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Trailblazing Navy officer finds new mission at USC Marshall

After almost three decades of military service, a Navy commander focuses on entrepreneurship

Courtney Foster
Courtney Foster is an intelligence officer and an entrepreneur. (Photo/Ron Mackovich)

Courtney Foster recalls driving to her second Navy assignment with SEAL Team 2 in Virginia Beach. It was 1993 and she had been selected as the first woman to ever join “The Teams” as an intelligence officer.

“I thought, ‘What have I done? I’m going from the frying pan into the fire.’ On my first day, a bunch of fellow junior officers invited me out to lunch to a local place with great cheeseburgers. Of course, it was a strip club and they were testing me,” she recalled.

Foster got through lunch just fine and quickly earned her team’s respect.

“Remember, this was all before women were allowed on combatant ships, so I was a weird test case, I suppose,” Foster said.

At 48, Foster has devoted 27 years to military service, including three deployments to Iraq. She now serves as the Military Deputy for Irregular Warfare at the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division at China Lake in the Mojave Desert.

Foster has four children and is married to Dave Foster, a former Marine Corps pilot and combat veteran who has been accepted into next year’s Master of Business for Veterans (MBV) cohort at the USC Marshall School of Business.

Impressive mentors

Over the past year, Foster has driven two and a half hours each way from China Lake to USC once every two weeks, while earning her MBV. At USC Marshall, Foster said she’s been impressed by mentors who’ve been successful in a number of fields.

“I’ve fallen in love with entrepreneurship,” Foster said. “I want to create an environment where people are excited to come to work every day.”

James Bogle, director of the MBV program, called her analytical, witty and compassionate.

“Courtney is a superb professional whose experience in Naval Intelligence is apparent in the classroom,” Bogle said. “She also brings a level of toughness and creativity that should lend to her success as an entrepreneur.”

Foster, who hopes to make captain before she leaves the military, is ready for a final separation from service when the day comes.

“I want to make a complete break,” she said. “I don’t want to be tied to the military industrial complex. I want to work for me and create an enterprise, and I want to do it applying the same high standards that I’ve found in the military.”

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Trailblazing Navy officer finds new mission at USC Marshall

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