Forty-two years ago, NGA Associate Director for Capabilities Phillip Chudoba began his career when he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. His path to choosing a career in the military was heavily influenced by military service members that came before him. Not only is Chudoba the son of a Navy submariner, he grew up in a neighborhood that was home to many World War II veterans.
“These older guys — who were the dads and the grandads in the neighborhood — were always around. These were predominately blue-collar working people who worked hard during the day and at night were available in the neighborhood to talk to the kids and provide mentoring,” recalled Chudoba. “So I tell people all the time that I was bounced on the knees of some of the men who fought the Pacific War or the war in Europe … and through their stories I developed an appreciation for what military service really meant to the nation.”
After three years as an enlisted service member, Chudoba sought his college degree from Rutgers University while attending the Marine Corp Officer Candidate School. Upon graduation, he received a commission and his first assignment as an officer was as an imagery interpretation officer. He was one of five imagery officers in the Marine Corps at that time and developed a deep fascination with this type of mission work.
“When I was an imagery officer as a lieutenant, we were still doing hard copy film. Some of those light tables you see in the museum, I used them,” he said. “I was still serving in that particular role when we were crossing the seam in the transition from hardcopy to digital.”
Chudoba says he still remembers when some of the space-based digital imagery came into the “receive location” they had at Camp Pendleton “and when the first mission came in, all of us Marines were staring at it just like otters … “you know how they stand up and look?”
We were thinking ‘you have to be kidding me. How is it even possible that we have people smart enough to figure out how to do this?’” he said. “I’m just utterly amazed by it and I haven’t really lost that fascination with the mission.”
Chudoba chose to retire from active duty in 2010 when he was selected as the civilian assistant director for Marine Corps intelligence.
“I literally took my uniform off on a Friday and then put my suit on an went back to work on a Monday as an executive for the Marine Corps,” he said.
After serving as the assistant director for Marine Corps intelligence for eight and a half years, Chudoba’s boss – the Marine Corps Director of Intelligence- received a call in 2018 from then-NGA director, Robert Cardillo, who asked if he could interview Chudoba to be the director of the NGA Geospatial Enterprise Office.
“The thing is, I started my intelligence career as a squint and I thought it’d be really cool to go back into that because it was always super interesting to me,” said Chudoba.