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“There have been challenges,” said Master Chief Information Systems Technician (Submarine) Angela Koogler, “But you just have to keep going. There are going to be walls you have to knock down, but you can’t let them stop you.”
This is the mindset Koogler has had throughout her 20-year Navy career. This is the drive that has led to many successes and accomplishments in her life. Her most recent achievement, however, may be her biggest yet.
Koogler, who hails from Kettering, Ohio, found out last year she was the first woman in U.S. Navy history selected to serve aboard a submarine as the chief of the boat. She joined the crew of USS Louisiana (Gold) (SSBN 743) on Aug. 22, 2022.
The chief of the boat, or COB, is an enlisted Sailor who serves as the senior enlisted advisor to the commanding officer and executive officer of a U.S. Navy submarine.
Koogler credits her motivation and drive for success to her mother, who dedicated 33 years of her life to civil service. She says watching her mother work hard and help other people inspired her to do the same.
“I’ve always kind of been a go-getter and hard charger,” said Koogler. “My mom was like that. She was a hard worker and it was just instilled in me as a child. She worked as a civil servant for Wright-Patterson Air Force Base my whole life, and being around the military with her all the time kind of put me in that direction.”
Koogler’s plan was always to join the military after high school, until an injury sidelined her for a few years. Instead of letting that derail her plans, Koogler created a new path for her future Navy career.
“I was going to join right out of high school, but I tore everything in my ankle my senior year playing soccer,” said Koogler. “So, I went off to college, was working and went back in when I was 23 to see what I could do.”
Koogler was able to join the Navy in July 2002. She has been devoted to her military career ever since.
“Once I joined, I knew I found my career, and my Navy family and friends that I would have forever,” said Koogler, “I have continued to serve over the years because it is a good fit for me and I love it.”
Koogler knows that stepping into her new role as COB will come with many challenges and much greater responsibility, something she has prepared for throughout her time in service.
“Every time I was up for orders, I was always looking for something different and challenging,” said Koogler. “Then when it was announced that enlisted women could apply for submarines, with some encouragement from my Sailors, I went ahead and applied.”
Women haven’t always been allowed to serve alongside their male counterparts in the submarine force. It wasn’t until 2011 that female officers began serving aboard U.S. Navy submarines. This opened the door for the follow-on integration of enlisted women, which began in 2016.
Then-Chief Koogler reported to her first submarine, the guided-missile submarine USS Michigan (SSGN 727), in May 2016, followed by a tour at Submarine Squadron 19.
”Koogler only has 36 months on board a submarine, but I knew she was the perfect candidate to be the first woman COB,” said Submarine Squadron 19’s Command Master Chief Travis Brown. “In 36 months, she walked off a submarine as a qualified diving officer of the watch, and everything in between, while also learning how to lead submarine Sailors.”
Attempting to reach goals that no one before you has accomplished can be intimidating, but Brown believes Koogler’s achievement is breaking barriers.
“We kind of pushed her a little bit because it’s always spooky if you’re going to be the first person to do anything,” explained Brown. “But this is a huge glass ceiling busted in the submarine force. Now there’s a path to the top of the submarine force.”
Koogler feels that gender should play no factor in Sailor roles.
“We need to keep breaking down the barriers so that it just becomes all Sailors,” said Koogler. “A Sailor is a Sailor to me and we shouldn’t have to define their gender. It’s important to integrate everybody and it shouldn’t matter as long as they get the job done.”
This new position is a great milestone in Koogler’s career, but it’s not the final triumph she has her sights set on. Her ultimate dream is to one day serve as a command master chief (CMC).
“Since my first command I’ve always wanted to be a command master chief,” said Koogler. “Now that I’ve converted to the submarine force I have to serve as chief of the boat before I can go into the CMC world, so this is just another stepping stone.”
Koogler credits retired Command Master Chief Floyd O’Neill, her first CMC at Navy Reserve Center Port Hueneme, California, as her inspiration for wanting to become a CMC herself.
“I really looked up to him, almost like a father figure,” said Koogler. “I knew that was what I wanted to do. I want to be able to take care of Sailors. I want them to develop and accelerate themselves. It’s kind of always been my goal.”
This type of Sailor-centered leadership mentality is what Koogler hopes to embody when she takes on this assignment.
“I want the crew to be successful in doing our mission,” said Koogler. “I also want them to be personally successful in their own worlds. I have always thought it’s important to be a well-rounded Sailor.”
Koogler attributes her ‘go-getter’ attitude as what led her to this point in her career. Even when faced with adversity, she continues to persist and chase her dreams.
As it turns out, those mentors, teachers and parents preaching drive and motivation as secrets to success may be right.
“If you have something in your mind that is your goal, you can’t let one person or one obstacle stop you,” explained Koogler. “You have to keep driving for it. And sometimes instead of running those obstacles over, you might have to go around them. You might have to find a different path that works for you.”
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