Lt. Col. Bill Walker (EML’17) oversees a $30 million operating budget and 225 personnel. He has four directors and 23 managers who report to him. While many CEOs have similar responsibilities, Walker’s executive role has a key difference: He is the commanding officer of VMM-364 The Purple Foxes, a U.S. Marine tilt-rotor squadron at Camp Pendleton, California.
Walker served five tours as a Marine pilot in Iraq and one tour as a forward air controller — controlling attack and strike aircraft — in Afghanistan. In 2016, he was based out of Washington, D.C., as a pilot in the presidential helicopter squadron.
“I was at a stage in my career where I was taking on more demanding roles that required me to create more calculated solutions to problems,” says Walker. “I wanted to tackle that from an angle that was out of my comfort zone.”
He considered pursuing an MBA and also looked into public policy and foreign service programs. During his review of programs, Georgetown’s Executive Master’s in Leadership (EML) program — plus the university’s reputation and Jesuit tradition — resonated with Walker.
After he earned his EML in 2017, Walker was promoted to his current role in the Marines, and what he learned in Georgetown’s EML program quickly came into play.
“The experience I gained from the EML program helped me see the playing field from an elevated position and in slow motion. My contemporaries had to scramble to find that daylight,” says Walker.
At Georgetown, Walker appreciated being able to experiment with business strategies and venture out of the norm in a zero-stake environment. The EML negotiation lessons also have been invaluable, teaching him that he needs to consider the wants and needs of each stakeholder during discussions.
“The EML education provided a different spin on where we apply our assets and how we apply our energy. For me, that translated directly into aircraft readiness and operational effectiveness,” Walker says.
In April 2019, Walker’s squadron headed to the Middle East for six months in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, the military’s effort to defeat ISIS in Syria and Iraq. This is his first deployment as a commanding officer.
“Ultimately, the mission of the squadron is to put national security policy into execution, and that is the supreme test for any military organization. You train, you rehearse, you plan. The goal is to take care of the Marines, and they will take care of the mission.”
Walker hopes to remain in service leadership roles for years to come. “This is the kind of role that I enjoy and I thrive in,” he says. “It is the type of responsibility I see myself wanting to be a part of throughout my life, and I think it is a life of service well spent.”