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Southwest Iowa woman leads charge in mental health for U.S. Navy sailors around the world

Posted at 7:05 PM, Apr 25, 2023

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — A woman with southwest Iowa roots has compiled quite the resume.

“I’ve done a lot of things that psychologists would never ever do on the outside.”

Never mind just psychologists — US Navy Captain Melissa Hiller Lauby has done things almost no one has done.

“I’ve been on an aircraft carrier, deployed twice; I qualified as a fully independent Officer of the Deck Underway, which means I drove the ship,” she said.

She has also served tours with the SERE Survival School and became the first female psychologist assigned to the Navy Seals.

Still, that's not even scratching the surface of all she has accomplished and achieved in the Navy.

“Submarines, surface ships, aircraft carriers; we are where they are,” Hiller Lauby said. “We like to be right there in the fight with them to keep them in the fight and meet that mission.”

Military service is nothing new to Capt. Hiller Lauby.

“I’m actually the third generation in my family to serve in the military.”

Growing up she followed her dad around the country and the world. Eventually, they settled in Glenwood, Iowa — her family's home base.

She would go on to get her doctorate degree and did her post-doctoral fellowship at the Veteran’s Administration National Center for PTSD in Honolulu, Hawaii.

“I didn’t really like the academic world, but I loved working with people,” she explained. “So, it was really natural for me to then think about going back to my military roots and looking for that community that I’ve always been a part of.”

She enjoyed her time in Hawaii but wanted to be more proactive in helping military members, rather than reactive, and decided to join the Navy in 2003.

“That’s really different than sitting in a VA or a Medical Center because we get to help sometimes before a problem ever exists.”

She was first stationed in Yuma, Arizona. That’s where she met her husband — and fellow Medical Service Corps Officer — Captain Todd Lauby.

The two are now stationed at the Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery Head Quarters in Washington D.C., where Melissa is the Navy Director of Psychological Health and Clinical Psychology Specialty Leader Consultant to the Surgeon General.

While she doesn’t travel quite as much as she used to before being stationed at HQ, she still goes on important missions. Including bringing Americans back home to the United States. Something she is qualified to do because of her completion of SERE Survival School.

“We’re very specifically trained to work with individuals or teams that have been detained in some way or another,” she said. “Whether they’re a hostage, a POW, or unlawfully detained. There are constantly Americans being brought back.”

One of the most recent, and notable, Americans she escorted home is WNBA star Brittney Griner.

“It’s incredibly rewarding to be able to walk someone back through that process,” Hiller Lauby said.

She has also played a big role in rolling out the Warrior Toughness Program for sailors around the world.

It's a human performance program that evaluates how sailors will react to stress, and how they can regulate and prevent it, on an individual basis.

The achievements, adventures, and awards never end for Hiller Lauby.

“I would always encourage people to not be afraid to pursue their dream, and when opportunities come up to not be afraid to say yes.”

She also wanted to give a shout-out to American Legion Post 141 in Glenwood and VFW Post 7064 in Tabor, Iowa, both of which she is a member of.

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