SUFFOLK, Va (NNS) -- Sailors and DoD civilians assigned to Naval Information Forces (NAVIFOR), Joint Staff - Hampton Roads (JS-HR), Naval Network Warfare Command (NNWC), U.S. Fleet Cyber Command (FCC) South and Navy Cyber Defense Operations Command gathered to observe Women's History month during a ceremony March 13.
Vice Adm. Matthew J. Kohler, commander, NAVIFOR, kicked off the event and thanked the guest speakers, multi-cultural committee and attendees for supporting the event.
"Women have long been underrepresented, underpaid, underserved, and underappreciated in our society, and in much of our world remain second-class citizens or even without status," said Kohler. "From the Navy's perspective, we have no shortage of examples of women who overcame institutional barriers to make an impact and to pursue their ambitions. It doesn't take much imagination to realize that fact when you take a look at history."
After Kohler finished his opening remarks he introduced Headquarters, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command Deputy Chief of Staff, G-8, Ellen Helmerson.
In her position, Helmerson serves as the Chief Financial Officer and Comptroller administering resources supporting 37 Army schools organized under eight Centers of Excellence, each focused on a separate area of expertise within the Army. She plans, develops, directs and ensures stewardship of the command across a diverse portfolio that includes: accounting, audit readiness, budgeting, programming, manpower analysis, force management, and acquisition oversight.
"As I think about myself as a woman and a leader, I would ask you to think about women leaders in your life, and who comes to mind first; leaders, professors, teachers, coaches, wives, friends, sisters, aunts, grandmothers and mothers," said Helmerson. "Those are the leaders we grew up with, learned from and helped shape ourselves."
During the ceremony, one guest speaker and special guest who were in the Navy during Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES) shared their experiences of what it was like to be in the Navy under WAVES.
Former President and founder of WAVES Hampton Roads Unit 152, Dassa Carvey, enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1963 and advanced to Petty Officer Second Class, as a journalist. After her discharge from the Navy, she volunteered as an Ombudsman for two commands while being a military wife and pursued a career, working for more than 30 years as a budget analyst for the Department of the Navy, retiring with nearly 35 years of service to include active duty.
After attending her first WAVES National (WN) convention, she was so impressed with the organization that she started a unit in the Tidewater area and subsequently chartered Unit 152, Tidewater Tidal WAVES in January 2002, serving as the president of the unit until 2004, when she assumed the duties of WN 2nd Vice President.
Carvey was installed as WN president in September 2008, and again for a second term, in August 2010. When WN opened membership to all service women in 2014, she again ran for president and was elected for a third term, overseeing the transition of all units and membership from WN to Military Women Across the Nation.
"I was discharged at the end of my enlistment because I was pregnant. I received an honorable discharge but not recommended for reenlistment. If I had not been married, I would have been taken to the gate and stripped of military insignias, but still receive the honorable discharge," said Carvey. "Women today are being afforded many more opportunities - serving aboard combatant ships, submarines, moving up in rank. Being able to raise a family and still serve."
Carvey noted that we still have work to do to continue to pave the way for future generations, and given the opportunity if she were younger, she would gladly take on the challenge again under the same circumstances.
Special guest retired Master Chief Petty Officer Kathy Montgomery, a Storekeeper (SK), spoke with attendees following the official observation ceremony about overcoming challenges in the Navy from the moment she first joined until her retirement as a Master Chief Petty Officer.
She left boot camp undesignated, and reported to her first command, the Naval Amphibious School, Little Creek, where she worked in the supply office as the coffee mess clerk. Each day, it was her job to keep the 55 gallon containers of coffee full and to sell donuts to students and faculty of the school. Her civilian supervisor saw potential in her, and within 4 months, she was sent to Storekeeper "A" school in San Diego, where she was the only female in the class.
Montgomery was discharged from the Navy six years later because of a family hardship, but soon realized after she got home that she had made a mistake in leaving the Navy. Within three years, she reenlisted and retained her rank and rate of Petty Officer Second Class. Fast forward 16 years, she retired as a Master Chief Petty Officer.
During her time in the Navy, she saw the first enlisted women assigned to the Hospital Ships, then tug boats, and finally to tenders. Ratings became less restricted. Women changed from being WAVES to WINS (Women in the Naval Service), and finally, Sailors.
"This is my story, and all the firsts I saw firsthand. What will your story be like? How will you solve your dilemmas? What will your firsts be? Enjoy your time in the Navy; it's the best purposed life you can live," said Montgomery
The celebration as a whole had two guest speakers, a special guest, a multimedia presentation, static displays, a potluck and a cake cutting ceremony.
Through the last century, women have served aboard auxiliary ships beginning in 1978 and on combatant ships beginning in 1994. In 2016, the Department of Defense opened all military occupations and positions to women.
Female Sailors and civilians play an integral role in the success of the Navy as part of the One Navy Team. Women serve in every rank from seamen to admiral and hold nearly every job from naval aviator to deep-sea diver. Twenty percent of the Navy's enlisted force is women, including eight percent of all Senior and Master Chief Petty Officers. Nineteen percent of the officer force and 10 percent of all admirals are comprised of women.
In the Navy's civilian workforce, 27 percent are women and 26 percent are Senior Executive Service members.
This year, U.S. Navy commands are encouraged to celebrate and reflect on the theme, "Honoring Women Who Fight All Forms of Discrimination."
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