Capt. Quanbeck retires from 30-year Navy career

Keeley Meier, staff writer

Submitted photo

Capt. Anastasia Quanbeck smiles next to her father, retired U.S. Navy Commander Patrick Bailey. 

Anastasia Quanbeck spent 30 years charting her course through the United States Navy and, in doing so, charted the course for all that have and will follow.

On May 21, Captain Quanbeck rendered her final salute at the Women’s Military Memorial in Washington, D.C. 

Quanbeck says, however, that her path to the Navy wasn’t exactly intentional.

“I joined the Navy kind of a little bit by accident,” she laughed. “My dad was in the Navy, and my sister went through ROTC. My parents said try it out, so I tried it and I just ended up sticking with it.”

And stick with it she did.

Quanbeck began her military career in 1991 as a full-time, active duty officer. Her first station was in Sicily, Italy, and since then, she has traveled all over the world serving her country.

“It’s just fun to go somewhere different and experience the food, the culture,” Quanbeck said.

In 1999, Quanbeck and her husband, Mark, moved to Brandon with their two children, Bailey and Joel, where she transferred from active duty to part-time reserve. She says she left active duty to spend time with her family.

“We chose Brandon because we thought it would be a good place for the kids to grow up, and it was, like, the best decision of my life,” Quanbeck said. “I really do credit [Brandon] with the great childhood my kids had and their success now.”

However, Quanbeck didn’t sit idly by during the family’s 20-plus years in Brandon. In 2007, she went to work for U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Earth Resource Observation and Science Center (EROS) as a management analyst. From there, she transitioned to a program specialist and eventually landed as the chief of staff until July of 2019. 

“I was not your normal Brandon stay-at-home mom,” Quanbeck laughed.

During her time in the reserves, Quanbeck was mobilized. For an entire year, she was away from her family but she says knowing she had a supportive community in Brandon eased her worries.

“I felt like we really had a village helping to take care of them while I was away, and that made all the difference,” she said. “It made it possible for me to feel like my kids were taken care of when I was off in another part of the world.”

Becoming a PAO

Despite beginning as a telecommunications manager in the Navy, Quanbeck eventually transitioned to a Public Affairs Officer (PAO)—a position she held for 20 years. 

The public affairs department is the smallest in number in the Navy, she says, making it a unique community to be a part of. 

“The primary thing that we’re doing is trying to share information with the public, within what we can share—to let people know what the Navy is doing for them,” Quanbeck said. 

From working with the media to verifying information to preventing the spread of misinformation, Quanbeck says that a large part of being a PAO is being first with the truth. 

Quanbeck says that within the last 10 years, the Chinese and the Russians, in particular, are working to disseminate misinformation about the U.S. and are quick to publish misleading stories.

“One time a convoy was going through eastern Europe and they had a fender bender,” Quanbeck said. “The Navy was just hearing about it, and the Russian media was putting out all sorts of incorrect information about injuries, etc.”

However, Quanbeck and her shipmates were always quick to act, and she eventually worked her way to the rank of captain.

“I don’t think of myself as the ultimate public affairs officer—I’m actually really a nervous public speaker, so being a spokesperson is not something that I thought necessarily I’d end up doing,” Quanbeck said.

The now-retired captain says that PAOs were a special group to work with.

“Because we’re small in number and because we’re communicators, I think we’re much more close-knit than other specialties,” she said. “I think that close-knit community is what has been the best part.”

Along the way, Quanbeck has had the opportunity to mentor other PAOs—another rewarding aspect of her career.

“I was a PAO but more than that, I was helping other PAOs be successful,” Quanbeck said. “It’s like I have hundreds of children out there that have all grown up because I was able to help them with their careers the way I was helped.”

And, it’s that help she received that encouraged her to continue on even when she no longer had the desire to do so. Quanbeck reflects on a letter she received from one of her commanding officers several years ago, which contained notes between him and another officer when she was brand new to the Navy. She was unhappy at the time and asking to be transferred.

“What’s interesting about that to me is that they encouraged me, and I got past that point and actually thrived and stayed in touch with him for so many years,” Quanbeck said. “He just passed away last year, but he came to all my promotion ceremonies, and when I was promoted to commander, he brought me a bouquet of peacock feathers that he had collected from his farm one by one.”

“Knowing how when I was a 22 year old, young officer and struggling, they stuck with me and encouraged and supported me and turned it around,” she added.

Not a goodbye

Although Quanbeck is just 52 years young, Navy statutes say she must retire due to her status as an O6. 

“It was definitely bittersweet because it’s been such a big part of my life all these years,” Quanbeck said. “I could have retired earlier—I earned my retirement at 20 [years] but I kept doing it because it was rewarding and fulfilling, and I love the people.”

Some of these beloved people attended Quanbeck’s retirement ceremony to honor her service and dedication to her country.

Rear Admiral Paula Dunn, the U.S. Navy Vice Chief of Information, was the ceremony’s first guest speaker, offering high praises for her shipmate and friend, Captain Quanbeck.

“For 30 years, she has been leading in a uniquely warm and compassionate style,” Dunn said in her speech. “In short, Anastasia leads like a mother. She is and she always was the type of intrusive leader that always cared about the whole person, not just the mission.”

“Like a mother, she has a kind and gentle touch, but she is undoubtedly in charge,” Dunn continued. “She showed us that the Navy needs mothers.”

Dunn also regaled that Quanbeck led compassionately in a time when it was not common to do so and began serving at a time when the question, ‘Should women serve?’ was still prevalent.

But, Dunn said, Quanbeck paved the way for so many women to succeed her. 

“Anastasia, we are a better Navy for having you in our ranks,” Dunn said. “You have helped countless people chart their course through the Navy, through the reserve and through life. We would really be hard pressed to find a sailor in our community today that has not been touched in some way by your leadership either directly or by those you have raised. You will be missed beyond words, but because all that you have invested in all of us—here in this room, all around the world—we’re going to prosper. We’re going to be OK. We’re going to miss you like hell, though.”

The second colleague to honor Quanbeck was Ambassador Kenneth Braithwaite, 77th Secretary of the Navy, under whom she served when she was a lieutenant commander.

“A superb professional, a can-do individual who never accepted ‘no,’ who always gave every extra ounce that she had to not only being that officer who took charge but then did it in a way of compassion,” Braithwaite said of Quanbeck. “She truly was one of the finest officers whom I ever had the pleasure to serve with.”

When Quanbeck made her own remarks, she detailed the list of places she served and the shipmates she served with—although, she pointed out that this was not to say goodbye but simply to say, ‘Until the next time we chat.’

From Italy, Pensacola, Colorado, Omaha, Germany, Spain, Virginia, Hawaii and countless other stations, Quanbeck described how each of her assignments shaped her and her career.

She also shared some wisdom that she says she learned during her 30-year career.

“I think you should love first and foremost,” Quanbeck said. “You should love the people you work with; they’re not always easy to love. You need to give grace liberally.”

Although Quanbeck isn’t sure what she’ll now that she’s retired from serving, she says she’s grateful to her husband and kids for the sacrifices they allowed her to make.

And, as Ambassador Braithwaite said, there’s nothing more important than this next chapter and for Quanbeck to be back with her family.

“So, today, we return you full time to them,” Braithwaite said. “And we thank you for all that you did to make a difference in so many lives.”



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