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Spotlight | Jan. 18, 2024

Debra Glidewell's Professional Journey

Assistant Director - U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Laboratory (USACIL)

Lead or be Led. Who else will step up? Reluctant leader. If not me, then who?

Absolutely fair to say this was how I entered the leadership world! 
I began my career as a forensic biologist in South Florida, bringing DNA analysis on-line at the crime lab (yes, early 90s).  After more than 10 years in FL, I moved to a DNA examiner position at the Army Criminal Investigation Laboratory (USACIL).  While all the above certainly described me, I received my first leadership position as DNA supervisor.  Time flies, growth happens, passion for leadership begins, selfless service is realized and a few years later, I became the first USACIL female Branch Chief, leading the DNA team.  Opportunity knocked again on a bigger, wider scale as I was responsible for building and leading a directorate focused on quality, initiatives, and training for the Gillem laboratories.  
Now, today, I have the great privilege of leading the Crime Lab, a critical entity and asset to criminal investigations and serving all Military and Defense Criminal Investigation Offices throughout DOD.  In January, I will celebrate my 33rd year in Forensic Science. You could say I have been a part of forensic science way before it was even close to being cool (assuming you think forensics is cool, thank you TV shows for putting us on the map)!  I had wonderful support along my journey to leadership.  I credit much of my success to my mentors (both men and women) in the workplace, my colleagues on the lab bench and certainly my family at home. 
I am driven to leadership and upward mobility not by ambition, status, or compensation, but rather by passion for the mission, passion for team, and an affinity for servant leadership.  I say servant leadership because our Army CID mission, like other federal law enforcement agencies, begins by serving and protecting our community.  The community USACIL serves consists of soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, and coast guardsmen tasked with protecting our great Nation and defending our Constitution--an awesome and humbling responsibility by any measure.
I am beyond proud to lead the great USACIL team. I am not yet able to turn this passion, energy, and enthusiasm for the mission off; I am still here while many of my colleagues, in which I started my career with, are retiring after thirty years of service! 
As you move through your career, you will, on occasion, become mired in and even disillusioned with the difficult work we perform and administrative burdens that accompany any career in a government organization.  At those times you might think of the Army CID motto, “Do what has to be done.” I would share, that what gets me through those times is also thinking of the voices of the victims of crimes you are investigating, especially those who can no longer speak for themselves.
Sometimes leadership will call you even if you are not looking for the call and the first task is to have enough courage to answer. If not you, then who?