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Pat Tamburrino: Coming to Public Service

My career in public service spans over 40 years. It started out of necessity as opposed to a sense of patriotism. I was born and raised in the Washington Heights section of New York City. Attending college for children in my neighborhood was a rarity.  My “destiny” was to join one of New York’s construction trade unions as was the norm for my father, uncles, and grandfather.

I wanted to go to college. My parents were emotionally supportive but did not have the resources. Their hope was that I could find a way to go through scholarships, etc. After a long search, I came across a program sponsored by the United States Navy – the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Officer Candidate Program. Through enrollment in a four-year science or engineering degree and agreeing to ~ 7 years of service as an officer onboard a nuclear submarine, the Navy would cover tuition and books. An answer to my problem had been found.

During my service, I came to appreciate how much members of the Armed Forces, and their families, sacrifice to protect and serve our Nation. I was hooked. This was truly mission oriented work.

After my obligation ended, I transitioned to working for the Department of the Navy, and later the Department of Defense, as a civil servant. I worked on engineering problems that were complex and key to national defense. It was extremely satisfying.

After promotion to the Senior Executive Service, my perspective on public service broadened and deepened.  I had the privilege to testify in front of Congress multiple times, personally brief POTUS many times and work on seminal policy decisions such as veteran’s homelessness, women serving onboard Navy ships and effective treatments for PTSD. I even got to spend time in Afghanistan to create plans to restructure their banking system.

Those are 40 years I would not trade for anything. I had the privilege to work with people that were dedicated to our Nation and worked, for the most part, without fanfare and recognition. They are true patriots.

By the way, I did not escape working in the building trades. Every college break, you would find me on a NYC building site working by the side of my grandfather, a master mason, carrying bricks and mixing cement.

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