Painting of a woman naval admiral sitting in a a captain's chair on a ship

Watercolor painting of then-Rear Adm. Nora Tyson, who was the first two-star woman commander of Strike Group Two embarked with the USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) in the Mediterranean with 6th Fleet. Tyson is a TACAMO community trailblazer who was later promoted to vice admiral and became the first woman to serve as 3rd Fleet commander. (U.S. Navy photo courtesy of Naval History and Heritage Command)

Women take charge at Navy’s Airborne Strategic Command, Control and Communications Program Office, continuing proud TACAMO tradition

Women are taking charge at the program office that supports the Navy’s Take Charge and Move Out mission.

The Navy’s Airborne Strategic Command, Control and Communications Program Office (PMA-271) in August 2023 welcomed Jaimie Grubb as the first woman to serve as principal deputy program manager. In that role, she leads the program office as the second-in-command under the program manager.

Half of the program’s leadership, including assistant program managers and functionals, are women. They include Grubb and Carin Tullos, who joined PMA-271 in February as the first woman deputy program manager for the E-XX side of the program. E-XX is the Take Charge and Move Out (TACAMO) Recapitalization Program that is fielding the next generation of aircraft to fly the TACAMO mission.

Women also lead PMA-271’s Air Vehicle, Acquisition, Security, Mission Systems and Cybersecurity teams, to name a few. They continue a proud tradition of service celebrated each March during Women’s History Month.

The Navy’s theme this year is “Women Who Have Made Great Achievements”. It celebrates the approximately 160,000 women serving the Navy today in active duty, reserve and civilian positions.

“The [Department of the Navy] is strengthened by the courageous women who have shared their stories and paved the way for future generations,” wrote Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro in a Feb. 22 memorandum honoring Women’s History Month. “It is with my sincerest gratitude that we recognize the Sailors, Marines, and civilians who have shattered glass ceilings and remain committed to achieving gender equity.”

Throughout the years, the TACAMO community has been a leader in the inclusion and promotion of women, said Vern Lochausen, a retired TACAMO commodore who now serves as a consultant for PMA-271. The TACAMO mission connects the president and secretary of defense with naval ballistic missile forces during times of crisis via the E-6B Mercury, a communications relay and strategic command post aircraft. PMA-271 maintains the E-6B and is developing its replacement for the TACAMO mission, the E-XX.

As far back as 1989, women made up roughly one-fourth of the operational squadrons that fly the TACAMO mission, according to an April 1989 article in Proceedings magazine. They helped pave the way for women in other aviation communities and advocated for women to be allowed to serve in combat.

Among them were the first women TACAMO squadron pilots, Lt. Janine Igou and Lt. Sue Harter. Igou went on to become the first woman to command a flight training squadron.

Over 40% of the women who commanded TACAMO aviation squadrons went on to become admirals. They include Vice Adm. Nora Tyson, the first woman to command a carrier strike group and the first to serve as 3rd Fleet commander; Rear Adm. Margaret “Peg” Klein, the first woman commandant of midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy; and Vice Adm. Robin Braun, the first woman to command the U.S. Navy Reserve.

Today that tradition is carried on by the women still supporting the TACAMO mission.

Brooke Desrochers is a retired TACAMO naval flight officer who said she was inspired by the TACAMO women who came before her. She now supports PMA-271 as a senior integration program analyst working with the TACAMO Mission Aircraft Transition Team developing the new E-XX aircraft. She served over 20 years on active duty, including a year as commanding officer of Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron 4 (VQ-4).

“TACAMO was one of the first communities that women were eligible to serve in as the Department of Defense integrated women into their ranks. Accordingly, our community was buoyed up by a bow wave of female representation,” said Desrochers. “It was so encouraging to me as a junior officer to see the high number of female flag officers who started their careers in Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadrons 3 and 4, and I have personally benefited from the mentorship of our most recent greats, Rear Adm. “Peg” Klein and Capt. Heather Cole.”

Tullos served 20 years on Navy active duty, including multiple TACAMO tours. She continued serving the community after retirement as part of the PMA-271 Aircraft Systems Team from 2012-2017. She returned this year after a stint as Cost Transformation Lead for the Naval Sustainment System-Aviation.

Now she’ll help shape the future of the TACAMO mission as she leads the E-XX Team as one of two deputy program managers.

“TACAMO is a family and I have a vested interest in its future,” said Tullos. “It’s a humbling experience to be able to work with such an incredible team and be involved in such an exciting time. It’s also a daunting experience because I want to ensure that we get the right solution for the warfighter.”

Desrochers echoed that sentiment in explaining her decision to come to PMA-271 post-retirement.

“The TACAMO mission is so incredibly unique with the Naval Aviation Enterprise. I have always been proud to be a part of the small number of people who fly and operate the E-6B,” said Desrochers. “The opportunity to work for PMA-271 was a fantastic chance to experience another side of TACAMO and continue contributing to the overall success of the nuclear command and control and strategic deterrence mission.”

One of her goals while in command was to inspire other women.

“I spend a lot of time talking to aspiring pilots and [naval flight officers] on how they might be able to balance a career and a family,” said Desrochers in a 2023 interview with “Why I Fly” on YouTube. “I absolutely believe that representation matters. If I show them that I’m sitting here in this seat and I am successful in the Navy, then they know that it’s possible for them as well.”

Tullos shared her advice for women following in her footsteps.

“I think that it’s important to understand what your goals are and what you and your family may have to sacrifice to achieve those goals. I was definitely blessed to have a family, a church family and a community that stood behind me,” said Tullos. “Remember that family comes first. They will be there after your naval career is over.”

Grubb has over 20 years of experience at Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR), where she most recently served as the integrated product team lead for the MQ-25 Stingray program. She also worked in the H-53 Heavy Lift Helicopters Program (PMA-261), where she contributed to the successful completion of the Initial Operational Test and Evaluation for the new CH-53K King Stallion.

“Until recently, I wasn’t aware that I was the first woman principal deputy program manager for PMA-271. It’s an honor being the first selected based on what I can bring to the program,” said Grubb. “Women have done and continue to do amazing things in the Navy, from leading squadrons to solving engineering challenges to leading the entire Navy. I’m proud to be one small piece of that history.”

Grubb said she hasn’t faced any unique obstacles as a woman working for the Navy.

“I can’t think of a single time at NAVAIR when I have experienced challenges because I am a woman,” said Grubb. “I have always been treated fairly and recognized for my contribution.”

Creating an inclusive environment takes everyone, said Desrochers.

“For the first wave of ladies integrating into our community, and for the brand new female pilot in the wardroom today, leadership is essential to establishing and maintaining an inclusive climate,” said Desrochers. “Male allyship and command leaders are critical to ensuring that the latest generation of TACAMO females are supported and have the same opportunity to achieve the proud heights that some of our community’s brightest stars did.”

The mission of PMA-271 is to deliver and support survivable, reliable and endurable airborne command, control and communications for the president, secretary of defense and U.S. Strategic Command. The program's vision is to provide national security and deterrence through assured airborne strategic communications.

PMA-271 consultant Vern Lochausen contributed to this report

Official photo of a woman in a blazer standing in front of the American and Navy flags

Jaimie Grubb, the first woman to serve as principal deputy program manager of the Navy's Airborne Strategic Command, Control and Communications Program Office (PMA-21). (U.S. Navy photo)

A man in a khaki blazer standing with a woman naval officer in Navy dress whites

Brooke Desrochers' change of command on May 5, 2022, when she became commanding officer of Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron 4 at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma. After over 20 years of active-duty Navy service, Desrochers retired as a naval flight officer and now supports the Navy's Airborne Strategic Command, Control and Communications Program Office (PMA-271) as a senior integration program analyst. She continues a legacy of women leadership in the Take Charge and Move Out (TACAMO) community honored during Women's History Month. (Photo courtesy of Hownikan)

Naval officer in khaki uniform standing in front of American flag

Cmdr. Rebecca Anderson, the military assistant program manager for logistics at Naval Air Systems Command's Airborne Strategic Command, Control and Communications Program Office (PMA-271).

Woman with brown hair wearing a Navy blazer and standing in front of the American and Navy flags

Carin Tullos, the first woman to serve as deputy program manager for the Take Charge and Move Out (TACAMO) Recapitalization Program (E-XX), developing the aircraft that will replace the E-6B Mercury for the TACAMO mission. E-XX is part of the Navy's Airborne Strategic Command, Control and Communications Program Office (PMA-271). (U.S. Navy courtesy photo)

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