KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – Linda Murphy said her passion to use her expertise to help Afghans improve their quality of life caused her to trade in her designer pumps for some steel-toed boots.
Murphy is a civil engineer, and she serves here as chief of the Water and Infrastructure Project Management Branch with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Afghanistan Engineer District South.
Murphy said she's always been driven.
“My best friend and I were always competing in math grades and science fairs,” she said. Those experiences, she said, taught her the value of working hard, living up to promises and commitments, and doing her best.
So following her dream, she said, was not scary or particularly difficult.
“I liked architecture but my best friend’s dad was a Purdue University engineering alumnus and he convinced many of us from our high school to go into engineering at Purdue,” Murphy said.
Pursuing engineering at Purdue was a logical choice for Murphy, who said she figured out in high school that she wanted to be self-sufficient. Murphy reasoned that attaining a science, technology, engineering and math degree would help ensure that her future was wide open and that she’d always be employed.
After earning her Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., Murphy began her career as an engineer with the USACE Louisville District in Louisville, Ky., in 1983.
Working her way up through the ranks at her home district, Murphy was chief of the Civil Project Management and Programs Branch of the Louisville District when she deployed to Kandahar Airfield in January 2012.
“Now that I had gotten both my daughters off to college as fairly self-sufficient women, I decided to deploy to provide assistance to the women and men of the coalition forces and particularly to the women and men of Afghanistan,” she explained. “I knew that I could contribute to the mission and grow as a person at the same time.”
It's now one year later, and Murphy said she doesn’t regret that decision. She has opted to extend an additional nine months to manage one of the South District’s most challenging programs. She leads a team of project managers who oversee construction projects that directly contribute to the improvement of Afghanistan’s infrastructure.
Water and electricity availability, bridges and roads, university facilities and medical clinics all fall under her purview and leadership.
“I have never been one to back down from a challenge,” she said. “Working in Afghanistan has broadened my experiences, allowed me to do something outside my comfort zone and given me a greater appreciation for what I have back home.”
In addition to a successful career with the Corps of Engineers, four of Murphy’s best female friends are also engineers at the Louisville District. Having that core group of friends, Murphy said, has made her career a rewarding one.
“For young women, engineering probably doesn’t seem like a very glamorous career but if they are given opportunities to see engineers at work, ask questions, and are encouraged to enjoy math and science, more would probably show interest,” Murphy said. “I am grateful that my core group of friends shares a similar background with me. As women who are engineers, we look for opportunities to mentor younger women and share our careers with them.”
The important thing is to be passionate about what you want to do, Murphy said. For her, coming to Afghanistan has enabled her to continue her passion. She believes that she and her fellow women engineers deployed to Afghanistan all serve for a common purpose and goal which emulates the Corps of Engineers’ motto, Essayons, which means “Let Us Try.”
“We are daughters, sisters, aunts, nieces, mothers, and even grandmothers -- coming together here for one cause -- to make a contribution for a better future for not only the women of Afghanistan but for everyone here,” Murphy said. “And like our corps’ motto states, we will try. We will try our hardest.”