Any beltway expert will tell you—supporting our nation’s Veterans out of Washington DC is tough work. There are multi-billion dollar budgets, a global war on terror, and the political skirmishes around the capitol, all of which can make the DC area a tricky battlefield itself. For all of those reasons, we honor one of the US Department of Veterans Affairs’ top leaders, Pamela M. Iovino, Assistant Secretary for Congressional Affairs, for her tireless service on behalf of those who’ve served.
Rounding out over two-years assisting two VA Secretaries – Anthony Principi and James Nicholson – Iovino most recently has served as Assistant Secretary for Congressional and Legislative Affairs at the VA. As the VA’s top legislative executive, she was responsible for the conduct of VA’s Congressional relations and for representing VA programs, policies, investigations and legislative agenda to Congress. And that also meant fighting for dollars.
Looking back on her time at the VA, Iovino grew increasingly proud of her role at the VA as Nicholson told senior leadership about how other nations perceive the way the U.S. treats its military, as he discovered during his previous tour as Ambassador to the Holy See: "One of the things I was not aware of as an American is that we really stand alone in the world in terms of how we, not just honor, but support and provide for those in uniform."
And that pride increased, as she toured the Walter Reed Army Medical Hospital and Bethesda National Naval Medical Center to visit wounded Americans in action: "It is not an uncommon story to hear about them joining [the military] in the days and weeks after 9/11," she said. "[They are] terrifically honorable heroes."
Tradition and Honor
Public service was always a calling for Iovino, who even as a young child was inspired by the dedication of her parents in local Pittsburgh politics. "You get yourself informed about the elections and participate," said Iovino, reflecting on what she described as a traditional upbringing: "[I was taught] values in terms of family, studying hard, and that we can do anything we wanted to do. I was fortunate to grow up in that environment."
Her upbringing led her to dreams of becoming a lawyer, and to prepare for her career by studying political science at Gettysburg College. But, almost by accident, she began to hear interesting things about the Navy from a college friend, who influenced her to take the officer candidate exam. What a great idea, she thought. The Navy will teach her world-class commitment to honor, leadership, as well as provide great educational benefits. She was also inspired by thoughts of being a female Naval officer, no small feat in the American military of the late 1970s.
Call it a "four-year plan," she thought. Sure enough, Iovino passed the exam with flying colors, "and a tour at a time, it ended up as an entire career."
Naval Accomplishments and Honors
After being commissioned in 1980, Iovino was assigned to Naval Weapons Station in Concord, Calif., as the Air Launch Missile Maintenance Officer responsible for maintenance and transshipment of the Harpoon and Sparrow air launch missile inventory in the Pacific fleet. In June 1987, she entered the Training and Administration of Reserve Program and was assigned to Naval Reserve Readiness Command Region Six as the Manpower and Training Officer. Upon completion of this tour of duty, she reported to Naval and Marine Corps Reserve Center in Toledo, Ohio as the Commanding Officer.
Under her leadership, the center was ranked number one of seventeen centers in the region. While serving as commander, Iovino was selected for the Naval War College, where she graduated in November 1993 with a Master of Art’s degree in National Security and Strategic Studies. After graduation, she was selected to join the staff of director of Naval Reserve as Legislation Liaison Branch Head.
She later served on the staff of Secretary of the Navy, Office of Legislative Affairs. From April 1998 to September 2001, Ms. Iovino commanded Naval and Marine Corps Reserve Centers in Pittsburgh, Ebensburg, Penn., and Moundsville, W.Va. She was then assigned to the Office of the Commander, Naval Network Warfare Command, and retired from the Navy in 2003.
Her military decorations include the Legion of Merit Medal, Meritorious Service Medal (two gold stars in lieu of third award), Navy Commendation Medal, Navy Achievement Medal, National Defense Medal (two awards) and Armed Forces Reserve Medal.
Pride and Hope
Despite having given a long period of distinguished service to her country, Iovino feels her job is far from done. Looking back with pride, while also looking forward with hope for the opportunity to continue her support of our nation’s Veterans, Iovino reflects: "I have--not by a lot of calculations--ended up being so fortunate to have had careers to give me opportunities to serve in very significant ways and make a contribution. My post-VA time will be something just like this, because I can’t imagine not having my work be something that has that aspect to it."