic is radio
advertising, which attracts potential hires to MITRE job fairs.
To complement employee referrals (a major source of new hires),
Hall-Greene and her team provide information packets for current
employees to pass around at meetings of professional associations
they belong to. With the assistance of Corporate Recruiting, the
list of potential resources continues to grow. Also, by using panel
interviews at CEM open houses and invitational meetings, she and
her team are able to streamline the hiring cycle.
Going for It
Her innovations receive support from her boss, Vice President and
Chief Human Resources Officer Lisa Bender (who, like Hall-Greene,
holds a psychology doctorate), from CEM VPs Mike Blom and Diane
Schulte, and from a work environment that reflects Hall-Greene's
In celebration of Black
History Month, the Corporate Diversity Awareness Committee
(CDAC) hosted a special event on the McLean campus featuring
the Tuskegee Airmen, America's first all-black fighter squadron.
Deborah Hall-Greene, helped arrange for the organization to
"They don't say, 'That will never work at MITRE,'" Hall-Greene
says. "Instead, they want to know what I feel the outcome will be—what
I expect to garner from doing it that way. And if they're satisfied,
they say go for it and the support is there."
So she does—and with a mixture of determination and diplomacy
that impresses friends such as Brown, whom Hall-Greene met through
her Tuskegee Airmen work and who eventually served on her doctoral
"She knows how to get things done without irritating people," Brown
says. "She's persistent, aggressive, and intelligent, and at the
same time, she knows when to back off and work with what people
bring to the table."
Whenever the going gets tough, Hall-Greene, a native of Alexandria,
Virginia, draws inspiration from the example of the pioneering airmen
on whose behalf she has labored for so long.
"I think about all the obstacles they went through, and their determined
spirit to do the best they could," she says. "And there are lots
of obstacles in trying to meet a high volume of qualified new hires
in a relatively short period, in a highly competitive market. But
there's just something inside you that takes on the challenge, recognizing
it is a tall order, but remembering to always reach for the moon,
because even if you miss…you'll be among the stars."
Her original mentor, DeShields, never had any doubts.
"I look upon her just like I look upon my daughter," he says. "When
you're dealing with a person like that, it kind of spoils you in
a way. If it were possible to clone her, I think the world would
be a better place."
—by Russell Woolard
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