Passion and Pragmatism

By: CAPT David Cutter, US Navy (retired)

When I met Jessica in 2011, I immediately knew that I wanted her on our team at US Pacific Command in Hawaii. Two qualities jumped out after that first meeting; her passion and her pragmatism. Having recently returned from time in India, her expertise filled a critical gap in our organization, the Commander's Action Group, commonly referred to as the CAG.

We were a small team of trusted civilian and military advisors to the four-star commander whose strategic focus was concentrated on enhancing the US pol-mil relationship with major stakeholders in the Pacific region. The CAG acted as the commander's "eyes and ears" regarding political, military, and economic trends in 36 Asia-Pacific nations.

Passionate about innovative paths to enhance the United States’ rapidly growing relationship with India, Jessica developed a comprehensive bio-fuel initiative that was initially viewed with skepticism from military commanders. Despite these obstacles, she adapted her plan in a sensible and realistic fashion that stayed true to its core objectives. The combination of her passion for the issues combined with her pragmatic approach to “getting the job done” resulted in the bio-fuel initiative being approved by the commander for execution.

While I don’t currently live in the Sierra, I feel a deep kinship with the region. Early in my military career, I spent time at Mather Air Force Base training to become a navigator. At every possible opportunity when I wasn’t flying or in class, I found myself heading east into the mountain communities of the 4th district to ski, hike, and explore the backcountry.

During our time as colleagues in Hawaii, Jessica and I discovered that we shared a passion for the issues of mountain communities. From fire prevention and forest management to developing tourism while preserving the natural wonders around us, it was clear she understood the fragile balance needed to sustain our mountain homes.

When it comes down to it, Jessica is that rare breed of person - passionate about the issues yet pragmatic about the necessity to take action. Passion without action is just noise, and Jessica is the right kind of leader that we need in today’s noisy environment.