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Lt. Cmdr. Rachel Carter

MA in Security Studies, '21
U.S. Navy

Lt. Cmdr. Rachel Carter graduated from the Naval Postgraduate School in September 2021 with a Masters of National Security Affairs in Middle Eastern Security Studies, and during her time as a student, she was also president of the NPS Foundation Wine Club. She commissioned into the U.S. Navy in 2011 as an Intelligence Officer through the United States Naval Academy. During her career she has served at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Kelley Barracks in Stuttgart-Möhringen, Germany, MacDill Air Force Base, and the Pentagon. Carter has held a variety of leadership positions to include aviation intelligence officer, executive officer, strategic plans officer, and intelligence operations department head in delivery of timely strategic and operationally relevant joint intelligence. Her personal awards include the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Joint Service Commendation Medal, Joint Service Achievement Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, as well as various unit and service awards. She is married to Brandon Carter of Jacksonville, Florida. They have three children — Dalton, Ivey and Olivia.

"My involvement with the NPS Foundation and clubs gave me an opportunity for impact, outside of solely focusing on schoolwork. It more importantly allowed me to give back, in a small way, to the organization and people that brightened my family's time in Monterey, especially during a global pandemic."

You took over the wine club mid-pandemic. What was it like trying to create and grow a community for students, family members and community members during that time?

Fortunately, the Wine Club weathered through the pandemic exceptionally well. I inherited a strong leadership team that had already built a COVID-friendly infrastructure for members to gather together virtually, speak with local wine makers, and enjoy wine from the comfort of their home. However, transitioning from virtual events back to in-person events required a lot of flexibility and creativity from both our Wine Club members and the leadership team. As local and military COVID-related restrictions were in flux, our primary objective was to foster a healthy atmosphere for our members to safely gather together. We held both virtual and outdoor events with limited numbers of attendees, encouraged vaccinations, social distancing and masks, but we also respected individual circumstance and choice. 

We had local wineries delivering wine to our club members homes ahead of virtual events, increased our technological ingenuity, ordered hand sanitizer in bulk, and did a lot of cold-calling or simply showing up to outdoor venues as we transitioned back to in-person events. Our leadership team and members were eager to gather in person, all the while local installations and venues were still working through their evolving COVID protocols. The Foundation, NPS and Naval Station Monterey staff, as well as local wineries, were receptive to the Wine Club's vision and to our prioritization of the health and safety of attendees. Their overwhelming support culminated in our first in-person event at Cowgirl Winery in May of this year.


How do you think the pandemic and club member efforts during the pandemic impacted the wine club in the long run?

Our Wine Club members were incredibly patient and enthusiastically supported the various types of events that we held. Our membership grew to over 200 people during the pandemic, and our events sold out in under 15 minutes. The determination and creativity of the Wine Club leadership team and our members during the pandemic set an exemplar for a strong community of good people that enjoy good wine.


Why was it important to get involved in clubs during your time at NPS?

While we were all limited to a virtual learning environment, connecting with the Wine Club allowed me to interact with a larger and more diverse representation of NPS. The Wine Club was warm and welcoming, so I expressed interest in joining the leadership team. I imagined I would assume a more modest role on the team when I signed up, but their outlook was to strongly work together and fill positions as they became available. Ironically, I became the President of the Wine Club and arguably knew the least about wine out of anyone on the team. Fortunately, my teammates quickly pulled me into the fantastic dynamic they had created and we pushed forward.


What are some of the most significant moments in your military career thus far?

I mean it with the utmost sincerity when I say that my family and I love being in the Navy. Every single one of my tours feels significant, but for completely different reasons. Most often, significance resulted from the incredible people I worked with along the way, impact to challenging problem sets, leadership opportunities, and even hard lessons that resulted in growth. However, my proudest moments have always been when I had an opportunity to leave an organization better than I found it by getting the right people together (with diverse backgrounds, experiences, and resources) to tackle problem sets as a team. The Wine Club is undoubtedly one of those organizations. The new leadership team is incredible, and I cannot wait to see their vision play out over the next year.


What are your professional goals? How did your time at NPS affect those goals/your career trajectory?

I recently laterally transferred from the Navy Information Warfare Community to the Foreign Area Officer (FAO) Community, with a focus on the Middle East. NPS was the first step in my training pipeline towards fully qualifying as a Middle East FAO. I am now learning Arabic at the Defense Language Institute here in Monterey before my family and I are detailed to our next adventure abroad. My time at NPS sparked an extraordinary enthusiasm for what lies ahead in my family's Navy career, and is a direct reflection of the caliber of the NPS curriculum, as well as the faculty, staff and colleagues that I met along the way.

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