I first met Maggie Gregg on the tennis courts during ladies league. She was new to the league, an affable 20-something with a kind smile and a mean drop shot. She was fun. She was personable. And she struck me as wise beyond her years.
As I grew to know her, I realized my instincts were spot-on. She is wise beyond her years. Not only can she command respect on the courts with her integrity and courtesy, she is actually a legit commander. With a capital ‘C.’ You read this right. Maggie is Captain Maggie Gregg, 34th ID Headquarters Support Company Commander–currently the only female commissioned officer in a supervisory role in the surface maintenance division.
She has a company of staff, medics, mechanics, cooks, and sentinel radars. These folks support the A division head quarters battalion of 724 people and are deploying in September to Southwest Asia. Maggie tells me that’s PR talk for the Middle East. They will be based out of Kuwait. When not deployed, she works full time for the Minnesota National Guard overseeing all of the ground equipment readiness for the state of MN.
So yes, she is a #RealLifeWonderWoman. Please read on and learn more about Captain Maggie Gregg.
KR: Maggie, what brings you joy and fulfillment?
MG: Being around people brings me so much joy, and I feel fulfilled when I can help or be a positive impact on others. I think that’s why being a commander is so rewarding for me, yet it can be exhausting at times because I strive to put my Soldiers’ needs before mine. I give whatever I can to ensure they are happy, cared for and successful, which can leave me with an empty tank sometimes.
I’m a classic oldest child, and, as my neighbor once said, I’ve “been a commander since I was 9.” I like to steer the ship in most situations, but not as much out of a need for control as out of a desire to see other people thrive and have a good time.
I’m invigorated by seeing other’s passions as well. I try to support and help lift up friends and family with their hobbies and goals. Whether that’s going to games, volunteering at their events, or just following up to see how things went—I love watching people succeed!!
And my family, I’m obsessed with them. All of them. They give me the fire to keep moving.
KR: Can you tell us about an influential woman in your life and how she inspired you?
MG: It is so difficult for me to pick out one influential woman in my life! Both my mom Kate and my Nana Eileen have been extremely important to me in teaching me how to treat others and how to be self-less, sharing myself without reservation. I have multiple female officers within the Minnesota National Guard–both peers and superiors–who have mentored me, listened to me, and have supported me every step of the way. Currently, I’ve been looking to my Battalion Commander, Lieutenant Colonel Kristen Auge, for a lot of inspiration and motivation. She embodies “grace under pressure” while still being real. She never wavers, which is really important to me as one of the commanders under her.
KR: I firmly believe we all possess inner super powers. What are some of yours?
MG: I think resiliency is my superpower. I have had situations and people in my life who caused me to question things and decisions, however I’ve risen above, and thrived. When I first commissioned as an officer, my commander told me he would stay in the army as long as it took to get me out. But I didn’t let that stop me. Instead, I let it motivate me to be better.
I also have really refined my “hunt the good stuff” skills. I can take just about any situation, big or small, and find something good to help keep me motivated. And when you can pick stuff out and share it with others you spread good attitude to everyone!
I think another inner superpower is my ability to feel strongly. I can feel the feels! I used to see this as a weakness, but since I’ve gotten older and learned more about myself, I see it as a huge strength and a blessing. It is a gift to be able to feel. I feel so sorry for people who can’t feel their emotions or who try to stifle them. Before my last deployment I was so guarded, keeping people at a safe distance, not allowing myself to be vulnerable with people. I hid it really well by constantly being there for others and being willing to listen, distracting others from knowing how I was really feeling. While on deployment, being stripped of nearly everything that I was used to, I was able to really get in touch with myself and who I was without the people and the environment I was so familiar with. This included being able to accept that I was a sensitive person, not in the way that I cried all the time, but that I was able to feel, and see how things impacted me. It was like all of the experiences from then on out had more depth. Not every day is happy, but I remind myself, even on the “bad days” that it’s a gift to feel them. I also think it allows me more depth with people. As I mentioned earlier, it can be exhausting too, especially with my Soldiers when I start to empathize with some of their struggles. It can drain me, but I can’t imagine how I would interact or relate with them if I hadn’t come to claim my feelings and emotions. It’s truly powerful to me!
KR: You’ll be deploying soon. I imagine there’s a lot of mental, physical and logistical preparations before you go. How are you preparing for this huge life transition?
MG: This is much different from my first deployment. I know where I’m going. I can picture it and visualize, so a lot of the typical anxieties are gone. This time I’m going to be leading 107 of my Soldiers, so I’ve been much more focused on getting them prepared and easing their anxieties. Many of my Soldiers are younger or have never deployed before, so I’ve been committed to hearing their concerns, and giving them a space where they can talk about some of the things they’re experiencing all while trying to ease their minds. The pre-deployment feels are real and valid! I don’t want to down play that for anyone! Not only that, but I have their families to think about. I’ve met a lot of parents, kids, and spouses who are just as nervous as their Soldiers. It’s a lot of responsibility to ask my Soldiers to follow me, and ask their families to let me take them. I don’t take any of it lightly, it’s one of the most important things I’ve done in my life.
Being the commander is a demanding job, and when I go to training with my Soldiers, I dedicate all of my time to them and making sure the company is running well. That being said, I eventually get to go home after training so I can push though, knowing there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. This deployment with be a marathon, not a sprint for me, so I’m already trying to approach the deployment and the next few weeks with that in mind. I’m not going to be effective for anyone if I run myself into the ground. My new motto is “you can’t pour from an empty cup.” So that means I’ve taken a few more hours for myself, taken a half day here or there, spent time with the people who charge me up. I don’t think had the wisdom to do that before.
KR: You are young. You are female. You are a leader. What is one of your “a-ha” moments in leadership?
MG: This process, while my second deployment, of being a commander during an intense two year span (leading up to deployment and after deployment) has been one of the most mentally difficult things I’ve ever done. I’ve had to grow some thick skin, and learn that not everyone is going to be happy with you, and you have to be okay with it. Sometimes I’ve had to make decisions that have made me the least popular person ever, but I knew they were the right decisions. That’s tough!! I like being liked, but you can’t always be the “fun parent.”
KR: If you could have one super-human power, what would it be?
MG: I would LOVE to be able to stop and/or slow down time. There so much of life I want to live and the days are so short!! I have no interested in fast forwarding, except maybe in meetings and briefs.
I just can’t help but think about all of the people I could meet, help, and interact with if I could have a few more hours in the day–or to be able to slow down and really take people in. I also think about how much more I could give in certain situations if time wasn’t a constraint! I’m a huge believer in do it once and do it right. If I could slow time, I think we’d be able to make sure to do everything the best we can the first time.
I wouldn’t mind super strength either—I would love to pick up a bus and throw it!!
And I dream of having a family I can raise to be good humans. Children are one of the biggest legacies we can leave, and I hope to have the chance to do so. If not, I hope I can have an impact on my soldiers, and raise them to be good people and leaders.
KR: Knowing what you know at this stage of your life, what words of wisdom would you give to your 20-year-old self?
MG: Trust your gut! You have a strong intuition, go with it!! Unless it’s being driven by fear. Fear is healthy but doesn’t always mean somethings wrong! You will never regret taking the hard right instead of the easy left. It might not feel like it right away, but in time the right was always the best option. Lastly, learn from your mistakes, but also have the courage to know the difference between a mistake and a lapse in judgement/discipline (this comes from a quote from secretary of defense, James Mattis). Knowing the difference will impact how you learn and how to not let it happen again.