rear admiral kirk a. foster
Q & A
How did Frankford prepare you for your naval career?
Frankford nurtured the seeds of service, that is, a desire to help others and to be part of an organization or team effort greater than the individual. The seeds were planted by other key influencers in my life such as my parents, church, and the Boy Scouts.
Serving in Frankford’s student government and in school service organizations such as, the Thirteen Club—strengthened and encouraged an attitude of service.
You mentioned the road not taken in your speech, (which I thoroughly enjoyed) what road didn't you take? Why?
The Road to Kailua, Hawaii
In freshman English class taught by Mr. Day, the class had to memorize the Robert Frost poem, The Road Not Taken, which describes a hiker facing the decision of which trail to take through a forest.
The road I did not take was the traditional path to a law firm after graduating from law school. There is nothing wrong with that career pursuit, and in fact it can be quite rewarding. But at the time I had a serious case of wanderlust and a strong desire to give back to a country that had provided me so much opportunity.
The road I pursued—the Navy—provided me with professional experience, a high degree of responsibility, fun and excitement (both good and bad), and the opportunity to work with and for high quality, ethical individuals all focused on accomplishing a common goal. I have no regrets toward the path I took.
Who inspired you at Frankford and why?
The teachers. Speaking for myself, when we’re high school students we are self-absorbed and focused on our own daily dramas, so we really don’t understand or appreciate the influence that teachers have on us as students.
In hindsight, I realize how hard the teachers and faculty work to educates us. Every day, they come to school with lesson plans—stay motivated and positive—and focus their energies on helping us grow and develop into better people and citizens. It’s amazing when you think about it.
What or Who inspired you to pursue a naval career? What plans do you have for this next chapter?
When I joined the Navy, my intent was to serve three years (the original time commitment) and then return to Philadelphia and practice law. But life is funny and takes you down different paths.
The single greatest influence on me to join the Navy was my father. He enlisted in the Navy at age 17 and served during the end of World War II. Like many of that genera- tion; he rarely spoke of the Navy or his experiences. But when he did, his comments were positive with descriptions of fun experiences.
Also, as a fan of history, I was attracted by the Navy’s customs and traditions and role in the historic development of our nation.
My next chapter remains to be written, but I’m exploring opportunities in the private sector as well as leadership positions with nonprofit organizations.
What was your most memorable experience at Frankford?
Graduation ceremony at the football stadium. I remember it as a fun time because my family was there to support me. And it was an exciting time because at the age of 17, my entire life, and that of my classmates, was unfolding before all of us.
What kind of Frankford student would you be if you attended now in the New Millennium?
With the advantage of 20/20 hindsight, I hope I’d be a more athletic and a technologically focused student.
What was the most challenging assignment in your career and why?
I was assigned as the deputy legal advisor to General Petraeus to Iraq from May 2007 through May 2008.
This was the period of “The Surge.” Besides the obvious concerns about living in and traveling throughout a combat theater, I really had to be on my toes professionally as both a lawyer and a leader.
The legal team worked long hours under demanding circumstances and had to perform to support the war effort.
The experience not only made me stretch beyond my comfort zone, but it was a rewarding one, as I learned a great deal about leadership.
What was your most memorable experience in the Navy?
In two words, “The People.” The Navy has ships, planes, submarines, naval bases, etc., But it’s the people—the sailors, officers and civilian personnel—who make it all work well, and they do it as a team. Being part of that team and, as I became more senior, working with the junior officers and enlisted personnel, was incredibly rewarding.
I really enjoyed watching talented people grow and develop professionally and move onto assignments of increasing responsibility. That, for me, was the most memorable experience.
If you had a time capsule in 1980, what would you have put inside? Why?
Some of my hair that I had back in 1980, so I could pull it out and use it today!
What was your most important lesson learned first at Frankford, and second, as a rear admiral?
I think the key ones can be summarized as work hard, do your best, play well with others, and you’ll make your own luck.
The Navy added the importance of taking care of the people you’re working with, for and around you. If you take care of your people, they will take care of you and together you’ll accomplish amazing things.
What advice would you give today's students?
Frankford's 5K Run
Pursue an education. An education is the best pathway to a different life. It’s a complicated world, and you need skill sets to navigate the marketplace, especially as we become more technically advanced.
However, pursuing an education doesn’t have to be a four year college degree program. There are plenty of craftsmen and professionals that will be needed well into the future—electricians, plumbers, technicians, construction-trades, and so forth.
Rear Admiral Kirk A. Foster U.S. Navy