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The Red Cross’s Marty Evans: Prepared for the Unexpected

In the two and a half years that Marsha "Marty" J. Evans has served as President and CEO of the American Red Cross, she has confronted unprecedented catastrophes, from the Florida hurricanes of fall 2004 to the South Asia earthquake and tsunamis. In responding to these emergencies, she has been grateful for the veteran background of her executive team and for her own military experience. Evans believes that there is no "better training ground for the kind of work the American Red Cross does" than America's armed forces.

"We need people who are flexible and very mission-oriented, don't stop until the job is done, and put service to others above self," says Evans, who spent almost 30 years in the U.S. Navy, retiring as a rear admiral. "Those values are exactly what the military inculcates in people, literally from the moment they arrive at boot camp.

"We need these qualities," says Evans, "because that's the only way we're going to be able to serve the country."

Evans feels that she had a variety of military experiences that have helped her deal with disaster response. A vivid example is the San Francisco or "World Series" earthquake that struck California on October 17, 1989. That day, Evans was the Acting Commander, San Francisco Naval Base. She quickly dispatched ships to South San Francisco to help power the city. In addition to the naval personnel and families on the base, she assumed responsibility for the well-being of some 400 displaced civilians who sought refuge on the island from the endangered Bay Bridge.

"Of course, back then I couldn't see it all coming together for a future position," says Evans. "But I clearly had great jobs."

While heading the Navy Recruiting Command, Evans told groups across the country that enlistment would bring dividends to their communities. The Navy would return experienced, responsible team players and leaders.

"I told them that we would return someone who had been part of a team and, in some cases, led significant efforts," says Evans.

In guiding one of America's largest non-profit organizations, Evans believes that this sense of teamwork and leadership among her senior executives is derived from the fact that many share military experience.

"In the military, you learn to work with the people on your team," says Evans, "and that's true of the Red Cross."

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