I've had opportunities in the military I never would have had in the civilian sector, and that's the reason I stayed."
When Col. Andrea Stahl ’88 graduated from Bucknell with majors in biology and psychology and a minor in German, she thought the Army would be just a stop along the way. The last thing she expected was for her military service to continue more than a quarter of a century later.
"Never, never, never," says Stahl. "I honestly thought I'd do a few years of military service to pay back my ROTC debt and get out. But I have to say, the Army has been a fabulous experience. I've had opportunities in the military I never would have had in the civilian sector, and that's the reason I stayed."
One of those opportunities was an Army scholarship to pursue a doctorate in physiology at Yale University, which led to a job as core lab chief of a hospital laboratory in Germany. She later joined the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command at Fort Detrick, Md., where she rose from principal investigator to division chief for toxicology at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID).
Stahl left USAMRIID to become the first female commander of the U.S. Army Center for Environmental Health Research at Fort Detrick. In 2011, she became the first woman to be named deputy commander of USAMRIID, the Army's lead laboratory for medical biodefense. She manages more than 800 military, civilian and contract personnel conducting research into the development of medical countermeasures against biological warfare threats.
"A lot of what we do is challenging, complicated science, working to figure out different solutions for difficult problems," says Stahl, who has received a number of military awards and decorations and was recently honored with the Frederick County Commission for Women's Trailblazer Award. "We're not making widgets."
Like any working parent, juggling her career while raising three children has been challenging at times. But Stahl, married to Col. Sidney Hinds II, is grateful for her family's support, including that of her husband's Aunt Dorothy, who moved with the family 13 years ago when they left for Germany.
"I couldn't have done any of this without a support network," she says. "I've been really lucky. If you don't have someone like Aunt Dorothy or a supportive family to help you out, it can be really hard to accomplish what you want to accomplish."